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Facing a Pandemic With a Xenophobic, Narcissistic Fool at the Wheel

Trump speech

America is sick and adrift, with a "leader" who cannot fathom how to lead.

I nodded along in deference with Ronald Reagan when he spoke from the Oval Office after the Challenger blew up. I cheered George H.W. Bush on when he spoke from the same office after the first Iraq war victory. I watched proudly as George W. Bush sat behind his dad's old desk and said we would be strong right after 9/11. They were Republicans, but it didn't matter. They showed presidential leadership, fortitude and confidence.

I was dumbfounded when Donald Trump began his Oval Office address talking about a "foreign virus," just one example of how he totally missed the mark of rallying the country at a critical time. And I don't like to be critical of our president during this emergency. I was rooting for him, but again, he seemed to be devoid of any responsibility, showed little compassion and even oversold, as he always does.

Health care companies would cover testing and treatment, he claimed -- then officials were quick to say, no, no, just testing. Most glaring, where was a plan? Any hint of a way forward? What will happen if -- no when -- doomsday occurs which is what all the experts are predicting. The speech was all about defense and blame. There was no truth. There were no signs of competence.

In his speech yesterday, Joe Biden provided all of the elements that Trump missed, and where the administration lacks. And, there was compassion and clarity from the former VP. In the aftermath of Trump's disjointed dialogue from the Oval Office Wednesday night, every man Tom Hanks revealed he and his wife have the coronavirus, and the NBA suspended the rest of its season indefintiely when a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the virus. Two actors, stranded sick in Australia and a professional sports league stranding its fans for the common good stood much taller than the President of the United States.

By comparison, Trump's words and actions seemed empty, ineffective and inexplicable. Where was Trump's empathy? No solemn respect for those who have perished? Devoid of the decorum to recognize the sick and suffering? No call for best wishes and speedy recoveries and camaraderie for our allies also in the depths of despair? No "I feel your pain" for all of us temporary hypochondriacs who are in doubt, afraid, suspicious and lost? No words of encouragement for those whose lives are, and will be, disrupted in a dramatic way? No, "I got your back" so don't worry, I'm there for you? Of course not. To him, it's all about bravado and big bucks.

To him, this is not a health crisis, nor a financial crisis, or our crisis -- it's a foreign crisis. Blame the Chinese. Blame Europe because they reacted so badly to the outbreak that their shear incompetence is the reason for the American government's insolvent ineptitude. Blame all foreign nationals, so ban them from entering the U.S., because they're the ones who are bringing the dirty foreign virus to our borders.

The EU slammed the president's unilateral decision. Why were they not informed or counseled? Why not ban all foreign nationals permanently, then Americans never have to fear about being sick again? I was surprised that Trump didn't suggest building walls all along our borders, and up and down the East and West coasts to keep those sick aliens out before the sick gets into all of us.

Wait a minute, we are all already getting sick, so why blame and ban would-be EU visitors -- temporary immigrants if you will -- when the virus is already here? Because that's what you do when everything different than you is unworthy, unfit, and unhealthy. Blame the people with dark skins, unfamiliar nationalities and funny accents. So un-American, just like the coronavirus.

Beyond unnecessary nationalism, Trump infected this entire pandemic with his partisanship from the beginning, and as recently as this week tweeted, "Someone needs to tell the Democrats in Congress that Coronavirus doesn't care what party you are in." Then he says this shouldn't be partisan. But soon he'll be back on Twitter blaming the Democrats for blaming him for not taking the blame for the government's grossly slow, ineffective, and discombobulated response to the disease. During his abysmal Oval Office speech, Trump proclaimed that everything is great and nothing was his fault. That he was doing something big -- banning flights -- not because it's a weapon against the virus, but a big stick he can swing so we all can see how tough and powerful he is.

Trump looked anything but calm, conveying a sense of defiance and dismissiveness. The White House knows what a disaster it is, since the speech is impossible to find on their website (view part of it here).

We're all in this together, Trump brusquely brushed off towards the end, while somehow you just felt that he wasn't your coach or on your team, or would pass you the ball. The NCAA is banning crowds from March Madness, and together with the NBA's announcement, you feel the weight of what lies ahead for all of us, and the severity of what could be. You understood the dynamic and how we'll need to readjust our lives. That thought we may be on opposite sides of the court as either a Villanova fan, or a Lakers fanatic or a Mavericks addict, that we are all in this chaos together. These two leagues' actions showed how to correctly approach this crisis boldly.

Tom Hanks's calm, cool, and crisp disclosure that he and his wife have COVID-19 showed how to express reassurance and resilience. If you didn't know anyone with the virus, you sure do now. Hanks is one of the most revered celebrities in the world. He is a national treasure. And because of his stature, people on social media gobbled up his words. We'll be fine, and so will you, and we'll get through this. "Not much more to it than a one-day-at-a-time approach, no?" Hanks wrote. Perhaps, the NBA and Hanks should have called Trump before his speech and offered a few pointers?

It pains me, and it should pain everyone, that we aren't getting more from our president. Others are showing more resolve, and so should he. We needed Trump to deliver a memorable and reassuring Oval Office speech, like his predecessors did, during this grim pandemic. We should know by know, Trump never rises to the occasion.

JohnCasey is a PR professional and an adjunct professor at Wagner College in New York City, and a frequent columnist for The Advocate. Follow John on Twitter @johntcaseyjr.

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John Casey

John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the United Nations and with four large U.S. retailers.
John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the United Nations and with four large U.S. retailers.