What would you do if you were the president?
NOTE: I am not an apologist for President Trump. There are a lot of things he does that drive me up a wall. I was also not a fan of presidents Obama, the Bushes, Clinton or even Ronald Reagan. However, I can only imagine the pressure our presidents face when responding to a national crisis. Politics aside, perhaps we should remember that a human occupies the office — a human bearing exceptional pressure to do a very important job in the confines of a fishbowl.
When it comes to the COVID-19 panic, everyone seems to have an idea as to what should be done to contend with or resolve the situation.
Yet, even though second-guessing elected officials is America’s №1 pastime, the bulk of responsibility rests on the shoulders of one person: the president.
Like him or not, the weight of this situation is clearly upon his shoulders. Many people claim President Trump isn’t listening to the “experts” in formulating an effective response to the COVID-19 situation.
So, imagine yourself as the president. What would you do if you were in his shoes?
What if the “experts” in your administration have two or three widely different opinions regarding the best course of action to take?
We really don’t know what goes on in presidential staff meetings. I would hope any president encourages a free flow of ideas and opinions — regardless of how silly they may sound at the time — from people who agree with him and those who don’t.
Once the opinions are expressed, now you are put in a position where you must pick one course of action over all the others that were suggested. The ultimate decision is yours alone to make.
Looking at data
Before you do that, you decide to go outside your administration to look at data. But, in the early stages of this pandemic, you learn the only data being released is from a communist country with a history of lying, and another country that practices socialized medicine.
In one case, the data can’t be trusted because nobody knows if it has been manipulated or not. In the other, the data is skewed by the knowledge one out of every four people in the country is over 65 years of age, which isn’t the situation in America.
So, then you examine previous experiences with other “novel” viruses to see how other American leaders reacted to those situations. Don’t worry, you have plenty of historical references to draw upon because a new virus makes its way around earth every few years.
From all that, you formulate a plan knowing full well that one-half of the people and 95 percent of the media won’t agree with any decision you make.
Add to that the fact those people who offered differing opinions in your confidential staff meetings can “leak” their preferred solutions to the media regarding “what should have been done” just to score points for God knows what. That allows the media to lob accusations that you’re “not listening” to your staff and “ignoring” their recommendations.
It is very convenient for those officials to leak their agendas because they have little at stake and nothing to lose. Their decisions aren’t likely to send the stock market crashing or cause widespread panic. Nor are people likely to die as a result of the action or inaction of an “anonymous” government bureaucrat.
A lonely job
Harry Truman infamously said, “The buck stops here.” He knew that he alone was responsible for whatever decisions he made. Remember, he authorized the use of two nuclear weapons that killed more than 135,000 people, but saved the lives of millions more by avoiding a prolonged war.
Winston Churchill made the unenviable decision to sacrifice a few hundred soldiers at Le Paradis in order to rescue 330,000 others in Dunkirk.
As president, you consider all that before you must make tough, unpopular decisions regarding the coronavirus situation.
You must make a decision regarding the best course of action for the entire country based on thousands of moving parts and 327 million individuals. You don’t have the luxury to focus upon just one component of a gigantic machine — containing the spread of a virus — but you must also ensure that the country continues to function properly as well as survive and thrive in the future.
Despite what many people may think, you are not a dictator, but the elected representative of a democratic republic who is shackled by a constitution that significantly limits your power and ability to act.
You may want to close the borders, but multiple courts have told you in the past three years that you don’t have that authority.
You may want to order everyone to remain locked in place. But you don’t have any legal authority to do that either. Governors may, but as a president regulated by laws empowering states to make most of their own decisions, you can’t do it.
If a governor invites you to declare their state a disaster area, you might be able to get away with extra restrictions for a few days in the event of a major storm or similar problem. But there is no way you — or even governors — have the authority to enforce a months-long nationwide lockdown.
The disadvantage of living in a free society
You may want to order businesses to shut down, but courts have held that type of action to be an unconstitutional “taking” of private property. So the government would be expected to cough up reasonable compensation in return.
You could order businesses to make specific products, but only if granted that authority by the U.S. Congress under some type of war powers act, but you know how tough it is to get that body to move in any direction, and you need to take action now.
You really wish you could communicate directly with the citizens of your country, but the media won’t let you do that for long and not without adding hours of additional commentary about why what you just said was either an over-reaction, an under-reaction or completely unreasonable.
If you convey fear, you are blasted for inciting panic. If you encourage a more cautioned response, you are blasted for not taking a threat seriously.
You want to calm the public and let them know that the situation is serious, but not disastrous. You want to encourage them to give you room to get supplies and equipment in place.
You plead with them not to go into a panic and start buying supplies in quantities they’ll never use. And you try to encourage governors to do the same. But, they all want you to provide them with products you don’t make, so you buy them on their behalf at market prices.
Yet, as soon as you do, governors start claiming you are not only competing with them to buy essential supplies, but “driving up prices” as well because costs are based on supply and demand.
At least that’s the way free markets work.
As president of a free country, you don’t have the authority to regulate what people buy and in what quantities or even at what price.
So, half the country starts blaming you for not “doing enough” to prepare for the problem. You only wish that you could share the contents of that day’s top-level briefing which also warned about another dozen potentially catastrophic situations that could impact America in the months ahead.
But, you don’t want people panicking over things that may never materialize — everything from higher-than-average hurricane predictions, infrastructure that will fail in a major earthquake, terrorists releasing biological weapons in crowded cities, severe shortages of food because a drought is predicted in major agriculture areas, bad people sneaking across the border to wreck havoc in cities all over the country, etc., etc., etc.
The media doesn’t help
As far as COVID-19 is concerned, the media, which has fought you every step of the way for four years, goes to work not to calm a panicked nation, but to whip it into a fearful frenzy. The media spreads half truths. They make wild predictions. They report the worst-case scenarios as though they are inevitable.
The media reports every single death and even publishes a running tally to give people the idea that everything is spiraling out of control, so they must stay tuned for the next panicked update. Rather than focusing on the many people who recover from the illness, the media highlights the names of every celebrity who tests positive for the virus.
Yet, the media are never held responsible for their roles in such crisis. You alone bear all that accountability.
Fifty state governors claim you’re not “doing enough” to protect their citizens by providing money and supplies, as though you have wads of cash in your desk drawer and vast warehouses of supplies at the ready — things the governors said you should have bought years ago and “stockpiled” for just such an occasion.
Nobody seems to realize that you and your government don’t make products, but can only buy them just like the governors could — or should have done in preparing their own states for any of a dozen catastrophic events.
Why, you wonder, is it always the federal government’s responsibility?
Don’t people realize that it is impossible to stockpile enough supplies to meet every disaster? Where should you store it all? How long can you keep it before it’s not good any more? What should you do with expired products?
More importantly, just how big a stockpile does the public expect you to maintain when you’re spending their money? How many temporary shelters should you buy in advance of the next hurricane? What if they are stored in an area not prone to flooding, but are still wiped out by a tornado or wildfire, or rendered useless due to sitting in hot, cold or humid conditions?
You try to reason with people, but, eventually, the public demands that you do more. You must “do something!”
Because you get your power from the consent of the governed who, in turn, are responding to the media-driven mass hysteria, you ultimately cave in to the people to give them what they demand.
You do “something”
You crush their economy, which takes away their ability to support themselves and their families. It also deprives state and local governments of money. It’s hard to collect taxes from closed businesses and people who aren’t working.
As the stock market crashes, the nation’s wealthy watch as their fortunes go up in flames, too. You were counting on them to make investments to help rebuild everything when the crisis is over.
The suffering rapidly spreads beyond the limited scope of fighting an illness.
There are shortages of basic necessities, people are being evicted, suicides rise, as does crime and child abuse. Your citizens now feel hopeless.
Despite every financial guru on earth encouraging every adult to have six months of income set aside to cover expenses in the event of a major emergency, less than one in 10 actually do.
Your nation is already $24 trillion in debt, which means $72,500 is owed by every man, woman and child within your borders. But, your political enemies are demanding that you spend more — much more — even on things that have no bearing on the crisis at hand.
In fact, you can’t get the resources you need to battle the crisis without also agreeing to fund dozens of pet projects.
While you’re trying to contend with the mess, those same political enemies are already announcing their plans to launch even more investigations into how your administration works. Do did “something,” but not the right things, they claim.
Besides, every other leader in the world is watching how YOU, the U.S. president is reacting to the problem. Are you panicking? Are you confused? Are you maintaining control or is everything collapsing around you? Is the United States vulnerable to attack? Can foreign leaders do something to either relieve the situation or increase the suffering of your people?
And all of this is unfolding in real-time because of a flu-like illness for which at least 80 percent of the people who catch it require absolutely no medical treatment and the vast majority of those who do get sick fully recover.
What does the Bible say?
Hebrews 13:17 commands us to, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”
Good or bad. Right or wrong. It doesn’t matter, they will be held accountable by God.
In Luke 12:47, Jesus himself said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
Any president has far, far more to think about than what the news media and Karen, the Facebook expert, thinks he should focus on.
The truth be told, there are a lot of “experts” offering advice to the president and second-guessing his judgement and decisions — myself included — when, in fact, the biggest decisions we have to make every day often pertain only to what we’re going to eat for lunch.
Is there any wonder why we have the leaders we do?
Who in their right mind would ever want such a thankless, stressful job?