Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Disaster Running A Disaster



A lot of ink has been spilled -- and I mean, a LOT -- about donald trump's incompetence, narcissism, and blind faith in his own non-abilities. However, nobody has dared to address his potential ability to weather a crisis.

Every president in my lifetime has had to deal with some sort of crisis. Not necessarily a legal or Constitutional one; usually a natural disaster or other catastrophe:
  • Lyndon Johnson had the Watts riots, and the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King both occurred under his watch.
  • Richard Nixon, in addition to Watergate, also had to deal with Hurricane Camille in 1969 (up to that point the strongest storm in record history to make landfall in the United States).
  • Gerald Ford had the fall of Saigon to deal with.
  • Jimmy Carter had the capture of the hostages by Iran in 1979.
  • Ronald Reagan had the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.
  • George H. W. Bush had to deal with the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, as well as the Exxon Valdez and Hurricane Andrew.
  • Bill Clinton had the Northridge earthquake.
  • George W. Bush had the space shuttle Columbia explode and disintegrate on re-entry, and Hurricane Katrina ... and 9/11.
  • Barack Obama had Superstorm Sandy.
  • trump had Hurricanes Harvey and Maria.
One could argue that all of these Presidents handled their respective crises either poorly or well, and in each case both sides would have valid points. I am not here to litigate past presidential responses ... those are in the history books, and nothing can be done about them.

What I am concerned about is what comes next.

Here's a guy who has replaced all the adults in his administration with toadying sycophants, people whose sole purpose is to burnish his own ego. And while this is bad enough on a day-to-day basis, let's consider the ramifications of this behavior if he has to deal with an event as traumatic on the national scale as 9/11 or the Challenger disaster.



In times like these presidents have to fulfill many roles. Yes, there is the logistical reality of getting aid where it is needed. Yes, there are the potential international ramifications (for example, when Mikhail Gorbachev offered forensic expertise after the Challenger explosion, or when we sent aid to Turkey after an earthquake there). However, there is also the role of Reassurer In Chief.

Say what you will about his subsequent handling of the entire imbroglio, George W. Bush fulfilled this role admirably in the days and weeks after 9/11. Standing stop the burning pile on that fateful day and announcing that "the whole world hears you." Similarly, his speech in front of joint session of Congress on September 22, while light in policy specifics (understandable; it was only a week and a half later) was uplifting and hopeful. It offered a more positive vision of the future than what many could see at that time (whether or not that future was realized, or even possible, is another topic for another day).

Compare this to trump's remarks after Hurricane Harvey (in which he spent almost all of his time congratulating various cabinet members on positive press they had gotten), and we can see (understatement of the decade spoiler alert) that trump is not very good at this.

So what happens when we get hit with something truly monumental? Another massive earthquake, say, or North Korea starts doing more than rattling sabers ... or (a more likely event) a climate-related natural disaster? What then?

Are we really going to have to deal with another mindless rant about his approval ratings, billions of illegal immigrants swarming across our borders to steal our women and rape our jobs, and how nobody thought he could "get to 300" in the election?

Consider:
  • The Dow is down 7.6% since January 1 (as of this writing, May 17, 2018). Analysts are saying the market is moving from "bullish" to "bearish."
  • At the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, he launched into a speech about DACA and military spending. Y'know, because a gaggle of kids, none of them older than eleven or so, gives a hoot about that when all they want is the effing candy.
  • North and South Korea independently arrive at terms for talks, and trump thinks he should get a Nobel prize for this for some reason.
  • Puerto Rico is devastated by a hurricane and is sorta left to hang twisting in the wind. Oh, and trump initially said something along the lines of "We only help Americans" (apparently forgetting, or not knowing in the first place, that Puerto Rico is actually a territory of the United States).

Then there's the constant, unending drumbeat from trump about what an awesome, amazing, wonderful president he is, the best ever, believe me, you can hear people talking. Or Sarah Hillbilly-Huckleberry Sanders stating that the previous administration was a complete foreign relations failure (forget, for the moment, where our reputation in the international community was when he took office in 2009). Or a staffer in the White house joking that John McCain's opinion didn't matter because "he's dying anyway," but then demanding that everybody else show respect to trump.

The point of all this is that trump simply does not have the temperament, skills, or innate intelligence to deal with any kind of true disaster.

I gotta lie down.

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