A Demanding Decision for Trump
You may be wondering why the President of the United States seems to be underreacting to this global pandemic. The most recent tweet from the President shows his lack of focus on this issue: “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!” We will shortly hear his aides try to explain this message, and I am sure, some experts will scream a warning if the other direction is that old saying, “Let this problem run its course.”
I would like to introduce a theory about why he seems to buy into an action and then pulls away from the very idea he endorsed in public. Think back on his comments after the high school shooting in Lakeland, Florida. It appeared that he was about to lead an effort to do something about it, then he stopped in his tracks. What is this behavior all about?
I think there are two forces at work, a feedback loop and a pushback loop. The feedback loop comes from people who Trump considers his friends. In his previous life he ran with the rich and powerful. That is how he converted from Democrat to Republican. He reaches out and talks with these people at night when he’s not in his office. These people give him advice on what he should do to help them. They are rich and their one focus in remaining wealthy. So, until COVID-19 caused major damage to the stock market, they were telling him not to panic the market by bending and softening the facts of the pandemic. They were giving him advice in order to protect what they owned.
At the same time, Trump has an unrealistic desire to be loved that gets in the way of sound and reasoned judgement and that’s where the pushback loop comes in. When people push back on his ideas, theories, misinformation and policies, he takes it personally. It hurts him so much that he commits in public to doing the opposite of what his pushback loop has been selling. The press gets all ramped up with their own pushback and they try to nail Trump to the wall with his very own words.
Trump then goes back to his bedroom and calls up his feedback loop comrades who convince him that he misspoke. See, they don’t tell him he’s wrong. They give him an excuse while they maneuver him into taking back what he said. Then the press attacks Trump for flip-flopping and the cycle begins anew. Donald Trump wants so much to be right all the time that he’s bouncing like a ping pong ball between the feedback and pushback loops.
The Governor of New York, a skillful politician, has seized the moment with his nationally televised press briefings that have demonstrated exactly what can be done by a public figure to disseminate facts, dish out fatherly warnings and comfort his state, which has become ground zero for this pandemic in America. Andrew Cuomo sprinkles in just the right number of compliments to keep Trump from pushing back, while repositioning Trump as a poor communicator and leader. Trump doesn’t even get that Cuomo is doing what amounts to a daily fireside chat, just like FDR.
One of the phrases Cuomo used during his Sunday address was “the demographics of death.” I stared at the TV and my jaw dropped. What the Governor was trying to show was the difference between older people contracting the virus and the younger demographics. Yes, young people get the virus, but their death rate is much lower than older folks, especially those with pre-existing conditions and ailments. The most important decision is still in the future, when there’s an announcement that the crisis is over.
There will come a time that will warrant some kind of “all clear” command from the top. When we get near to the end of this crisis, the feedback loop will urge Trump to get everyone back to work despite, the possibility of further spread or a flare up in certain areas. He will make the decision that the health of the economy is worth more than an ongoing lower percentage of death. Moving too soon would surely end Trump’s presidency.
The pushback loop is becoming more vocal and aggressive. We have seen Trump’s frustration reach the boiling point during a press conferences where he attacked the press rather than keeping calm and being a real leader. If you don’t have a job and cannot go out of your house, you don’t want to hear your president blame the press, Democrats or Chinese people You want answers and a plan and, yes, HOPE!
Who are these people who pump up Trump’s ego and cause him to embarrass himself? The American public desperately needs a leader sharing a platform of facts, firm but thoughtful warnings and a sense of confidence. The audacity of hope is long gone with Trump. Even many of his supporters are wondering when the jokes will stop, and a plan will surface.
By saying he inherited a bad system at the CDC begs this question, “How long have you been President?” If he knew the system was bad but didn’t change it, he is incompetent. If he didn’t know about our weaknesses, then he didn’t ask the right questions. After the smoke clears, people from the intelligence community will be called to hearings in the House and Senate to admit, under oath, that they had meetings with Trump early in January and then again in February warning him of the impending doom. He just doesn’t believe what experts say and avoids the hard work of being a president.
When he says he’s not responsible for anything that has happened, then he will not be able to promote his success. He keeps bragging about his actions of blocking people from Wuhan, but he never shut down all flights from China. For thirty days after he knew there was a problem, more than a hundred flights came to our airports. When he blocked Italian flights, it was from only the areas that showed great stress, not the whole country. When he blocked all foreigners coming from the EU, he excluded the UK. Days later, after realizing the flaw, his team added the United Kingdom to the list. It’s that pushback vs. feedback that keeps him from doing the right things.
The demographics of death is a terrible expression, but it’s real. What is Trump’s next decision? Can we trust him to do the right thing? We should all pray that those in the administration who have the knowledge, expertise and reason block out both loops so we can all get better.