COVID-19 Pandemic Response:
American Leadership during National Crisis
Mr. Arthur J. Simental
March 30, 2020
COVID-19 continues its rampage on America yet one thing has remained common a consistent lack of leadership from the federal government even prior to COVID-19 reaching American shores. We are witnessing an event that will change humanity forever and the response, our actions and our leaders will be remembered for how we handled this crisis. President Trump and his administration have failed in every way to deliver strong, unifying federal leadership in the face of this crisis, a disaster in which we have not seen the like in nearly 100 years since the 1918 Spanish Flu.
Trump from the onset of the COVID-19 crisis refused to accept the reality of the situation and has gone against all reasonable and rational approach to handling this disaster. Abandoning decades of emergency preparedness policy and refusing to listen to experts and advisors from various federal agencies and the medical and homeland security & emergency management communities, even the intelligence and national security communities’ warnings have fallen on deaf ears. Indicative of a President who only cares about himself and profiteering from his position.
Every day since COVID-19 has taken the media spotlight, the President has sought out to deliver daily press briefings where he often attacks the media and blames everyone else for COVID-19 decimating communities across America. The President has refused to follow national disaster policy which calls for a unified federal response in the face of such a crisis insisting that his administration will lead from behind, and has been highly reluctant to provide federal support to Governors who have desperately pleaded for weeks for federal assistance. The President continues his daily attacks without missing a beat on all who criticize him, even insisting that if people are not nice to him like Governors then he will not call and offer support. The President goes on to pass blame to states, Governors and even doctors, health workers, first responders and the people risking their lives every day and suffering through this crisis to save the nation while insisting everything he and his administration does is perfect. This goes against all ethical and moral principles expected of our leaders, especially during a crisis. Only in the face of overwhelming backlash does the President and his administration change course. We see this daily parade of Trump touting his latest COVID-19 response actions like they are some kind of miracle cure, flaunting his signature approach that everything he does is the best, the greatest ever. Before long, he parades officials from his administration around and then takes a victory lap full of self-congratulations and praise like they just cured COVID-19 and everyone should be grateful. This is sickening to watch as the stark reality of America is far worse than what the President portrays in his daily press briefings. Governors, doctors, nurses, responders and health workers across the nation cry out in desperation and record the most heartbreaking and gut-wrenching tragic videos documenting the situations they face. Each day is a fight for survival. The President’s assertions could not be further from the truth. But that’s what we have come to expect from an administration built on a foundation of lies, deceit and lack of any and all morality.
In the quiet silence of sheltering-in-place, quarantines and lockdowns, community leaders have been rising up in the vast absence of any and all leadership by the federal government. Governors have stepped into this void like Jared Polis of Colorado and Andrew Cuomo of New York to provide real leadership. Governor Polis of Colorado from day 1 has stepped up to provide strong leadership, rallying the state to provide a unified response and ensuring Coloradans that he would do everything in his power to protect the state. Governor Polis has had a calm concise public message throughout the COVID-19 crisis, providing authoritative guidance, and a message of hope – “Coloradans united will survive”. He has led a factual, data driven approach guided by state experts in his leadership and governance of the crisis. Governor Polis and Governor Cuomo in the absence of federal leadership and facing a critical shortage of resources have marshaled the public and private sectors, government, industry, academia, healthcare, emergency services all working together in their respective states to develop and implement innovative solutions to turn the tide on COVID-19. Governor Polis’ leadership exemplifies the kind of innovative, problem solving leadership that brings out the best in people.
Governor Cuomo has been the most prominent of voices, leading New York through this crisis. Governor Cuomo has displayed the greatest leadership qualities during this crisis. His briefings are concise, well thought out and informative, which has been especially important as Americans look for an authoritative voice of reason during these chaotic times, which has been compounded by the lack of federal leadership. Governor Cuomo has led his response from the onset of New York’s outbreak with poise and leadership derived by listening to experts and state leaders from various disciplines to develop a comprehensive plan and course of action to provide the greatest level of protection and safety to the people of New York. Unlike the President, Governor Cuomo has not made any egregious or false assertions or claims about COVID-19. He has provided facts and information without exaggeration, lies or deceit about the reality of the situation and has sought to contain public panic unlike the President. He has also provided New Yorkers and greater America watching this tragedy unfold in New York and now real-time in their communities with hope. Governor Cuomo has been very relatable and has conveyed to the public that we all should seek silver linings and find ways to find meaning in our lives in new ways every day to make the best of the time we have during this crisis. He discusses how during this time he has found peace and solace in speaking and spending time with his daughters and his mother, and is grateful for their good health. This is the kind of leadership and the presidential qualities that America has been greatly missing. Leadership that is driven by science, data and the greatest minds and experts in America. Leadership that displays the behaviors and demeanors found in the nation’s greatest inspirational Americans and historical figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy.
Now, more than ever America needs leadership. America needs leadership that will deliver the nation from this global public health crisis and unify the country in a way not seen since 9/11 and WWII where the nation united against a common enemy. Americans in November need to understand that pandemics and other large-scale catastrophic disasters will happen again, but their vote will determine if history will repeat itself and we will once again face uncertainty with the absence of leadership.