Breaking my long political silence

Since my first book was published in 2008 (The Presidential Book of Lists), I’ve avoiding talking about my own politics. And in truth, I could find the good in and the bad in presidents from both major parties. So, rather than alienate half of my potential readership, I kept my mouth shut.

Earlier this week, however, I was watching Don Lemon’s program on CNN. He started a broadcast with five minutes of clips from the president’s daily coronavirus briefing/pep rally—a briefing I had watched live earlier in the day, talking back to the television as I frequently do. Don showed those clips, and then quoted the movie Network: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” And I realized I’m mad, too.

I’ve spent nearly four weeks in the house, not going out, not seeing anyone. And I’ve been angry, telling myself that this isolation hasn’t mattered—and that it won’t matter—until everybody spends several weeks in the house at the same time, to give the virus time to die out.

But as I was watching those clips of the president, and listening to Don asking why I wasn’t angry, I realized my anger at my non-quarantining fellow citizens was misplaced. It’s not their fault: they’ve been getting such mixed messages.

My assumed clear vision of reality in the near future is based on a long history working in and reading science fiction, where we foresee events just like this one. If our leaders had sufficient backbone to talk about these problems—which the president’s scientific advisors seem to recognize all too well—we might already be on the down-slope of this pandemic. But we’re not.

So I’ve come to a decision: I’ve decided that not every president can rise to the occasion, especially not the one we have right now. I think each and every one of his predecessors would have been able to, regardless of his inherent strengths or weaknesses. This one, however, has not. He is a clear and present danger to the long-term health and well-being of this country.

His constant need for adulation, his unending focus on the concept of enemies, and his ceaseless attacks on reporters, the press, and his predecessors, are now emphatic, improper, dangerous distractions from the important issues of the day. When the economy was doing well and we were not yet suffering from this virus, the distractions were fine, keeping him from doing any real harm. But now that we actually need a leader in the Oval Office, we do not have one.

His eagerness to “re-open the economy,” to get us back to business, has nothing to do with scientific or medical reality, and everything to do with his tunnel-vision that a soaring stock market will lead to his re-election. A true leader would not need to pat himself on the back at every turn. A true leader would not need to be thanked by the governors of the states for deploying supplies. A true leader would not attempt to practice medicine without a license while standing at the podium. A true leader would not be thinking about the economy, would not be thinking about re-election, would not even be considering political party labels at this point. A true leader would put all that aside, and focus solely on generating the medical treatment we need today, the testing ability we will tomorrow, and the prevention ability we need long term. A true leader would be standing behind that podium wearing a face mask, to encourage his fellow citizens to protect themselves and each other. A true leader would be telling the people: we are in the midst of a horrible event, something that will kill and injure many people, and the fall-out from it will damage the country, and change the way we live. But we will get through it. And then a true leader would make us believe it, and believe that he cares. Donald Trump is not a true leader.

I hate that it has come to this, that I will be forced to vote against a candidate in the upcoming election, rather than for a candidate. But I can not, in good conscience, do anything that will cause Donald Trump to be re-elected.

And even though he sounded rational at today’s Friday briefing (other than calling a virus “intelligent,” “smart,” and “genius”), simply the fact that I would say “sounded rational today” when talking about the president tells me he shouldn’t be the president. I want and expect my president to sound (and, more importantly, be) rational every single day.

So, back to the question everyone asks when looking at the cover of my book, The Presidential Book of Lists: From Most to Least, Elected to Rejected, Worst to Cursed: Fascinating Facts About Our Chief Executives: they focus on the word “worst” in the subtitle, and ask me who was the worst president. I’ve spent the last 12 years saying “each president has had good and bad traits,” not wanting to alienate anyone (because everyone asking the question wants me to say either the current president, or his immediate predecessor, and they’ve wanted that since the book came out). I still can’t say Donald Trump is the worst president in our history, but he’s definitely not the president we need right now.

#donaldtrump #president #coronavirus #covid19

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