Narcissism and pandemic misleading

The following is a brief letter I sent to my newspaper. Please feel free to adapt and use. Note I softened the last line from the word that I think best defines the actions – sociopathic.

The revelation the president admitted he knew of the pandemic risk, while misleading us, downplaying it and calling it a hoax, is troubling. Epidemiologists and historians have noted mission one in pandemics is tell people the truth, then they are prone to follow healthy safety directions. When we needed leadership, he passed and decided not to create a panic, which is absurd and deadly.

Help me understand, what kind of person holds several rallies without caution, knowing the virus is air borne, putting his most faithful fans at risk just to garner applause? This is beyond narcissism, in my view.

The nonpartisan Concord Coalition on the absent relief package

The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan group that researches and educates on the US deficit and debt problems. The following was in my inbox from that group and it speaks for itself.

“The following is written from the perspective of Concord Coalition Policy Director, Tori Gorman.

Avid readers of The Lookout will notice that my missive today is unlike any of my previous entries. If you are accustomed to the colorful charts and technical policy analyses that usually accompany my posts, my sincerest apologies. Those features will return, but today’s post is from the heart.

Last week I fully anticipated that I would be spending my waking hours prior to publication of this newsletter buried in legislative text, frantically distilling the latest coronavirus relief package from Congress for our readers. Instead, I find myself staring at an empty desk while federal officials jet home for their sacrosanct August recess. Why? Because despite over 160,000 Americans dead from COVID-19, a record-setting decline in economic activity, over 31 million people collecting some form of unemployment, and millions of children unable to return to school, lawmakers refused to compromise.

Unconscionable.

Each side has expressed support for another pandemic relief bill and each side has tendered their initial offer. The House-passed HEROES Act would spend another $3.4 trillion whereas the Senate Republican package of proposals would spend closer to $1.2 trillion. Clearly there is plenty of playing field in between to reach agreement.

On what planet is an acceptable outcome ZERO?

To add insult, on August 8, President Trump announced with great flourish a series of toothless executive memoranda from the ballroom of his eponymous Bedminster golf club – actions that will have virtually no effect except to make any further negotiations more difficult: A payroll tax proposal that neither side in Congress supports, a pseudo-unemployment insurance scheme virtually no state can navigate nor afford, an eviction ‘moratorium’ that isn’t, and student loan action that could have been, and should have been, more robust.

At some point in our political history ‘compromise’ became a dirty word. Somewhere it became acceptable in an election year for Congress to punt the people’s work until the November results were known. In today’s environment, however, where twin crises are leaving a trail of death and destruction, it is imperative that lawmakers rise above the low expectations they champion, return to Washington, and do the work they were elected to do.

Americans deserve no less.”

What the president has fashioned with executive orders is beyond his authority. Congress has the purse strings given to them by the Constitution. What the president has proposed is unworkable in parts and unwieldy in others. But, again we are not an autocracy and Congress needs to do its job.

What I also find interesting is the president’s executive order did not include a price tag on debt impact. I have done some back of the envelope calculations and it is likely nearer the $1.2 trillion GOP figure, if it is not extended, but we just do not know. I also feel that cutting FICA taxes will be harmful to Social Security and Medicare, at a time when they need more funding not less.

Yet, what no one has done is calculate what we need to do, including all three parties, the Senate, the House and White House. The House at least passed a bill on May 15, but the Senate could not bring themselves to debate and vote until the bewitching hour. Frankly, that is poor leadership by Senator Mitch McConnell and the president. Crisis planning is often not the best of planning.

You would think our so-called leaders could take the time to do some homework. But, what do I know?

A few wanderings on this Wednesday

My mind is wandering this morning searching for a topic that I can write more than a few words. I feel I have written too much about “he who shall not be named,” but when you live in a largely ungoverned country, it does cause consternations. So, in no particular order, here are a few thoughts:

– I am pleased with Joe Biden’s selection of Senator Kamala Harris as a running mate. She is experienced, credentialed, and brings a lot to the ticket. One can tell that “he who shall not be named” is scared, because the name calling has already started. As for those who feel she is not the perfect choice, there is no such thing.

– I had a call from a staff member of my GOP Congressman. He said he was sharing my letter I posted with the Congressman. We had a good call, but it told me the staff screens all emails, so the elected official only sees a few. The email is summarized in the link to an earlier post. I encourage you to speak to or email Senators and your Congressperson to get them to act on a COVID-19 deal, which is the right way to govern.

– On the subject of not governing, the incumbent Senator running for reelection in NC is bragging in a commercial on what he has proposed, not done. The Senate has not done a whole lot in his tenure and it appears to have punted their negotiations on a COVID-19 relief bill to the White House, which is not supposed to be how it works.

– When any legislative body does not follow its own processes, take it to the bank, it is political. The processes are there to add rigor and regimen and give citizens comfort. The process for a bill is usually one chamber passes a version, the other chamber passes a version, then they reconcile the differences. Now, people are scared of taking votes that may mean a few of one party joins more of the other party to get legislation. That is not governance – that is retreat.

As I type this, I hear yet another commercial downstairs from said Senator using the word “leadership.” Right now, there is not much leadership going on or governance. We have people in positions of leadership, but using the word “leader” is a bridge too far. That especially applies to “he who shall not be named.” Where is Harry Potter when you need him?

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2020/08/09/brief-letter-to-senators-and-congress-people-sent-saturday-morning/

A speech never given

The following is a speech that would have been given by a real leader back in January, 2020. This speech would have both galvanized America and saved lives. What puzzles is the person who could have given it craves so badly to be viewed as a great leader. This was truly a missed opportunity.

My fellow Americans,

At this moment, our country has not been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. Yet, I have been briefed by our intelligence and CDC folks that we must be ever-vigilant, as pandemics like this know no boundaries. Sadly, it is only a matter of time before this pandemic hits our shores. I do not wish to alarm, only to prepare ourselves.

So, I am authorizing the CDC to work with hospital systems and medical suppliers to ascertain our readiness for the pandemic. What do we need that is not in sufficient supply? How can we best remedy those shortfalls? I am asking Congress and our Governors to set aside their differences and think of solutions that will protect Americans, but keep our jobs and livelihoods from falling prey to the pandemic. With that said, safety must be the foundation of any strategy.

I will also restrict travel from China, and will see if we should consider such from other countries, as well. Travel might still occur, but we must think of identifying and quarantining folks that come from locations where the pandemic is present. We must think of ways to accomplish this and not stymie travel altogether. We must be smart, but we must be safe.

Finally, I will set up a pandemic task team of CDC and other epidemiologists who can help guide us. This is unknown territory, so my commitment to you is to shoot straight with you as we learn more. As we convene and assess this problem further, we will advise you on various strategies to mitigate the pandemic.

Thank you for your support and understanding.
The President of the United States

That is what a real leader might have said.

A voice of wisdom says harsh truths

The following paragraphs are excerpts from the article “A world redrawn: US coronavirus response fatally ‘chaotic,’ says Noam Chomsky” by AFP.

“The United States is on a chaotic path with no federal plan against the coronavirus pandemic as it reduces public health funding and ignores the advances of climate change, according to activist scholar Noam Chomsky, considered the founder of modern linguistics.

Question: How do you read the current situation in the United States, where coronavirus has killed more residents than any other nation in the world?

Answer: There’s no coherent leadership. It’s chaotic. The presidency, the White House, is in the hands of a sociopathic megalomaniac who’s interested in nothing but his own power, electoral prospects — doesn’t care what happens to the country, the world.

The president himself has said that it’s none of his business. He’s said that the federal government can’t do anything.”

The remainder of the article is more of the same, but I encourage you to click on the link below. To be a former business person, the president is not known for planning and execution. He is more known for rash decision-making and untruthful behavior.

After being briefed several times in January by our national intelligence people on the pandemic risk, instead of being the leader we needed, he chose to down play and nay say it, even calling it a hoax and continuing to misinform us still today.

People have died and are dying. The world is horrified by how poorly we have handled this, leading the way with 28% of the global COVID-19 deaths, with only 5% of the global population.

Just yesterday, the president said the increase in number of illnesses and deaths is fake news. Two things. Mr. Trump, that is the kind of response you’d expect from a banana republic dictator. And, Mr. Trump, if you cannot add value, please stop talking. America needs a leader, not what you are doing on a daily basis.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-world-redrawn-us-coronavirus-response-fatally-chaotic-says-noam-chomsky/ar-BB14xpRn?ocid=spartandhp

Yet another “disgruntled” former employee

Why is it that people who are critical of the president’s are “losers,” “disasters,” “haters,” “liars” or in some cases “ugly?” The last one he has used a couple of times, implying they are too ugly for Trump to have considered sexually (assaulting is the context). If they are current employees, they are members of the “deep state” out to get him. But, if they are a former employee, “they are disgruntled.” These are all code words for his base to ignore the criticism as it is undue.

Well, one thing is for certain, there are a lot of all of the above folks out there saying critical things. Why is that? Is it easier to believe that everyone else is lying or that a person known for being untruthful is? On Sunday night, “60 Minutes,” will air an interview with another whistleblower, Dr. Rick Bright, who was let go because he did not like the path the president was going down on the COVID-19 response and tried to intervene.

Our country is all about civil discourse. We have the right to question our leaders. Yet, if one of my criticisms got enough airplay to garner his attention, I would be labeled a “loser.” I am far from perfect, but this imperfect person has every right to question the president of the United States. For example:

– Nixon committed a crime and tried to cover it up.
– Carter could have handled the Iran hostage situation better.
– Reagan illegally sold weapons to that same Iran to fund Contra rebels in Central America.
– Bush, the elder, raised taxes after saying he would not.
– Clinton had an affair in the White House and lied about it.
– Bush, the younger, invaded Iraq under false pretenses – there were no WMDs and he knew it.
– Obama drew a red-line which Syria crossed and did not act.

Trump has extorted a foreign country for personal gain, condoned multiple communications with Russia siding with them over US intelligence and lied, bullied and demonized anyone who dare criticizes him. Yet, none of his predecessors have name-called critics like the current incumbent. My grandmother would say, if you name call, it means you have a poor argument.

Take it to the bank, the president and his henchmen will go out of their way to discredit Dr. Bright. Yet, given the many missed opportunities to get ahead of the pandemic risk, we shoud pay attention to someone who knows what it means to criticize the vindictive president. These folks show far more courage than this president reveals.

If we open up too early, get used to these headlines

“Another Smithfield Food plant has been struck by the coronavirus” by Kaelan Deese of The Hill. The following are the first two paragraphs. These headlines will happen regardless of the precautions in the future. Yet, if we open to soon, then they will be quite frequent.

“The Health Department in Bladen County, N.C., confirmed that another Smithfield Foods processing plant reported one or more positive cases of the novel coronavirus.

The department’s director, Teresa Duncan, said agencies both local and national are working to protect public health and ensure the safety of employees while further mitigating the spread of the virus, according to a press release obtained by local outlet WECT.”

I fully understand the need to look for ways to get economic activity going. But, do not let anyone tell you it is safe to go back to work without exposure. That simply is untrue, whether it comes from a protestor or a president. Taking the president at his word is a fool’s errand.

I do suggest masking up and getting take out from your favorite restaurants as a means to help others, provided the restaurant is taking precautions. For places that don’t seem to have their act together, they do not get a return visit for now. Last week, a restaurant had organized curbside service quite well, to the extent that masks and gloves were used and the returned bank cards, pens and clipboards were disinfected. I suggest keeping a bottle of disinfectant in your car, as well.

Be safe. Be socially distant. Be smart. Listen to the truthtellers.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/another-smithfield-food-plant-has-been-struck-by-the-coronavirus/ar-BB12Qua0?ocid=spartandhp

That leadership thing

Just because someone is in a position of leadership it does not mean he or she is a leader. Leadership is earned. A person put in a position of leadership may have a brief honeymoon period, but it can be wasted in an instant.

The military has an unstated rule. The troops eat first. This is a terrific metaphor. They are doing the heavy lifting, so a leader will do what he or she can to make sure the troops are taken care of.

A few rules of thumb to judge what leaders looks like:

– do they defend their team members or do they remain quiet?

– do they throw people under the bus when mistakes occur?

– do they deflect credit to others or assume all the credit?

– do they hide from blame when things go poorly?

– do they treat people with dignity and seek input from multiple sources?

– are they cool under pressure which calms anxious followers?

– do they represent our better angels or our worst?

My son and I watched the excellent movie “Midway” about s highly pivotal naval battle in World War II – if the US lost, the Japanese would have more impunity to attack cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc. A key part of the movie was the need to trust intelligence code breakers. Admiral Nimitz (the recently appointed Pacific fleet commander) visited the code breakers to confirm their confidence and methods, asking many questions. It helped him trust their input as a key reason for our success at Midway was we knew the attack was coming on the day it came.

Nimitz went to the sources. It should be noted these same sources told his predecessor of concerns in advance of Pearl Harbor. His predecessor did not heed their concerns and be more alert on December 7, 1941.

With the complexity of our world, leaders need to be editors of lots of information. There is a humility in knowing how much you don’t know. Be very wary of people in positions of leadership who convey a false sense of awareness. There is a Texas term for big talkers – they are all hat and no cattle. They have a big head, but don’t have many steers.

It should be noted an increasing number of corporate leaders are more introverted. The business is more complex and varied, so understanding the moving parts is important. I mention this as we should not assume someone who is more outgoing is a better leader.

We are craving better leaders. The better ones may be the ones who look less like the part.

A nice thing about our country

Our country is weary of having a person in a leadership position who is seemingly in the eye of every storm. He seems to be the lone constant in personal, political, company, country and media attacks. Even his supporters lament some of his tweeting habits.

Yet, our imperfect country has some nice things going for it. Here are a few thoughts.

– when our leaders do not address our real problems, companies, cities, states and people can step up and do more;
– when the president cannot get out of his own way and then has his people spend time, energy and their integrity defending his inane comments, we can choose to tune him out;
– when the president is untruthful more than he is not, we can choose to not believe a word he says or tweets;
– when leaders rationalize indefensible comments as normative, we can push back on them;
– we can choose to act on conservation, climate change and guns by voting with our feet; companies pay attention. Why? What creates profits and jobs are customers.

To this last point, companies like Google, Amazon, IKEA, Walmart, Facebook, etc. and states like California, Texas, Iowa, North Carolina, etc. are active in renewable energy. Walmart, Dick’s and Albertson’s are stepping up on gun sale restrictions. Even ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell are paying attention on climate change due to shareholder pressure.

If leaders choose not to lead, we can all do more. It sure would be nice if they helped some, too. If they do not, they become less relevant.

Credit and blame

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is stepping down today. This imperfect person has received a huge amount of blame for the failure to deliver a Brexit deal. Yet, I believe she had an unenviable task of herding the many and varied egos in Parliament who did not focus on getting the job done.

Living in America, we see this first hand, as posturing is more important than doing. Even before the fear-mongering and storytelling that has replaced civil debate, I have been disappointed in the demise in bipartisanship behavior.

Ironically, the last period of significant legislation occurred when GOP Speaker John Boehner ignored the Freedom Caucus and worked with moderate House Democrats to pass bills the Democrat led Senate would pass into law. He did this enough, that he retired before the Freedom Caucus rebellion ousted him.

Now, only handfuls of significant laws are passed as neither major party wants the other side to get a political win. Actually helping people is secondary to the perception of looking good. We have a president who does the same focusing too much on perception. He even controls his messaging taking credit for things he has little to do with and laying off blame on others when he the finger could be pointed at his efforts.

Blowing a problem out of proportion, making it worse by not addressing the real issues, threatening an action that gets push back from all sides and then coming to agreement on efforts that are already underway, is all a show that is harmful to relationships and commerce. People and companies need more stability in their lives, not less. When applecarts are upset, they have to look at other options.

This month, the US economy will be celebrating ten years (120 months) of economic growth. The president has been sure to pat himself on the back for this and he did provide some short term tailwinds with the tax cut and regulations cuts. Yet, he has only been president for going on 29 months. That means, 91 months of this growth were under Obama and the stock market more than doubled under his watch.

To be frank, presidents get too much credit and blame for the economy, providing at best headwinds and tailwinds. The headwinds this president has caused are more long term – debt, tariffs, immigration focus, pulling out of trade deals, etc. The economy is slowing its growth and more slowing is expected to occur. But, a given is this president will lay blame on others as it slows – he started last fall making the nonpartisan Federal Reserve the bogeyman.

Credit and blame. I have often quoted a leadership consultant I know, who said a great leader deflects credit to others; a bad leader accepts credit even when not due. Think about that as you hear or read tweets from leaders.