The United States has experienced its share of critical times when the future literally hung in the balance and the right leadership pulled us out of potential disaster.
What if George Washington had not inspired through that first winter, or if Abraham Lincoln had not the people skills to hold the country through to Appomattox.
It was the combination of FDR, George Catlett Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry Truman that freed the world of the Nazi horrors and the Japanese atrocities.
Today we need leadership in the worst possible way to battle and defeat the combination of a pandemic equal to the black death and an economy that could make the Great Depression seem like a walk in the park.
On the front page of the Wall Street Journal (not exactly a left-leaner) on March 19, the lead article in 50-point type led with “America Needed Tests — The Government Failed.”
The article described the start in Washington and California with public health having limited testing that slowed the ability to address the problem.
The article occupied a complete page (A8). The article is extremely depressing as it describes one set of missed opportunities after another — much of it centering on the lack of test development by the CDC. Tom Friedan (CDC director 2009-17) described the “perfect storm of FDA over strict rules, sidelining private labs, and a botched initial test kit that had to be recalled.”
Leaders, including President Donald Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, early in the outbreak appeared unable or unwilling to envision a crises on the scale that has now emerged (remember this was two months ago) and no one stepped up to effectively coordinate among federal agencies or the private sector labs, medical providers and manufacturers needed for a large-scale testing push, they say.
This article is heart-breaking with one example after another of missed opportunities. In February, the FDA specified special applications private labs would have to perform to get permission to develop tests.
In the middle of all this, Trump repeatedly dismissed the threat of a broad U.S. outbreak, saying, “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
Another said the Government Accounting Office had warned in early January the readiness for a pandemic fell short because they found the crises plan did not take into consideration the huge role the private sector would have to play.
There is much more citing more screw-up examples.
Let me bring this home and to a level perhaps easier to understand.
On March 6, after Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. can’t meet coronavirus testing demand, Trump announced, “Anybody who wants a test gets a test.”
Keep that in mind, as you consider what your thoughts might be if you heard the captain of the Titanic say, “Of course, there are plenty of lifeboats on the Titanic.”
The comparison is very close with a virtual life or death set of circumstances when the U.S. can safely approach the task of the whole population getting back to work and school.