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PLAYING SIMON SAYS

Updated: Aug 24, 2020

April 15, 2020



We’re all getting lessons in leadership right now.


I think it’s right that Americans take a hard look at this issue because in recent years, leadership has been a huge problem in our country.


First there were the Obama years, when Republicans stuck together like fused toes. This was under the leadership of Mitch McConnell, aka “Simon,” whose Congressional members felt fine about playing Simon Says for 8 years while collecting their taxpayer-funded paychecks.


Had it been our party voting in a bloc on every bill, or worse, refusing to even look at bills, I would’ve been equally disgusted. No society can operate effectively when people refuse to do their jobs ... especially when those people supposed to be in charge. Since the Obstructors were also our elected representatives, it can be truly said that the American people were very poorly served by Republicans during the Obama administration.


After Obama we got Trump, a person many of us did not feel was a good fit for the White House, to put it mildly. His far-right positions were repugnant to me, as to most other Democrats. But for me it wasn’t all political — it was personal, too.


I don’t like that man’s vulgarity, his grandiosity, his greed, his disregard for the law, his indecency toward women, his racism, his self-centeredness, and many other things.


To be clear, I disliked many of the political stances Regan and George W took. But I still liked them personally, sort of. At least some of the time. I thought Reagan was gracious, and funny sometimes, and kind of charming, and he handled that horrifying assassination attempt with incredible grace. And I thought, and still think, both of the Bush Presidents were basically good men. Good to their families. Not an embarrassment to us on the world stage.


So despite my true blue roots, I don’t automatically hate Republican leaders. In fact, I actually look for reasons to like them! Some of my Democratic friends think I am a real wuss for this. So be it. I would prefer it if we could all get along. I don’t want to hate people, even Republicans. I'm with Nancy on that one.


But sometimes I definitely hate what people do, especially in the case of a President. Of any President, let’s even say. Presidential actions have enormous consequences, and I wouldn’t be a thinking person, or a patriot, if I regarded those actions as automatically wrong because they came from the GOP, or automatically right just because they came from my own party ... the way many of Donald Trump’s supporters view his actions.


This is a big part of what’s wrong with America today. And it's a big thing. It's not just a entrenched partisanship. It's what’s making us the most dysfunctional, worst-prepared nation on earth in responding to this pandemic.


Yesterday Trump announced that U.S. financing for the World Health Organization will stop because WHO is too China-centric. We’re all supposed to be hating China now, remember?


Trump’s fanatical supporters are cheering this move, as they cheer everything he does. The spineless Republican-led Senate won’t utter a peep against it, and the many people among us who are dazed and disordered right now, or the ones who can't stand the divisiveness of politics and long ago tuned out, will not object either.


But I bet a lot of us will be outraged. Probably the majority. Because, hello, we’re in the middle of a pandemic! No, actually we’re at the very beginning of a pandemic, the scale of which has never been seen on earth. This isn’t the time to cut funding to the World Health Organization.


It’s also not the time to throw around the word ‘investigation,’ which is like a flaming sword Donald Trump loves to wield. Though I notice when he is under investigation, as he often is, he cries a lot and accuses everyone of picking on him.


This week Trump announced during one of his interminable press conferences that his authority as President is “total.”


But wait! Isn’t this still a democracy? Of the people, by the people, and all that?

I’m appalled, aghast, and yet ... I think he’s melting down.


Can it be?


His love of appearing before us every day, and staying in front of the cameras longer than anyone could possibly want him to, is proving to be his undoing. At least, it looks that way to me. The pressure is getting to him and he’s unraveling a bit more every day.


And we’re all getting to see for ourselves what we’ve only glimpsed, or heard about, till now: the tantrums. The abuse of reporters. The magical thinking. The refusal to let anyone else, or science, or the reality of thousands of people sick or dead, be right.


“You don’t make the timeline. The virus does,” Dr. Fauci memorably said on March 26.

I bet that made The Donald really mad.


It made me nervous because that’s not the kind of thing our President can handle hearing, so what will happen now to Dr. Fauci? Will he still be allowed to talk every day?


Most of us feel awfully attached to Dr. Fauci these days. He’s the only one telling us the truth about this virus.

Like a lot of Americans, I’m finding these daily pressers to be in very bad form. The lies and self-congratulation alone are close to unbearable. I bet Toastmasters recommends against saying things like “I’m leading everybody. We’re doing great” ...and you just have to think, great? Compared to what?


I have some sympathy for just how truly terrifying it must be to be the person in charge at a time like this. I also appreciate how Trump is trying to give us some good news, or at least I did at the beginning; I now see that he’s doing that mostly so we’ll like him and re-elect him, and he’s also doing it at the expense of the truth.


But mostly I’m appalled at how this President is seizing on this crisis to exert his power. Not on our behalf, and also not to solve the problem. It's power over us he's after, and against our will.


As if de-funding WHO isn’t bad enough (he hasn’t actually done it yet, he’s just threatening it so far, so let’s see what happens), Trump made another terrifying threat yesterday: to adjourn the U.S. Congress so he can push through his nominees. Like inviting your skanky friends over while your parents are out, basically. This never-before-used provision would allow Trump to bypass the confirmation process that the President has to follow when the Senate is in session.


Needless to say, Trump’s nominees would never be approved by Democratic members of the Senate (including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has to give his consent by law), nor by the Democratic-led House.


So this might not happen, either.

But for a President to use our present vulnerability to pull off stunts he’d never get away with normally is definitely a worst-case scenario. There are practical obstacles to making Trump’s vision a reality. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would have to bring the Senate back early. It’s currently on recess till May 4 ... which itself is ridiculous and infuriating.


Then, having brought them back (called “convening”), he’d have to formally let them go away again (called “adjourning”).


Only when they’re adjourned could Trump make his big move. And McConnell doesn’t seem likely to go along, partly because he knows Schumer won’t, partly (I’m guessing) because it would be absurd to drag all those 60-or-older Congresspeople back to Washington D.C. during a pandemic, then send them away again. That's exactly the kind of headless-chicken maneuver that smart governments should avoid right now.

But ours is not a smart government.


It’s April 15. More than 2 million people are dead worldwide from corona, and the U.S. has more cases than any other nation on earth. Hospitals still lack PPE and almost none of us can get a test to find out if we're infected or not. The President is agitating to re-open the country even though every health expert in the world says it’s a bad idea.


Our leadership sucks.

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