Although as a Puerto Rican I have already experienced the uncertainty inherent in having Donald J. Trump as president in the midst of a natural disaster like what was Hurricane Maria in 2017, my worst fears have been turned into reality with the coronavirus crisis. That is, I always used to ask myself what would happen to us if a world war or international crisis broke out with a dangerously inept president who thinks he knows everything and actually knows nothing.
And it turns out that I wasn’t wrong. The president who makes fun of climate change, who does not respect scientists, and who in 2018 disbanded the National Security Council unit focused on national preparedness for a pandemic, has been revealed for the umpteenth time for who he is: someone who lacks the necessary preparation and leadership to face this type of crisis. He is someone who is incapable of offering a modicum of confidence or security. Worse still, he is a politician who exploits a crisis of grand proportions in which our lives are in play, with the goal of promoting prejudice, division, and xenophobia against ethnic groups and immigrants.
In these days of quarantine, one of my routines is following the daily press conference of the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, to see the difference between a leader and Trump. Cuomo is assertive, he calls it like he sees it, and he declares that if someone does not like the decisions he is making to stop the spread of the virus in his state, the buck stops with him. On the other hand, Trump never admits mistakes and always looks for someone else to blame, in this case for deaths. And, after minimizing the real threat of the virus, he now tries to convince us that he is in control and we have nothing to fear.
In these crisis moments is when one understands how important it is to elect leaders who are truly capable, who at the same time surround themselves with functionaries who are also. But we knew that the business man Trump, king of bankruptcies, scandals, and shady businesses, did not augur well for the nation. Of course, he rode the wave of the good economy that Barack Obama left behind, with the low unemployment rates, and assumed it would be that way until his reelection. But the coronavirus had other plans in mind for Trump. His main talking point has suffered a severe blow and this has him undone. So much so that in the middle of a crisis that must be confronted with unity, Trump continues politicizing and looking for people to blame for his own ineptitude.
There are crises that make or break leaders. Until now Trump, the king of “pretending” he is in control and everything is marvelous, once again shows that the job is too big for him. Worse still, we are not only confronting an invisible and silent assassin that is the coronavirus. The ineptitude and improvisation of this White House in the face of a crisis of this magnitude could be as dangerous as the virus itself.