Mayor teaches a course in Leadership 101

Leadership reveals itself in many forms.

One way is when a leader prepares for the worst while hoping for the best outcome. Example: U.S. Army Gen. Dwight Eisenhower launched the D-Day invasion of Europe in June 1944 hoping for ultimate victory, but he was prepared to deliver a message to the world in the event of failure; he would take full responsibility for a tragic outcome.

Another way is when an elected public servant battles a potentially deadly disease, steps away from his or her public duties and then returns to announce a strategy to deal with a worldwide health crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic. Example: Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson.

I doubt Nelson — who I don’t know well, but is someone with whom I am acquainted — would welcome a comparison with the great Ike, but I am going to offer it anyway.

Nelson is battling cancer. She has backed away from her normal mayoral duties to fight the disease. But this week she issued a mandatory shelter-in-place order for the city of 200,000 residents. She issued the order calmly, with confidence and with compassion. I didn’t watch her make the declaration in real time, but I am willing to bet my entire (and dwindling) retirement fund that she made no mention of her illness, that she didn’t lay a “woe is me” guilt trip on her constituents.

We’re all enduring some level of discomfort during this difficult time. Those who are stricken by the coronavirus deserve our love and compassion. Others of us deserve unflinching leadership from those elected to serve us.

We do not need to hear self-congratulatory blather and mindless happy talk during this dire time … and if you detect a reference to what we’re getting from the very highest levels of our nation’s government, then you win the daily prize.

Well done, Mayor Nelson. Stay strong. Your city needs you.

Public service vs. private enrichment

I know this happens to all of us. We hear someone offer an analysis of an important issue and we think: Dang, I wish I said that!

Thus, I cannot take credit for a thought I want to pass along on this blog. It came from Lawrence O’Donnell, an MSNBC talking head as he concluded an interview with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo has emerged as a serious superstar as he briefs the nation of the trouble his state is enduring from the coronavirus pandemic. New York has become the latest epicenter of the crisis around the world. Cuomo has been a giant of reason, of calm, of knowledge and of confidence as he has talked about the challenges he faces daily while his constituents are becoming and are dying from the virus.

On the other hand …

We have the president of the United States, Donald Trump, who’s been haphazard, incoherent, vacillating, confused and confusing as he tries to bluff his way through what the federal government response has been to date.

O’Donnell wanted to congratulate Cuomo for his leadership. He did so by telling us all that the difference between Cuomo and Trump is that the governor has spent the vast bulk of his adult life in public service; Trump spent his entire adult life — prior to becoming elected president — seeking to enrich himself.

Therein, said O’Donnell, lies the difference. Cuomo worked for his father, the late Gov. Mario Cuomo; he worked as housing secretary in the Clinton administration; he has served as New York attorney general and now as governor.

Trump parlayed a multimillion-dollar stake from his father into building a real estate business. He has launched several failed enterprises, declared bankruptcy several times, played host to a reality TV show, owned and managed beauty pageants … all while exhibiting boorish conduct that is still on display even while he serves as president of the United States.

You want a juxtaposition that explains it all? There it is.

I wish I had said it first. I didn’t. Thanks for saying out loud, Lawrence O’Donnell, what many of us have thought all along.

Trump exhibits monumental leadership void

The reporting of Donald John Trump’s daily briefings dealing with the coronavirus pandemic depresses me terribly. It tells me plenty about the president’s inability or unwillingness to lead a nation in distress.

More than 150,000 Americans have been stricken by the virus; nearly 3,000 Americans have died. The death toll is approaching the number of those killed on 9/11.

Donald Trump’s response at the Q&A sessions that commence during these briefings? He has attacked the media for asking him “nasty” questions. Trump told a respected PBS reporter that she needs to be “nice” to him, wondering why Yamiche Alcindor was no longer working for the New York Times.

This is not how a leader of a nation in distressed is supposed to comport himself.

President Bush led the nation in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack. He didn’t lash out at the media. He didn’t criticize his political foes. Bush talked candidly to us about the challenges that confronted us. The president reminded us that we weren’t at war with “Islam,” but were going to do battle with those who perverted that religion and brought destruction to our shores.

This president cannot rise to the level of a leader at war. He did call himself a “wartime president,” but has yet to demonstrate a single trait associated with that label. He exhibits pettiness, petulance, partisan pandering.

He attacks Democrats and the media. He denigrates governors who are on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus.

This is not how a president who seeks to lead and unify a nation under siege is supposed to act.

It doesn’t matter to this president. He cannot lead. This individual who brought not a single moment of public service experience to the only political office he ever sought is demonstrating what many of us feared all along … that he isn’t up to the job.

Whipsawed between emergency and opportunity

I posted an item this morning on Facebook that said the following: Gasoline selling for $1.59/gallon; diesel for $2.17/gallon in Princeton, Texas. Good — no, great! — for consumers.

Where do I began to analyze the irony of that so-called benefit? I’ll give it a try.

The sharp decline in fuel prices seemingly would be a net benefit for a nation reeling under the weight of tragic circumstances brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. I am not going to make a single bit of light over the sadness and heartache associated with the illness and the consequences it has brought.

The falling fuel prices are the result of plummeting demand. Texas has issued a shelter in place restriction, as have many other states. We don’t dare go anywhere. Nothing is open. Plus, we don’t want to put ourselves in jeopardy or possibly others as well. We aren’t burning automobile fuel.

My wife and I drive a big Dodge diesel-powered pickup; it’s our sole motor vehicle. The price of fuel is dropping, although not nearly as rapidly as gasoline prices have declined.

We are unwilling and mostly unable to take advantage of the return of relatively cheap motor fuel.

What will happen when the threat dissipates? Or when governors, mayors and county officials tell us it’s safe enough for us to start resuming our daily lives?

The demand for motor vehicle fuel will return. It will put some additional strain on the supply of the fuel that at this moment is sitting there … in tremendous abundance.

My point is that while the drop in fuel prices looks at first blush like a positive development, it isn’t really … given that the overwhelming worldwide circumstances of the moment are preventing us from taking full advantage of what has occurred.

You tell ’em, Gov. Cuomo

If there is a national hero emerging from the coronavirus pandemic, it might be in the form of one of our nation’s governors, Democrat Andrew Cuomo of New York.

I’ll include Dr. Anthony Fauci as a hero, too. For this blog, though, I want to extol briefly the contribution coming from Gov. Cuomo.

He is giving daily briefings about the status of the plague in the state he governs. Cuomo said plainly today that he doesn’t play politics at times such as these. This is “no time for politics,” he said.

Yes! Andrew Cuomo is trying to manage the crisis’ impact on New York. He seeks to bring some sanity to the madness that has enveloped the nation. New York hospitals are being overwhelmed by the number of confirmed cases of the deadly virus. Cuomo is seeking federal help that so far hasn’t yet arrived in a way that will help stem the flow of infection in New York.

He is not alone, of course, in facing down the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump continues to criticize Cuomo while praising him at the same time. The president accuses some unknown person or group of stealing hospital masks; he wonders why hospitals need so many ventilators. Then he wonders whether Cuomo would fare better against him than Joe Biden, the nearly presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

That is where Cuomo slammed the door shut on politics.

He is right to insist that we need national unity now. There aren’t “red states” or “blue states,” Cuomo said. “We’re all red, white and blue states,” he said, declaring the need for all of us to pull together to fight the pandemic.

If only the president of the United States could adopt that posture.

Iconic play falls victim to coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic appears to have inflicted a major casualty in the Texas Panhandle: an iconic musical that has been thrilling millions of visitors for decades.

“Texas” is going to miss its 2020 summer season at the Pioneer Amphitheater on the floor of Palo Duro Canyon.

This is a very huge deal in the lives of West Texans, not to mention those who have flocked to the canyon floor to watch the musical that tells the story of the settling of the Panhandle.

Donald Trump declared that the national “social distancing” guideline will remain until April 30. Texas has imposed similar measures statewide. Communities and counties are taking proactive measures, too, to stem the spread of the illness that likely is destined to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Hey, if they can postpone the Summer Olympics until July 2021, it only makes sense that the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation will put “Texas” on the shelf as well until next year.

This news saddens me, but it must be done.

Not interested in hearing what Trump ‘thinks’ or ‘believes’

This thought bears repeating.

I am not the least bit interested in hearing Donald John Trump tell us what he “thinks” or “believes” about the coronavirus pandemic. I am intensely interested, though, in hearing from medical and scientific experts about the data they analyze and what their expertise tells them about what the data reveal.

The president keeps taking the microphone at those daily White House briefings. Having told you already that I don’t listen to him blather on in the moment, I am left to read about what he says later in the day. And he keeps yapping and yammering about what he thinks is going to happen or whether he believes that hospital officials need all the respirators they are seeking.

The president needs to step out of the way and let the experts talk to the nation and the world about what they know, not what they think or believe.

Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on “Good Morning, America” today and offered stark, level-headed analysis of the crisis that is developing. GMA co-host George Stephanopoulos noted that Fauci has served six presidents since 1984 and has emerged as the nation’s premier infectious disease specialist. He never fails to deliver the facts in a calm, reassuring way … even when they reveal grim news, as they did today, Stephanopoulos said.

My message once more to Donald Trump? Stop talking.

A Person of the Year nominee? Consider this

Time magazine each year selects a Person of the Year. This being an election year, tradition dictates that the individual chosen usually is the winner of the U.S. presidential election.

Here’s a thought for the Time editors to ponder: Toss that tradition into the crapper.

Whoever the magazine honors must be someone — indeed, the many individuals — associated with responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

To say that the worldwide crisis has dominated Earth’s attention is to commit the most egregious understatement in human history. I will venture to guess that the pandemic will remain front and center for the remainder of 2020 and perhaps well beyond.

Americans and others around the world are paying tribute 24/7 to health care workers, to police and firefighters, to their neighbors and family members, and even to total strangers who are delivering unsolicited random acts of kindness.

Millions of human beings are going to be stricken by the virus before we turn the tide.

I don’t know how the Time editors might categorize the winner of the Person of the Year honor. That’s their call. It’s why they make the big bucks … you know?

Whatever they decide or however they label the human(s) they honor, my strong sense is that Time should look exclusively at the millions of people who are stepping up to offer aid, comfort, relief and support to an entire planet of inhabitants who at this moment are frightened for their lives and for the lives of their loved ones.

Media deserve bouquets, not brickbats

Donald John Trump is so very fond of bashing the media, those whose duty is to report to the public about how well — or poorly — government is functioning.

Yeah, he tosses the occasional compliment, then follows that with the usual rants about “fake news” and “low ratings” and other crap designed to denigrate the Fourth Estate.

I want to sing the media’s praises especially for the way they have been covering the coronavirus pandemic.

I’ve been trying to think back to any story that has dominated our airwaves and our printed pages the way coronavirus outbreak has done. The media, for their part, are covering this crisis about every way imaginable. They are doing so in ways I never would think of were I in a position to assign reporters to cover the story.

Trump’s anger at the media rests, in my mind, on the notion that the media aren’t swallowing the nonsense he spews — and the lies he tells — about the “fantastic” job he and his team are doing. They are seeking to fill in the spaces left open by the president and his team.

Trump says the disease is “under control.” The media go to expert sources who report that, nope, it’s untrue. The disease is far from being controlled, contained or confined.

The media’s reporting of seemingly separate stories are tied in varying ways to the coronavirus crisis.

That’s OK with me. The media are doing the job they are empowered to do. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects them from government interference. Over the generations since the founders wrote the amendment, it has been generally accepted that the Constitution also offers a shield against politicians’ bullying and coercion.

Donald Trump’s constant criticism is blatant form of bullying that cannot be tolerated. He won’t stop the attacks, given that they play well to the ignorant wing of his political base, the know-nothings who believe Trump’s ridiculous assertions that “fake news” is actually false, when in reality it merely is news that isn’t favorable to their hero.

The media are doing a great job covering a story that needs a free press now more than ever.

C’mon, Mr. POTUS, show us the proof of what you’re implying

For crying out loud, Mr. President, what in the world are you trying to do?

You consider yourself a wartime president, that you’re the commander in chief of a nation at war with an “invisible enemy,” the coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the globe.

When you are going to start acting like a wartime president? Ever?

You’re implication today that New York hospitals are peddling hospital masks “out the door” is despicable. You made that statement without an ounce, a scintilla, a shred of evidence. It’s yet another disgraceful bit of rumor-mongering for which you are becoming infamous.

I want to remind you of what you said: “How do you go from 10 to 20 to 300,000? 10 to 20,000 masks to 300,000. Even though this is different. Something’s going on. And you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going? So somebody should probably look into that.”

What do you mean “something’s going on”?

Wartime presidents don’t hurl accusations at first responders, at health care providers, at politicians from opposing parties. They open their arms and tell all Americans that it’s time to join the battle together, to fight the enemy on a united front.

Your remarkable accusation — and that’s how many of us are reading it, as an accusation — flies directly in the face of the things that a wartime president must do.

What’s more, this implication that someone is stealing the masks demands that you provide some sort of evidence of its veracity. Oh, and your suggestion that hospitals are “hoarding” ventilators? That is equally despicable. Good grief, man!

I’d say “Shame on you,” Mr. President … except that you have no shame.

I’ll say it once again. You, sir, make me sick.