I have been trying to connect two sets of numbers and I must admit to finding difficulty in determining the relevance of one to the other.
It was 45 years ago today when the Vietnam War ended. The helicopters lifted off the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, carrying refugees and remaining U.S. Marines and embassy staff. The war was over. North Vietnamese tanks rolled into Saigon and the communists renamed the city after the late Ho Chi Minh.
More than 58,000 American servicemen and women and died in that war over the span of about 12 years. We now have lost more than 62,000 Americans to the COVID-19 virus and many observers have sought to link the two casualty counts.
What I reckon is most troubling is that Donald Trump — who aggressively sought to avoid taking part in the Vietnam War — now calls himself a “wartime president” leading a nation in the fight against what he describes as an “invisible enemy.”
Is that the relevant link? Hmm. Maybe.
I just have to conclude that Trump has failed to act like a wartime president. He has failed to provide anything that remotely falls into the category of national leader. He continues to provide happy talk about the “fantastic” work he says he and his team are doing; he trots out his know-nothing son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to proclaim laughably that the federal response is a “great success story.”
Perhaps that also provides some relevance between the Vietnam War and the current “war” against the coronavirus. Generals and politicians in the 1960s sought to persuade Americans that we were “winning” the Vietnam War. Presidents Johnson and Nixon lied to Americans; they instructed their military commanders to lie as well. If we move to the present day, we hear another president lie to us daily about the “success” we are experiencing.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump does not take more than 10 seconds per public pronouncement to speak at all about the human suffering that is unfolding in real time. He is failing to demonstrate any form of compassion or empathy, an unwritten but clearly understood part of the presidential job description.
The relevance between these two historical events — Vietnam and the current pandemic — can be found, I suppose, in the deceptions we were fed then and are being fed now.