With each passing day, it seems, President Trump finds himself in the grip of yet another vise—each emerging from a distinct social sector. Many of these pincers, of course, are of the President’s own making. It becomes harder and harder to extricate himself (and, frankly, the rest of us), leaving one to wonder how this all ends.
Health Care: Soon after emerging from his impeachment trial, the President was confronted with a pandemic that he confidently said would “miraculously go away” when the weather warmed. We are on the brink of the Fourth of July weekend. It has warmed. And yet, with each new day, we are confronted with explosive spikes in coronavirus infections. Clearly, Donald Trump is not responsible for the virus, but it is also clear that his administration has mangled the response to the pandemic with such ineptitude that we easily outpace the entire world in infections and deaths.
The Economy: Once the President’s most reliable calling card, as our nation reeled from the impact of the pandemic, the economy tanked. The administration’s initial response was appropriately wide-ranging, but as the calendar turned to summer and the need for assistance did not diminish, benefits have become increasingly tepid. In the past four months, unemployment has risen from historic lows to more than ten percent. Even with gains in jobs over the past month, experts predict that continuing spikes in coronavirus cases will cause long-term economic hardships for the US.
The Social Fabric: When George Floyd was killed by the police in Minneapolis, the video that went viral unleashed a torrent of emotion across the country, exposing in deep relief, America’s “original sin” of racism. The President has responded with everything from threatening protesters to a blasphemous photo op in front of a church in Washington, DC. He has sided with the police (and with confederate monuments) but we have heard virtual silence about systems in this country that perpetuate racism and the pain and grief this causes Americans of color. Outrage over George Floyd’s killing has fueled protests nationwide (even worldwide), including among segments of the President’s most loyal supporters. Still, there has been thunderous silence from the President.
The Military: Revelations that Russia has put a bounty on service personnel in Afghanistan have prompted pointed questions on both sides of the aisle. What did the President know and when did he know it? US intelligence reports that the President was briefed about this in late February. Was he not paying attention? Did he not care? Most outrageously, even in the days since news reports have brought this scandal to the attention of the general public, Donald Trump has refused to take any action against the Russians. His continued coziness with Vladimir Putin is alarming. What does the Russian leader have over our President that is so explosive that even this revelation cannot shake his bromance?
If you catch a wily snake in a single vise, it can squirm and maybe even free itself; two grips on either end cause the snake to wriggle violently. Three clutches bind the snake in a seemingly inescapable grasp. But four vises make it impossible to escape.
Just Future: As many of you know, I have been spending much of my stay-at-home time working with colleagues on a virtual conference, Just Future, to further heal the relationship between the US and Pakistan. You can register on my web site, here. Look for additional information in the coming days, including a detailed conference agenda, how to earn an academic certificate for participation, a list of topics to be covered and bios of presenters. I hope you can join us.