Viewpoint: A crisis of leadership 

By Bob Chaplin 

A leader of a democratic government has the responsibility to bring together its citizens in times of national crisis. President Trump’s lack of cohesive leadership in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic has had unfortunate consequences for the people of the United States.  

Some basic background: 

The Chinese government’s knowledge of COVID-19 dates back to October 2019. Despite awareness of this health catastrophe, they did not restrict travel of their citizens for their major holiday, Chinese New Year (1/25), nor did they alert the world. The Chinese government kept the virus a secret until a doctor from Wuhan blew the whistle on them. 

In January of 2020, this doctor was ordered by his government to stop passing out COVID-19 information. A short time after, the doctor allegedly died from a COVID-19 infection contracted while treating affected patients. This was also the time that a major outbreak was underway in Italy.  

What followed were missed opportunities for President Trump to prepare the U.S. for what was to come and to lead in the handling of the pandemic. 

The World Health Organization went to Wuhan during the first part of January. During that visit, the Chinese were not truthful about COVID-19 cases. President Trump insisted he was a good, trusted friend with Chinese President Xi Jinping and that there was nothing to worry about in reference to a possible pandemic spread of the virus here in the U.S. Here was an opportunity for the President to send our own team of scientists to Wuhan. He did not, even though the U.S. government CDC had a virus research contract with a Wuhan lab. Continuing the scientific collaboration between China and the U.S. through this lab could have brought forth critical information about the novel coronavirus. Instead, President Trump had the CDC contract withdrawn. Then, when COVID-19 hit our country, President Trump proceeded to put the blame on the World Health Organization report saying they failed to do their job, deflecting his own responsibility.  

As COVID-19 rapidly spread in our population, the President had every opportunity to invoke the Franklin D. Roosevelt’s WWII War Powers Act to coordinate the flow of necessary supplies to our medical communities. Instead, President Trump abdicated his responsibility to the state governors. This created a competitive market for medical supplies and COVOD-19 tests between the states and the federal government, resulting in much higher prices and severe disruption of distribution. Had President Trump stepped up to coordinate a supreme effort of American industrial ingenuity to make sure that all health providers had access to what they needed, citizen deaths and risks of exposure to our medical community heroes could have been reduced.  

And, as well, the President has also disseminated misinformation about protection against COVID-19. President Trump announced that he personally took hydroxychloroquine as a deterrent to contracting the virus, ignoring the proclamation of the scientific community against this. Many Americans followed his lead which led to a shortage of hydroxychloroquine, depriving some individuals of this effective drug for the treatment of lupus. 

President Trump has consistently failed the citizens of the United States during the rapid spread of COVID-19 due to his lack of strong visionary leadership. Had he stepped up to make some hard decisions about containing the pandemic through, for example, enacting the WWII War Powers Act to coordinate procurement of critical medical supplies and coronavirus tests, the consequences would not have been so challenging. This has been a crisis of leadership. 

Bob Chaplin lives in Bar Harbor 



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