If Only Whataboutism Could Defeat the Coronavirus

Supporters attend President Trump’s RNC speech on the South Lawn of the White House.

Last Thursday, on the final night of the Republican National Convention, President Trump broke longstanding American tradition by transforming the White House into a purely political venue… complete with platforms, stage lights, campaign banners, and rows and rows of seating on the South Lawn

It was a controversial move for its inappropriate use of the people’s house, but it also wasn’t terribly surprising. If we’ve learned anything from Trump over the past few years, it’s that he loves creating splashy, norm-defying public spectacles that bring him maximum attention. And if those spectacles get his political opponents riled up in the process, that’s all the better (at least to the president and a good chunk of his supporters).

But rather than spend a dozen or so paragraphs carrying on about this latest indignity to the office, and detailing the type of meltdown Republicans assuredly would’ve had if Obama had turned the White House into a Democratic Party convention hall, I wanted to write about something that bothered me about the event even more.

CBS News’s Mark Knoller tweeted about my concern earlier in the day:

The result of the setup was a mass gathering of attendees (more than 1,500 people) crammed together in one area. There also wasn’t a mask requirement, and very few people elected to wear one.

Now, as we all know (or at least should know), outdoor events are less dangerous than indoor events of the same nature. I’ve written about this topic numerous times; it has to do with airflow. And for that reason, it’s fair to argue that Thursday’s episode didn’t quite reach the level of inanity as Trump’s Tulsa rally back in June. Still, it was bad enough, with the strong potential of that many people (in such close proximity to each other) creating a super-spreading event for the coronavirus.

There are several things that have angered me about the response of our political leaders to the global pandemic that continues to kill our citizens, devastate people’s lives, and cripple our economy. At the top of that list has been the societal disregard for the most basic (and thus far, most effective) of mitigation practices.

It’s one thing for a mask-less Grease Monkey employee to suddenly open your car door while you’re parked in line for an oil change, stick their head into the cab of your vehicle just a few inches from your face, and loudly ask what type of oil you prefer… (I’m using this obscure example because it unfortunately happened to me this morning; ugh).

It’s another for the President of the United States, who swore to defend our nation, and whose leadership the country needs during a national health crisis, to repeatedly (and very publicly) defy not only the CDC’s crisis guidelines, but also his own administration’s. It is the height of public irresponsibility, and it stokes needless confusion and carelessness (not to mention conspiratorial sentiment) in many of those watching.

Simply put, there is no legitimate excuse, six months and 185,000 American deaths into this crisis, for the president to be failing Pandemic Management 101 so badly. There is, however, a really terrible excuse for it — one that I’ve been hearing over and over again by those who feel obligated to defend the president on this matter. In fact, Lara Trump presented it earlier this week on Fox News Sunday

When Chris Wallace asked and pressed about the lack of social distancing and mask wearing at Thursday’s convention speech, here’s what the president’s daughter-in-law brought the argument down to:

“… I’ll remind everybody that the folks that were spitting in the faces of our people leaving the convention that night were not social distancing. It was an absolutely disgusting display. The next day, there were thousands of people on the National Mall packed together as well. So look, we either say that everybody has to play by the rules, or we have to stop talking about it. Because whenever you’re talking about the president’s campaign, and how people weren’t specifically social distant, but the next day, thousands of people were on the National Mall, and that’s not a problem for anybody… It seems a little hypocritical.”

It’s the same sentiment that’s been shared by many on the political right, in regard to the mob violence we’ve seen in major U.S. cities this summer:

The logic may sound good to a particular type of partisan, but it’s really a garbage argument.

Let me rephrase that… It’s a garbage defense.

As a separate argument, it’s completely fair and appropriate to point out that many liberals in politics, the media, and even the medical profession have indeed been hypocrites on the issue of social distancing and mask wearing… specifically in regard to protesters whose views they happen to agree with. If the cause is righteous enough, in their view, they tend not to voice any concerns about scores of individuals congregating together in the streets. Some have even outright encouraged it, as we saw in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

These same folks weren’t nearly as kind, however, to the business owners and others who protested lockdowns and stay-home orders just weeks earlier, portraying such individuals as immoral and even “murderous.” And of course, they’ve done the same type of thing with Trump.

So, if the argument is purely about hypocrisy, the case for people on the right is actually pretty strong. But whataboutism is never a legitimate defense of anything, and its deployment as a rationalization of Trump’s recklessness during a global pandemic is particularly idiotic.

The fact of the matter is that COVID-19 doesn’t care about partisan hypocrisy, or partisanship of any kind. It doesn’t discriminate on who it infects based on the societal merits of whatever scenario led to that infection. From an epidemiological and public safety standpoint, a large gathering of church members helping to feed the poor is no different than a large gathering of drunken attendees at a Smash Mouth concert.

When Lara Trump says, “we either say that everybody has to play by the rules, or we have to stop talking about it,” she’s describing an abdication of leadership and public responsibility across the board, but most strikingly from the Oval Office. She and others who share her view are conceding that the president’s behavior isn’t qualified by what’s in the country’s best interests, but rather by partisan hypocrisy.

It’s basically the child’s argument of “They’re doing it, so why can’t I?” And the obvious answer to that question is: Because he’s the President of the United States during a global pandemic.

Trump should be practicing the sermons of his own administration’s guidelines. He should stop encouraging needlessly reckless behavior from those who believe in him. He should put the well-being of Americans before his personal ego and desire to make headlines.

Those would be the responsible and normal things to do. But Trump’s brand is largely built on shattering norms (even when it comes to simple stuff like preserving the sanctity of the White House during campaign season); it’s one of the things his base loves about him. Thus, there’s no reason to believe he’ll ever change.

This leaves Trump’s loyal defenders relegated to rely entirely on whataboutism at times like this. Unfortunately, whataboutism can’t cure the coronavirus. And that’s a shame, because we have such an ample supply.

Order John A. Daly’s novel “Safeguard” today!

Why Our Leaders in Washington Should Tour D.C.

Last week, my family went on vacation to Washington D.C. My wife and I had never been there, and after our children expressed some interest in American history at Mount Rushmore last year, we thought it would be a good summer destination. For the most part, it was. The monuments and memorials were extremely impressive. The wide range of museums offered up a plethora of fascinating, historical relics. The people we met, whether it be federal employees or fellow tourists, seemed generally friendly.

Throughout the trip though, the cynic in me was continually keeping an eye peeled for evidence. What kind of evidence? Well, I’ve always wondered what it is about Washington D.C. that changes the people who we elect to go there. I wanted to know what it was about the town that makes so many of our elected leaders forget that they work for us. I hoped to learn what it is, exactly, that leads them to believe that they’re there to build personal power and to extend their careers and prestige while routinely dodging and demagoguing the most dire problems our nation faces.

I started with the water. While it’s stunningly difficult to locate a water-fountain in Washington D.C., I eventually found one. While the taste of D.C. tap-water certainly didn’t stack up with what I’m used to here in Colorado, I found nothing peculiar with it and my family didn’t report any odd behavior from me afterwards. Well, nothing out of the usual anyway. So, it must not be the water that’s transforming our leadership.

Next, I checked out the buildings where these people work. We took tours of both the White House and The U.S. Capitol. While my family and I walked through these historic buildings, I watched the doorways for servants clad in togas blowing through trumpets, throwing rose petals into the air, and rolling out red carpets as politicians entered and exited rooms. I saw none of that. On the contrary, actually… I was surprised by the close proximity of these politicians’ offices to where the public is allowed to roam. I stood just outside the doors of the top big wigs in the U.S. Congress and just downstairs from the Oval Office. It seems to me that it would have to take some real effort by our leaders to scrape the futures of everyday Americans out of their minds when they’re routinely surrounded by our faces.

Could it be the humidity in the air? After leaving our hotel’s pool each evening, my family would drape our swimsuits across a shower-curtain rod overnight and find that 24 hours later, they still weren’t even close to being dry. Could D.C’s climate somehow be dampening the thought-processes of our leaders? Well, I kind of doubt it. If that were the case, half the country would be suffering from the same, mind-altering disorder.

I finally concluded that the ailment must stem from something unseen by the public – something not exuding from the town itself, but rather from an environment out of sight of most Americans. It lives and thrives somewhere behind the thick walls of those stately buildings where We the People are limited access. It’s a place where our leaders can unashamedly saddle future generations of Americans with a growing national debt of $16 trillion, endlessly intrude on our personal freedoms, and restrain entrepreneurs from creating wealth and jobs… all for purely political purposes. It’s an ugly place.

Washington D.C. itself, however, is not ugly. In fact, I found it incredibly interesting that our nation’s history, as taught by tour-guides and short-films within the historic halls of our federal institutions, paints a proud picture of just how our country became great. Clear insight is given into how our federal government is supposed to work, and what its proper role is, as designed by our founding fathers. Individual freedom is extensively hailed, as is our declared independence from an oppressive government. Our past leaders are honored for their humility and selflessness, and the American spirit and work-ethic are praised.

What is taught to Washington D.C. visitors today, as part of a federally-sanctioned curriculum, are the very same fundamentals that our current government and media regularly mock when those fundamentals are promoted by the Tea Party or libertarian-leaning politicians. There’s no mention of hand-outs and entitlements in the presentation – only the pursuit of happiness. There’s no demonizing of the wealthy, which most of our founding fathers were. Their success is presented in a favorable light.

Most importantly, the positions held by our public servants are accurately defined, and the limits of their power are applauded for the wisdom in which they were tailored.

How ironic it was that at the very same time I was watching a film in the U.S. Capitol that specifically spelled out the importance of our legislative branch and its distinction of powers from the executive branch, President Obama was announcing just a few blocks away that he was bypassing congress to change how our immigration laws are enforced.

An hour later, our Capitol tour-guide was explaining the significance of a historical portrait that documented George Washington resigning his commander-in-chief powers. In doing so, Washington denied himself a king’s chair in order to establish civilian-authority within our democracy. And as our guide spoke, pundits in the mainstream media were trumpeting our current president’s politically smart overstepping of his bounds.

It’s astonishing that our leaders in Washington so often seem completely oblivious to the history and framework that are so pridefully taught in the lobbies of the very buildings from where they serve. During campaign season, we often hear the term “disconnected” thrown around. It’s done so as a way to paint a political opponent as being out of touch with their constituents. It’s basically just an election-time tool. But it can be real too, as evidenced in its purest form inside the tall, white buildings that reside at the center of Washington D.C.

I believe that our leaders in Washington would do themselves, and those who they represent, an enormous favor by stepping out of their offices and going on a tour of D.C. If they listen to their guides and the informational films, they might actually learn something – even if its something they should have learned long before they ever ran for office.

Robert Gibbs Cursed at Michelle Obama?

The Republican Mole

[Burt has been unusually productive lately. Please enjoy this bonus article, and be sure to read the other article posted today, Catching Up on the News.]

In the Tea Party, there are wackos. No doubt about it. But they are the exception to the rule. On the other hand, in the case of the Democratic Party, they are the Democratic Party.

Black and Latino politicians like to focus on the large financial gap between their constituencies and white Americans. What they choose to ignore is the humongous gap in education. Although I regard the first four years of liberal arts instruction as an unholy waste of time and money, the way the system is set up, one has to slog through them before going on to become a physician, mathematician, architect, surgeon, lawyer, engineer or CPA. But when most members of the two largest minority groups in America don’t even make it through high school, how on earth can they possibly wind up wealthy unless they are adept at hitting, shooting, running or passing, some type of ball?

It’s not bigotry, as the race hustlers and assorted liberals would have it; it’s reality.

Instead of comparing themselves to rich white people, they should compare themselves to the only minority group that editorial writers and various leftwing sob sisters elect to ignore; namely, Asians. In spite of coming to this country generally speaking a foreign language, they and their children apply themselves and, more often than not, wind up out-earning white Americans by out-learning them.

Roughly 50 years ago, Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty. Several trillions of dollars and countless state and federal feel-good programs later, the poverty level is basically unchanged.

The situation in Africa, in spite of the well-publicized efforts of Matt Damon, George Clooney, Bono and the U.N., is even worse. Considering the cast of characters, a cynic might even say, predictably worse. According to a recent study, in the 1970s, 10% of Africans lived in poverty. Today, the number stands at 70%. God knows Angelina Jolie has done all she can, but she’s only one person and she can’t adopt an entire continent.

The fact is, the War on Poverty, whether in Kenya or Detroit, and just about every other war that the U.S. has waged since 1945 has been an unmitigated disaster.

Am I the only one who finds it odd that although liberals were constantly attacking George W. Bush because he didn’t announce an exit strategy for Iraq, nobody ever demands an exit strategy when it comes to the unending wars on drugs and poverty?

On the other hand, there are a couple of wars that deserve to be waged. Both involve federal expenditures. Although they pale in comparison to the millions of dollars squandered on LightSquared, Solyndra and all those various “green energy” scams pulled off by Al Gore and Obama’s major donors, they are morally reprehensible. For instance, when Eric Holder’s Justice Department holds a conference, money is no object, so long as it’s yours and not theirs. Cookies typically go for $10 each, a cup of coffee runs $8, lunch costs $65 and if anyone feels like a snack, it’s another $32.

I haven’t seen over-runs like these since the last time the Pentagon submitted a budget. It makes you wonder if Michelle Obama is running a catering service out of the White House.

The other financial scandal involves pensions that are paid to 15 former members of Congress who were convicted of felonies including tax evasion, drug possession and racketeering. The list includes 11 Democrats and four Republicans. One of the bums collects $96,575-a-year. All told, these 15 ne’er-do-wells pull down nearly a million dollars annually.

Wouldn’t you think the pension rules would have been changed somewhere along the way, if only to provide Eric Holder with the wherewithal to order more cookies?

Finally, I have decided to make my play for the Pulitzer Prize, which has so far managed to elude me, by breaking the biggest news story of the year. It’s time to reveal the fact that Barack Obama is a Republican plant. In 2008, the RNC realized that after eight years of George Bush, if John McCain was somehow elected, the party was doomed to go the way of the Whigs.

By throwing the election and helping to elect a former community agitator with close ties to unrepentant terrorists, Communists and a racist church, the Republican Party wagered that once he showed his true colors, the voters would come to their collective senses.

But even in their wildest dreams, the GOP never imagined that within two short years, they would pick up Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat and elect a slew of governors and senators in Ohio, Virginia, New Jersey and Florida. When Bob Turner, a Catholic conservative, won the recent election in New York’s predominantly Jewish 9th district, millions of champagne glasses were hoisted all over America toasting their favorite mole, Barack Obama.

It’s ironic that in 2008, unsuspecting Democrats kept insisting that Obama was the Messiah. As things turned out, they were right. Who else, after all, could have raised the Republican Party from the dead?

©2011 Burt Prelutsky. Comments? Write Burt!
Get your personally autographed copy of Liberals: America’s Termites or Portraits of Success for just $19.95, shipping included.   Get both for just $39.90. Liberals: America’s Termites Profiles of Success (60 candid conversations with 60 Over-Achievers)