By Peter Durantine
In May 1940, eight months after the outbreak of World War II, British MP Leo Amery rose during a debate in Parliament as Germany’s armed forces invaded Western Europe. It was a national emergency that required decisive leadership from Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.
For years, Chamberlain believed, despite advisers and critics who counseled otherwise, that his diplomatic dealings with Adolf Hitler would quench the dictator’s thirst for domination. Thus, the prime minister refused to prepare the mighty empire for war. Instead, he brought it to the brink of disaster as Hitler prepared to storm the gates of Britannia.
Amery, a member of the Conservative Party that Chamberlain led, made a speech that echoed 17th century English statesmen Oliver Cromwell’s words to parliament; words that, at this hour in Republican Donald Trump’s presidency, the Republican Party should address to him.
Comfortable in the cloak of authoritarianism and eager to dismantle the democratic system that elected him, Trump foreshadowed his inability to effectively lead long before he wasted weeks childishly arguing over the number of spectators at his inaugural.
Now, with the coronavirus, which he cannot order about as he does “his” judges, generals, legislators and Cabinet members, Trump is exposed for what he actually is—irrelevant, a man who holds the office of president but is unable to perform presidential; who blames others for the responsibility of his actions, now evident ever among many of his faithful followers.
Tens of thousands of Americans are now sick or dead because of Trump’s failures; first to understand the problem, second to acknowledge the problem, and third to address and resolve the problem. Instead, he dismissed the pandemic as a “hoax” until he worried about how the fast-spreading virus would affect his polling numbers.
Failure after failure, mistake after mistake, all compounded by an insatiable ego that refuses to admit error and resorts to pathological lying because of a deep insecurity rooted in paternal authoritarianism; a father who may never have acknowledged his son’s worth.
Neither sympathetic nor empathetic, Trump’s compass points to “what’s in it for me?” He is a con-man, nothing more.
His presidency—from dismantling a government structure built to save lives, to directing foreign dignitaries to stay at his hotels, to getting the Chinese government to award his daughter, Ivanka, lucrative trademarks, to putting her husband, Jared Kushner, in charge of diplomatic missions of which he has no experience—has been part of the big con.
The Republican Party, in particular U.S. GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell, has become as irrelevant as the man who leads them. Conservatives have shed the ideals of national unity, fairness, civility, and a tax structure that serves everyone; hallmarks of their forefathers—Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush.
A true national leader is not effective without compassion. Trump’s refusal to nationalize the effort to stop the spread of the virus by having everyone tested because he doesn’t want the public to realize the extent of this national emergency is abominable; his initial refusal to provide necessary support for his home state, and the city of his birth, where he made and lost fortunes, is beyond cruel.
New York leads the nation in coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths, but Trump’s refusal and delays in deploying desperately needed medical equipment and personnel have cost lives. Now the city digs mass graves on an island in Long Island Sound.
Back in England in May 1940, Amery was thoroughly disgusted with the failure that made Chamberlain irrelevant to the task of leading England through the perilous years the nation faced in war. He stood in the chamber and spoke directly to the prime minister:
“You have sat here too long for any good you are doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”
Peter Durantine is a writer and freelance journalist in Central Pennsylvania