Our “Wartime President”

Imagine that you were the Chief Rabbi of a small country under imminent threat of invasion by Germany during World War II. You have just gotten urgent information from several very reliable sources about what the Nazis were doing to the Jewish citizens of the countries they had taken over.

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All the Jews were being rounded up, packed into freight trains, and sent to concentration camps. There, those not sent directly to the gas chambers were worked to death.

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So, as Chief Rabbi, what would you do with this information? Would you keep it to yourself, afraid that if you warned your fellow Jews that they were in grave danger, it might cause a panic?

You probably would have caused a panic. Many Jews would not believe you, while others would be angry at you for delivering such unsettling news.

Some would ask why they should uproot their lives and leave everything behind, when there was no certainty that the Germans would invade their country.

But you would have also persuaded many Jews to flee for their lives. Your warning would not save everybody, but it would have saved some.

A Wartime President

For better or for worse, our president is the person Americans look to for leadership in times of crisis. Indeed, once it was clear that the coronavirus was a full-fledged pandemic, and that thousands of Americans would be dying, Donald Trump proclaimed himself a “wartime president.”

But after listening to some of the recorded interviews that Trump did with the legendary reporter Bob Woodward, we knowhe was well aware of the deadly potential of the coronavirus as early as January.

Why didn’t he immediately issue a warning to the nation and lead a national mobilization to fight this imminent threat? In his own words back in February, he told Woodward, “I didn’t want to create a panic.”

And so, as the first cases of the virus were reported in the United States, Mr. Trump cheerfully predicted that “One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” Even if he had truly believed his own words – which he obviously did not – didn’t this "wartime president" have a responsibility to level with the American people?

Trump recently compared himself with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who led his nation through the dark days at the beginning of World War II, when a German invasion seemed imminent.

But Churchill never promised that those troubles would soon disappear. All he promised was “blood, sweat and tears.”

Just as Churchill was the right person to lead Britain through the dark days of World War II, Trump was the wrong person to lead our nation through the ongoing pandemic.