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America’s great leadership vacuum

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, and National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci listen as President Trump speaks at a news conference on March 20.
Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, and National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci listen as President Trump speaks at a news conference on March 20.Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

In thick of crisis, could Trump be driven by his own election fears?

Re “Amid warnings, Trump takes rosy view” (Page A1, March 25): Is President Trump forecasting his own fears by denying scientific knowledge of how best to survive this pandemic — through a rapid shutdown of the country — and instead predicting a more “beautiful” way would be for the country to open up and just be “raring to go by Easter”? In a virtual town hall on Fox News, Trump then proceeds to forecast that, should we not heed his warnings about “harming” our “flourishing economy,” we “are going to have suicides by the thousands. . . . You can’t just come in and say let’s close up the United States of America, the biggest, the most successful country in the world by far.”


Are we left to wonder whether Trump’s ever-ready slogan, Make America Great Again, is slipping away from him, and whether his fears of being dethroned by the pandemic, which is truly out of his control, feed his own panic?

We each must face our life-and-death situations, some easier than others. Yet it is together that we must unite to protect and provide for the whole.

Judith Kneen


We need a true wartime president — we don’t have one

President Trump wants to lift restrictions and containment without first considering whether we have enough hospital beds, masks, breathing equipment, and other resources to get us through the pandemic. How can we fight a war on the spread of the coronavirus if we’re not prepared?

He refused to accept testing kits from the World Health Organization, and he doesn’t seem to want to learn from other countries who are already engaged in the fight. How can we fight a war without intelligence and reconnaissance?

He might be commander in chief, but he wants to cede responsibility for fighting this outbreak to the states and private industry. How can we fight a war when the leader doesn’t want to lead, when he doesn’t want to take responsibility for preparedness, strategy, or logistics?


Where are the generals when we most need them?

Nancy Kellogg


President’s hunch is not the end of the world

In Michael A. Cohen’s imagination, President Trump will happily sacrifice tens of thousands of Americans in order to revive the economy and win a second term (“To those who are concerned about coronavirus, Trump doesn’t care,” Opinion, March 24). Question: In what universe does a politician ride a wave of mass death to reelection? Certainly not the one we live in. Does Cohen believe this point would escape a man who ran circles around the political and media establishments in 2016?

With apologies to Joe Biden, the fact of the matter is that Trump thinks the experts are overestimating the impact of this epidemic. He’s probably wrong, but the rest of us needn’t react as if he has his finger on the nuclear trigger. We’ll know the truth by mid-April, and so will the president.

If his idea of acceptable casualties differs from most, we have another backstop: the governors and mayors who will actually decide when to send Americans back to work and play.

Michael Smith

Georgetown, KY

The quid pro quo again

It is happening again, only this time we do not need to “read the transcript.” President Trump, before an audience of millions on Fox News, dangled an apparent quid pro quo for dispensing life-saving medical equipment in the fight against the coronavirus. He seems to expect fealty, in exchange, from governors seeking federal assistance. Trump said, “It’s a two-way street. They have to treat us well also.”


This insidious suggestion validates the fears of millions of Americans that the president would be incapable of rising to the occasion in a time of crisis. The leadership vacuum is so palpable, it has forced America to look elsewhere to fill the void. Governors around the country, with Andrew Cuomo of New York perhaps the shining example, have stepped up to assume the mantle of accountability, which Trump by his own account refuses to accept.

Jim Paladino


Press briefings, with a side of chauvinism

Compared with our life-and-death concerns right now, this may seem like a relatively inconsequential matter. That said, it has annoyed me greatly that in press briefings the president refers to Dr. Anthony Fauci as “Dr. Fauci” and to Dr. Deborah Birx as “Deborah.” Given that they are both lifelines to recovering from this crisis, they both should be treated with equal and utmost respect.

Susan R. Grosdov