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The Atlantic: The Lazy Authoritarian

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The Atlantic is now dunking on Donald Trump for being a fake authoritarian.

The Atlantic:

“The coronavirus pandemic has been good for dictators around the world. After its initial fumbling of the virus’s emergence and apparent lies about the scope of the problem, the Chinese Communist Party has ruthlessly clamped down on society and brought the virus under control, earning enhanced international prestige for doing so. In Eastern Europe, Victor Orbán of Hungary has used the crisis formally to seize power and rule by decree.

Before the pandemic occurred, worrying that President Trump might take advantage of a crisis like this one to chip away at democratic constraints on his power would have been within reason. Yet Trump has taken a different approach: complaining. …

But wielding actual authority is hard work for a lazy man. And while crisis response can sometimes have an element of glamor—think of Andrew Cuomo’s success in winning over critics with his combination of decisive pandemic response and bomber jackets—the federal government’s role in addressing a plague spread out across 50 states is largely managerial, the life-or-death equivalent of fixing potholes. It involves tasks like keeping track of supply chains and distributing ventilators and protective equipment.

This is not the kind of work that Trump enjoys. At a March press conference on the coronavirus, he complained, “Governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work … The federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know, we’re not a shipping clerk.” …”

If I was your president, I would have nipped this problem in the bud right out in the gate in January by shutting down international air travel until tests were available to screen for the virus. There never would have been any need for the lockdowns. 26,000 people would be alive today.

Why is anyone surprised by how he has handled the coronavirus pandemic? In four years as president, he deported fewer illegal aliens than his predecessor, failed to build the wall, failed to bring back the medical supply chain from China, failed to pass his infrastructure bill, etc. The only things he succeeded at doing was whatever Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell put in front of him like the tax cuts. His first instinct is always to put Jared Kushner in charge of everything whether it is foreign policy, immigration, criminal justice reform or now the coronavirus. He has no interest in the details of governance.

Donald Trump enjoys the prestige of being president. He likes having people stroke his ego. He has no interest whatsoever though in pushing a transformative ideological agenda. He is far more of a stock market cheerleader. He tweets while other people run the government.


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