At least on the surface, this just looks like one more person concerned about the fate of the nation as we face a pandemic. Columnist A.B. Stoddard has published a column at The Bulwark that takes the form of an “open letter” to both Barack Obama and George W. Bush. She’s calling on the two former presidents to stand together and raise their voices to “outline a national plan of action” and force Donald Trump to adopt it. And why is proactive action from Bush and Obama required? Because the Bad Orange Man is Bad, you see. And we’re all going to die because of it.
Dear President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama,
The moment you have sought to avoid for nearly four years is here. We are witnessing one of the worst crises to ever confront the United States and one of the worst government failures in the history of the country you served and love…
But both of you knew what the job of the president is in times of crisis and how to manage the basic blocking and tackling of government responses.
President Donald Trump has now proven what many of us long suspected: He has not done any of this, because he cannot do it. He lacks the most basic capabilities required of a president in this moment.
America doesn’t just deserve better. We need better.
Click through and read the letter if you wish. But the first thing to remember is that the Bulwark only exists as a bastion for NeverTrumpers. It was formed by Charlie Sykes and Bill Kristol as a refuge when the vast majority of Republicans and conservatives across the country refused to follow their lead and try to elect a Democrat instead of Donald Trump. And reading the various insults and accusations littering this column, it quickly becomes obvious that Stoddard fits right in at the Bulwark like a hand in a glove.
If you do read the entire letter, you’ll notice a couple of things that are missing. First of all, the author repeatedly finds ways to accuse President Trump of having “failed” to properly lead the nation and deal with the coronavirus pandemic. But she never gets around to very many specifics in what Trump either failed to do or did incorrectly. She accuses him of minimizing the threat the virus posed for weeks. That’s certainly true, but his own experts from the CDC and medical authorities in other countries were doing the same thing.
Stoddard further declares that the President “ignored months—years—worth of warnings and calls to action to move faster on testing capacity and to stockpile essential medical supplies.” Pardon me, but weren’t those the same warnings that had been sounded all through the Obama/Biden administration? Hindsight is 20-20, but let’s not pretend that this was something that suddenly cropped up in January of 2017.
In terms of not taking enough action, you will recall that once the scope of the threat was becoming apparent, Trump moved quickly to institute the first travel bans. And he took a lot of heat over that, including criticism coming from at least one of the Bulwark’s founders, among others. Looking back, that turned out to be a rather prescient decision. Since then he’s been yammering at the automotive industry to build ventilators and encouraging other companies to start making masks. Do you expect him to start sewing them all himself?
And finally, even if Barack Obama and George W. Bush suddenly decide to start taking their marching orders from this columnist, what exactly is that supposed to accomplish? Do you really think that Donald Trump is suddenly going to hear them talking, slap his forehead and ask how he could have been so stupid for the past three months? Have you even seen the President? That’s not really his style.
If anyone else, including Ms. Stoddard, has a concrete plan of action as to what the government should currently be doing differently to minimize the damage from the pandemic, document it thoroughly and put it out there so we can debate it. I’m pretty sure that everyone in the country – including the President – is searching for the best answers possible to what may be a completely intractable challenge. It would be more productive to be part of the solution than simply sitting back and throwing darts at a president you don’t care for.