Cuomo’s grit, Trump’s self-pity: When words re­ally mat­ter

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - OPINION - Kath­leen Parker Kath­leen Parker

WASH­ING­TON » Not since 9/11 has the im­por­tance of elo­quence been so ap­par­ent.

How do the words and poses cho­sen by our lead­ers in­form morale as we hun­ker down in our homes?

On one screen Mon­day, Pres­i­dent Trump spoke at length about him­self (and at times about COVID-19). More than once, he wan­dered off script, at one point talk­ing about how many bil­lions of dol­lars he could have made had he not be­come pres­i­dent. But, he added, he was glad he had be­cause he’s now a wartime pres­i­dent and, pre­sum­ably, one was to in­fer, the coun­try needs him.

How are peo­ple sup­posed to feel when they hear this? To each his own, but I fear that a self­ish child is in con­trol of our fates.

On an­other screen, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo up­dated New York­ers and the na­tion on the virus in his state. Un­like Trump’s self-in­dul­gent so­lil­o­quies, Cuomo’s state­ments were straight­for­ward, hon­est, fac­tual and, de­spite the dire sta­tis­tics, re­fresh­ingly re­as­sur­ing.

As of Tues­day, Cuomo re­ported that New York had more than 25,000 cases of COVID-19. He came down hard on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for stock­pil­ing 20,000 ven­ti­la­tors des­per­ately needed in New York. He sug­gested that the feds de­ploy the ven­ti­la­tors ac­cord­ing to need, then ro­tate them out to the next state as its apex is reached, and so on.

Trump has done some good things, such as clos­ing down traf­fic from China and speed­ing up the use of ex­per­i­men­tal drugs, but there’s more he could and should do. Only on Tues­day did re­ports emerge that the ad­min­is­tra­tion would for­mally im­ple­ment the De­fense Pro­duc­tion Act to se­cure pro­duc­tion of masks and test kits. This is such an easy call, but Trump dilly-dal­lied. He equiv­o­cated. He scared peo­ple.

Mon­day, he and Cuomo ex­pressed nearly the same idea but in such dif­fer­ent ways. Guess which one was ter­ri­fy­ing and which sounded plau­si­ble and re­al­is­tic?

Trump sig­naled that he was think­ing of “open­ing up” the coun­try to avoid al­low­ing the cure to be worse than the prob­lem. His so­lu­tion, would be to end lock­downs even as the virus is spread­ing.

Cuomo framed nearly the same idea in a vastly dif­fer­ent way. Ex­plain­ing that we had hit pause to grap­ple with the sud­den cri­sis, he said it was now time to be­gin think­ing about how to reen­ter the pri­vate sec­tor. He sug­gested that young, healthy peo­ple might be able to go back to work, as could those who have had the virus and are now im­mune.

One man drops a word bomb; the other ex­plains his thoughts in log­i­cal fash­ion so that peo­ple can fol­low his rea­son­ing and ar­rive at the same con­clu­sion.

We like to say that some peo­ple are just “born lead­ers,” but we all know, in­stinc­tively, that the best lead­ers are not so much born as made, made in un­ex­pected mo­ments they didn’t choose and could not have fore­seen. Ge­orge W. Bush’s most-elo­quent mo­ment con­sisted of 11 words. “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you!” he shouted through a bull­horn to first-re­spon­ders as they dug through the de­bris of the World Trade Cen­ter. In those few words, Bush con­nected the world to Amer­ica and made Amer­ica’s loss the loss of a wider world.

Cuomo’s mo­ment has ar­rived. As he wrapped up Tues­day morn­ing, his throat seemed to tighten as he ex­pressed his love for New York and said: “At the end of the day, my friends, even if it is a long day ... love wins, al­ways, and it will win again through this virus.”

Give that man a bull­horn.

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