Both Republican and Democratic state governors have seen their approval ratings increase significantly since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, in contrast to the president, who has had a small bump up. Why are the governors’ responses to the virus so popular and why is Trump’s so low? As Moshe Hill noted in last week’s QJL, Trump has had “his ups and downs” and Cuomo has made mistakes. It is easy to blame the media; namely, they have had favorable coverage toward the governors and negative toward Trump. However, I believe that there are other factors causing this dichotomy. A person should ask themselves how they would have approached the government’s response to the virus. Would they have taken Trump’s approach or the popular governors’ approach in their tone and messaging?
Everyone makes mistakes. People are willing to accept mistakes if you act in a certain fashion. President George W. Bush is a good example. The Commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks was critical of actions or non-actions of the Bush administration in anticipation of the attacks and the response after the first plane was hijacked. Yet Bush won reelection and is now remembered more for his post-9/11 response. Bush went to Ground Zero three days after the attack and gave a message of conciliation and empathy. In the 2000 election, Bush lost New York State by 25% percent. In New York City it was even worse: He lost by more than 60%. Nevertheless, when New York was attacked, he came to show his support.
Bush showed that it is important to put partisan politics away in a time of a crisis. It does not matter that the state hurting is a blue state. We are all Americans. As many governors have mentioned, the virus is nonpolitical; it attacks both Democrats and Republicans.
Bush also showed empathy. Bill Clinton’s famous line was “I feel your pain.” When you heard George Bush speak, you felt that he genuinely felt the loss of a loved one and the country’s shock of being attacked.
Life is full of choices. Many times, the choices are between two bad choices. For example, here the choice is: engage in conduct that will save lives but in the short term have drastic economic impact on many people, or engage in conduct which would limit the economic impact but increase the death count.
It is helpful if you are upfront with people to explain the choices and why you are picking one over the other. However, in having this discussion, it is important to be honest and straight with them. People do not want sugar-coated messages.
Admit what you know and what you don’t know. COVID-19 is a new virus. The more we know the better we will be able to deal with it. Some assumptions made early have been modified. There is nothing wrong in saying right now we do not have an absolute answer, but this is our projection based on information before us or admitting that things that were said before were wrong, but were based on the information at that time.
Do not attack the motives of experts who present information that contradicts your position.
Admit that there are those more qualified than you to address certain issues. This is crucial when it comes to areas where most people are not experts. Gut feelings are not a substitute for science.
Do not overpromise. Everyone wants the virus to be checked so we can go back to normal. However, it does no one any good to make predictions, such as the virus will go away by itself, tout miracle drugs to prevent infection of the virus, or predict when there will be a vaccine.
Take responsibility and admit mistakes. Do not blame everyone else and say it is not my responsibility.
Keep people informed with accurate and unbiased information. Press conferences are to inform and not to engage in attacks or act as a campaign event.
Be willing to answer the tough questions from the media and not engage in personal attacks when asked a question you do not want to answer.
The president should make decisions based on what is best for the majority of the American people. The governors should make the decisions based on what is best for the residents of their state. The decisions should not depend on what is best for the person politically.
The governors have generally adhered to the above recommended standards conduct and Trump has not. That is why governors’ approval rating have gone up and Trump’s has not.
Lastly, the Trump quote of the week. Last week, someone wrote in and complained that I only include Trump in the quote of the week. Although one does not have to look to far in the Jewish papers to find writers reporting negative statements of Democrats including Biden, in the spirit of bipartisanship, I will include a Biden quote of the week.
Vice President Biden, in speaking on a show geared to a Black audience, made the following comment: “Well I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black.” After he was criticized for the comment because it sounded like he was taking the Black community for granted, he apologized.
That same day, the president, while visiting the Ford factory, quipped that Henry Ford had “good bloodlines.” It is well-known that Henry Ford was a notorious anti-Semite who published the Dearborn Independent, a paper full of anti-Semitic tropes including the series “The International Jew” and paid for publication of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Ford was awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagle on July 30, 1938. The Nazis were known for their ideas of racial purity, which they followed up upon by murdering six million Jews. There was less outcry than with Biden’s comments, which I find troubling. Unlike Biden, Trump did not apologize.