As of Friday, if you have watched television the last couple of days you have seen politicians of both parties comment on the coronavirus. From the mongering of leftist Democrat Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State to the sober and common sense address of the president, politicians have used this health issue to burnish their executive credentials.
They have remembered, and are acting upon, the counsel of former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel who said in 2008, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”
Cynical? Yes. Correct? Also yes.
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Americans like leaders who look good under fire, even if their image belies the result of the crisis. Case in point: President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Contrary to popular myth, Kennedy did not win that 1962 engagement with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev over intermediate-range missiles in Cuba. Those missiles could have hit many major U.S. cities. Kennedy did get the Soviets to stop their shipments of missiles to Cuba and the press lauded him over it. The public, taking their cue from a media not yet viewed as biased, followed suit.
What the image of Kennedy as a steely Cold War hero did not portray was the fact that Kennedy gave away a lot for his public relations victory. He ignored the soon to be built, which he knew of, Soviet sub base in Cuba that housed Soviet subs armed with nuclear missiles. He pledged not to invade the imprisoned island, which abrogated U.S. duty under the Rio Pact and the Monroe Doctrine. We also removed missiles from Turkey that could have been used as a bargaining chip in later negotiations.
The strategic victory, but the public loss, convinced the Soviet Politburo to let the head of the Soviet Navy, Admiral of the Fleet Sergey Gorshkov, build up his force to a blue water navy that could challenge the U.S. almost anywhere, lest they receive another black eye in prestige.
Consider this as you watch politicians posturing on coronavirus and look to the actual results of their actions, not just on how it plays in front of the cameras.