Viewpoint: Look at the facts, then draw conclusions
October 9, 2020
In the Sept. 18, 2020, edition of the Heritage Florida Jewish News, there was a viewpoint article by Rabbi Sanford Olshansky title “President Trump: Pandemic Warrior.” While I understand that Rabbi Olshansky as a member of the National Leadership Circle of the Republican Jewish Coalition feels that he needs to defend the president’s actions, I respectfully disagree with most of the statements in his article. In this short letter I will only focus on his comments with respect to COVID-19, and in the interest of brevity on only a few. His arguments are an example of what is referred as motivated reasoning, which essentially means cherry picking facts that conform to ones preconceived notions and ignoring facts that are in conflict with ones preconceived notions.
As a PhD scientist I have been trained to first look at the facts and then draw the logical conclusions to which they lead. President Trump has given himself an A+ grade for his performance with respect to COVID-19. According to the surveys that I have seen, the majority of the general American public has given him a grade of F. I do not have to remind Rabbi Olshansky that one of the basic tenets of Judaism is Pikuach Nefesh, the saving of life. Our president has failed us in his leadership response to the virus. Rabbi Olshansky complains about the CDC that Trump inherited. Regardless of the fact that it is arguable whether this statement is in fact the truth, President Trump had more than three years to address any weaknesses at the CDC, which he failed to do. If anything, his policies have weakened it significantly. President Trump rejects most of the medical and scientific recommendations that were given to him about the most appropriate response to the virus. It is true that in the early days of COVID-19 we were learning how best to respond, for example, both due to the lack of adequate numbers of masks to provide for medical responders, as well as an incomplete understanding of how the virus is transmitted. The recommendations with respect to masks were fluid for some weeks. However, it became clear early on that some things we as individuals could do to control the virus was: wear masks, keep a physical distance of at least six feet, stay away from crowds, and wash our hands properly and frequently. Instead of encouraging people to wear masks, the president made fun of former Vice President Biden for wearing a mask. He encouraged people to attend his rallies, where most did not wear masks or keep proper distance. He has disregarded the recommendations of the CDC and FDA, and even in some cases has overruled them, or had his handpicked heads of these organizations modify their recommendations severely damaging the respect people had for these organizations. The FDA has made it clear that even with the most expedited rigorous testing protocol for vaccines, there is no way that there could be any approval prior to the election. Our President has implied that he would ignore these recommendations and issue executive orders approving a vaccine prior to Election Day, irrespective of the medical and scientific recommendations. Our current president is the most anti-science president in memory, whether it is in respect to COVID-19 or climate change. Unfortunately we have already paid a high price with one of the highest death rates of COVID-19 in the world due to our president’s response to the virus, so no, the president is not a “Pandemic Warrior,” but rather a “Pandemic Failure.”
Please note that these comments represent my point of view and are not necessarily those of organizations that I am associated with.