Many believe that Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s greatest single line came in his 1933 inaugural address when he declared that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Fear is a precursor to panic and FDR gave the country hope. President Trump has repeatedly said that he wants to maintain the same positive attitude but it was hardly a FDR moment yesterday when Trump told citizens “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”
Many of us have denounced the statement as absolutely reckless for a president to make in the middle of a pandemic. At the same time, Trump critics have denounced the President while engaging in utter hysteria over the President’s release. Yesterday, for example, Washington Post columnist and MSNBC commentator Jennifer Rubin appeared to become utterly unglued over the release and tweeted that his doctor should be stripped of his license and Walter Reed “defunded.”
Congress might want to defund Walter Reed. It is a public health hazard.— Jennifer 'Vote Early' Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) October 5, 2020
I cannot imagine a more irresponsible comment than telling people not to fear Covid. I can understand the push to reopen the economy despite the ongoing pandemic. I can understand the opposition to inconsistent state rules governing protests or gatherings. I also understand the need to remain optimistic. However, with over 200,000 dead Americans, there is every reason to be afraid of this incredibly contagious virus, as shown by the President’s own contraction of Covid-19.
On the other side, the same unhinged rhetoric was in full display. Ruben was a case in point. She excoriated the medical team at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and White House physician Dr. Sean Conley for releasing the President. Rubin declared “Any MD who publicly endorses this insanity needs to lose his/her license. Period.”
any MD who publicly endorses this insanity needs to lose his/her license. Period.— Jennifer 'Vote Early' Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) October 5, 2020
The “insanity” was a determination that the President could continue to recover at the White House where there is a full medical facility and staff. Not only did the team confirm that every criteria for release had been satisfied as much as a day earlier, but there are a myriad of reasons why such a release is warranted. First, the hospital staff needs to address acute patients and the huge staff assigned to the President was hardly justified if he was showing no signs of decline after meeting the benchmarks for release. Second, he is the President of the United States. If he can recover at the White House, it is important to have him closer to the situation room and other secure areas in case of emergency. Staff must be able to share classified material and engage the President on matters of state. While the Presidential Suite at Walter Reed is ample, it create logistical and security concerns for staff in interacting with a president.
Rubin however was not finished with her Twitter tirade. She added that “Congress might want to defund Walter Reed. It is a public health hazard.” She added that the President could not be trusted and that the public needed to be protected from him: “A 74 yr old [obese] man with covid – who might have lung damage – and a pattern of disregarding medical advice is returned to an environment in which he may infect others. What planet does Conley inhabit? Where is the rest of Walter Reed? The VP? They are remarkable cowards.”
A 74 yr old obsese man with covid - who might have lung damage - and a pattern of disregarding medical advice is returned to an environment in which he may infect others. What planet does Conley inhabit? Where is the rest of Walter Reed? The VP? They are remarkable cowards— Jennifer 'Vote Early' Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) October 5, 2020
Before we move from a “defund the police” to a “defund Walter Reed” movement, we may want a reality check. Whether recovering at Walter Reed or the White House, the President will be under close scrutiny and isolation. If he wanted to meet with staff, he could do so just as well at Walter Reed as he could the White House. He remains the President of the United States. Moreover, while Rubin has declared these physicians quacks, she may want to address their detailed justification in citing the criteria for release and the President’s meeting that criteria. The President is less than ten minutes away if he has a relapse or sudden decline.
For full disclosure, I have previously criticized Rubin who has shown a remarkable detachment from the underlying facts of stories in lashing out against targets. I criticized her misrepresentation of a major federal ruling (which the Washington Post has yet to correct) and I also clashed with her over her personally attacking me for a theory that I did not agree with in a column that I did not write. I also challenged her on an equally bizarre column where she completely misrepresented an exchange in the impeachment hearing.
What is most striking with critics like Rubin is how much they engage in the same conduct that they denounce in Trump. Rubin regularly engages in twitter tirades and has been regularly denounced for false statements and personal attacks. In this latest incident, she is suggesting that a team of distinguished doctors should be stripped of their license and calls them all “cowards.” The message is that either they are quacks or political stooges or both. This is because Rubin believes that they should somehow order the confinement of the President of the United States at a hospital despite meeting criteria for release.
Both Trump and Rubin show the benefits and costs of fear. Fear has a benefit when it prompts people to be cautious in the face of an imminent threat like Covid-19. That is why the President was wrong in issuing that statement. Fear also has a cost when it unleashes panic or hysteria. That is why Rubin and others are wrong to savage the medical staff and hospital. Call me old-fashioned but I like the old FDR fearful moments.