Issues & Insights

Is The President Our Daddy Who’s Supposed To Keep Us Healthy?

Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley

I&I Editorial

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, much to the delight of the Democratic press, maligned President Donald Trump last week over the coronavirus pandemic, calling his leadership “a great human tragedy.” Are we alone continually puzzled as to why the head of the federal government is being held responsible for sickness and death from a natural cause? We shouldn’t be.

The Dec. 3 comment from Romney is at least the second time the 2012 Republican presidential nominee has been critical of the Trump White House’s response to the virus. In August he said “it’s fair to say we really have not distinguished ourselves in a positive way by how we responded to the crisis when it was upon us,” in what the media described as a “rare Republican criticism of the Trump administration’s coronavirus response.”

This should not have to be said, and won’t be well received by those relieved that America will have a “mommy” again in Jill Biden, but the president is not our father. It’s not his job to keep us healthy, to make personal decisions for us, to protect us from disease. We are not Washington’s children, and the government, from the White House and U.S. Capitol down to the smallest town, is not our nanny.

The president is our leader when we are threatened by outside forces, when we were attacked at Pearl Harbor and Lower Manhattan and Arlington, Virginia. But when someone says “who’s your daddy,” the answer is never the president, no matter which party he aligns with.

A Hartford Courant reader argued this point to perfection when in 2013 he wrote that Barack Obama is “not my father,” and “neither was George Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan or Lyndon Johnson.”

“I have a father, thank you,” said Charles Ayer.

“With the exception of the Founding Fathers, George Washington and perhaps Lincoln, Americans have never had a tradition of looking to the president as the nation’s ‘father,’ and with good reason. That type of paternalistic idolatry leads to authoritarianism and a dangerous weakening of the boundary between government and our private lives that is so essential to our way of life.”

There are four sections that outline the federal government’s executive branch in the U.S. Constitution and none make him responsible for Americans’ personal health.

Even in a pandemic, it would be a mistake to try. There are 330 million Americans in 50 states across almost 4 million square miles, multiple time zones, climates and cultures. No one person could possibly issue effective orders and craft workable policy over such a large and diverse nation. It’s even impossible at the county level. In Southern California, for instance, the South Bay Cities Council of Governments is considering breaking away from the Los Angeles County Health Department so that locals can tailor policies to fit their district.

“South Bay numbers are lower than the rest of the county,” explained Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand, “and we feel like we’re being unfairly punished with restrictions that aren’t necessary all the time in our area.”

The only legitimate response to a pandemic of any president from any party would be to use the power of the office to move government out of the way as quickly and as much as possible so the private sector can adapt, innovate, and overcome. 

What have Americans wanted from their president regarding the coronavirus? Have they been demanding a commander in chief who will require the entire country to wear masks, and stay inside, to give up their lives in return for an unknown but hoped-for outcome?

Some have wanted a tyrant who will make all obey the protocols they believe are the proper steps for stopping the pandemic. Others have wished for a daddy, who will spoon medicine into their mouths and tell them everything will be fine. But neither of these is consistent with American freedom nor its style of government.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.

3 comments

  • Mommygov loves me and will keep me safe. All of those people in government would work for free just to be my friend.
    And doctor big pharma he loves me as well plus the news man on TV is my friend.
    Put your mask on comrade because we’re in this together.

  • I disagree at the margins. It is implicit in the Constitution that the Founders crafted a federal structure that would endure, that the mechanisms of power would be exercised for the greatest good of the people. Nowhere did the authors of our fundamental law anticipate the viral contagion that laid the world and our country low in 1918 or again in 2019-2020. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is written in the Declaration of Independence and are unalienable rights which the Declaration says have been given to all humans by their creator, and which governments are created to protect. The Declaration is different from the Constitution, but remains a fundamental document which still directs our national intent.

    Certainly, the federal government in the person of the President has a duty to craft a response to a once in a century viral pandemic. President Trump’s response was shambolic and at times almost incoherent and, I believe, was the proximate cause of his defeat to Joe Biden. Was he correct to partner with the states in the response to the pandemic? An emphatic yes. Did his task force, directed by Vice-President Pence, do yeoman’s work early on despite the president’s showboating? Yes. But the president became a hindrance at the daily news conferences, especially when measures devised by other governments, those in China, South Korea and Singapore for instance, obtained faster results.

    Should the president, whoever he may be, act in loco parentis? No, not in normal times. But he is supposed to provide mature leadership in the midst of a once in a lifetime crisis, especially when the country is frightened at the mounting toll of disease and death from a never before seen global infection.

  • While Covid is certainly a human tragedy, the left (and I include Mittens) seems incapable of comparing the US response with other First World nations and drawing conclusions. They rail at 280,000 deaths from Covid, but fail to recognize that our Case Fatality Rate is 1.91, while the UK”s rate is 3.56, France’s rate is 2.42, Belgium’s is 2.93, Australia’s rate is 3.25, Canada’s is 3.03 and Germany’s is 1.59. All of the major Western nations are doing worse than the US, with the exception of Germany. Source: Statista, data as of 7 December.

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