Trump begins the April 23 #TrumpPressBriefing by claiming that he's spoken with unnamed "numerous" world leaders over the past two days and "they are saying we are leading the way" in the coronavirus response. (The US has the most cases and the most deaths.) pic.twitter.com/Emnyk8XelX— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 23, 2020
Maybe Trump does read the New York Times:
“When people see these pictures of New York City they say, ‘How can this happen? How is this possible?’” said Henrik Enderlein, president of the Berlin-based Hertie School, a university focused on public policy. “We are all stunned. Look at the jobless lines. Twenty-two million,” he added.
“I feel a desperate sadness,” said Timothy Garton Ash, a professor of European history at Oxford University and a lifelong and ardent Atlanticist.
The pandemic sweeping the globe has done more than take lives and livelihoods from New Delhi to New York. It is shaking fundamental assumptions about American exceptionalism — the special role the United States played for decades after World War II as the reach of its values and power made it a global leader and example to the world.
“America has not done badly, it has done exceptionally badly,” said Dominique Moïsi, a political scientist and senior adviser at the Paris-based Institut Montaigne.
The pandemic has exposed the strengths and weaknesses of just about every society, Mr. Moïsi noted. It has demonstrated the strength of, and suppression of information by, an authoritarian Chinese state as it imposed a lockdown in the city of Wuhan. It has shown the value of Germany’s deep well of public trust and collective spirit, even as it has underscored the country’s reluctance to step up forcefully and lead Europe.
And in the United States, it has exposed two great weaknesses that, in the eyes of many Europeans, have compounded one another: the erratic leadership of Mr. Trump, who has devalued expertise and often refused to follow the advice of his scientific advisers, and the absence of a robust public health care system and social safety net.
Compare and contrast:
Not long ago, Ms. Merkel was considered a spent force, having announced that this would be her last term. Now her approval ratings are at 80 percent.
“She has the mind of a scientist and the heart of a pastor’s daughter,” Mr. Garton Ash said.
Mr. Trump, in a hurry to restart the economy in an election year, has appointed a panel of business executives to chart a course out of the lockdown.
Ms. Merkel, like everyone, would like to find a way out, too, but this week she warned Germans to remain cautious. She is listening to the advice of a multidisciplinary panel of 26 academics from Germany’s national academy of science. The panel includes not just medical experts and economists but also behavioral psychologists, education experts, sociologists, philosophers and constitutional experts.
“You need a holistic approach to this crisis,” said Gerald Haug, the academy’s president, who chairs the German panel. “Our politicians get that.”
Trump, of course, seems to have no heart at all. As for a panel of psychologists and philosophers: here we see the difference between the Continent and Anglo-American culture and practices. And it's not a good look at all. What is exposed is a moral, even a spiritual, crisis at the very core of American exceptionalism. Whether that will be recognized or ignored is the question facing the country.