Integrity is an essential characteristic of a leader. Leadership requires a president to speak honestly and accurately to his constituents and other government leaders. Our current president has consistently failed to exhibit integrity during his three plus years in office.
President Trump’s lack of integrity has been displayed during the current pandemic as he continues to dangle the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the election, a move that appears designed to improve his re-election chances, but that will actually put American lives at risk. He has even threatened to overrule the Food and Drug Administration if they impose stricter standards for approving vaccines.
By further politicizing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA, which approves vaccines, the president risks broad swaths of the public distrusting the very part of our government tasked with providing public health information without political influence. This distrust could reduce the number of Americans willing to get a vaccine no matter when it becomes available. Already, Governor Cuomo of New York announced that the state would independently verify the safety and efficacy of any COVID-19 vaccine used in his state.
In response to President Trump’s irresponsible announcement of an impending COVID-19 vaccine, nine companies developing a vaccine publicly announced an agreement not to move for FDA approval without documented evidence of the safety and efficacy of the vaccines being developed. It’s sad that Americans must rely on private drug companies, some based in foreign countries, to safeguard our public health.
Our ability to solve the COVID-19 pandemic will have to involve the vaccination of most of our population. If a significant portion of the population doesn’t trust the vaccine and refuses to comply with public health orders (something Americans already have trouble with), then our economy will continue to struggle, even if the rate of infection begins to decline.
How did we get to the point where the president’s word on something so significant cannot be trusted?
The lies told by President Trump crossed the 20,000 mark in July, the last time the Washington Post stopped to count them. The Washington Post only counts claims either stated or tweeted that can be proven false with evidence. They do not count campaign promises made but not kept (like Mexico paying for the border wall).
Public health is not the only area threatened by lies. President Trump continues to repeat the lie that mail-in ballots result in massive voter fraud, taking particular aim at states that have chosen to send either mail-in ballots or applications for absentee ballots to all registered voters. FBI Director Wray testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on September 24th, “Now we have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it’s by mail or otherwise.”
Put simply, Americans cannot trust what President Trump says. His supporters often tout how “authentic” he is by saying whatever he thinks. They dismiss his most egregious lies as hyperbole or simply his response to reporters who Trump accuses of spreading “fake news.” No president before Trump has willingly and repeatedly lied to the American people.
The irony of President Trump’s lies comes when they are combined with his clumsy efforts to manipulate the non-partisan agencies tasked with protecting Americans. He achieved some success with Attorney General Barr and the Justice Department, but he has failed to move the CDC or FDA into compliance with his distorted public assessment of the virus and the progress of vaccine testing. Experts from these agencies have directly and publicly contradicted the President, leading him to state that Dr. Redfield didn’t understand the question when asked about having a vaccine before the election.
It’s important to step back to February when President Trump learned of the serious nature of the pandemic and its impact on people of all ages as revealed through audio recordings made by Bob Woodward. We now know the President made a conscious decision to lie to the American people about the nature and severity of COVID-19, a lie that has now claimed more than 200,000 American lives.
Indeed, President Trump has failed one of the basic tenets of leadership, honesty. Since we are electing leaders at the local, state, and national level on Nov. 3, consider each candidate’s integrity, a core value for good leadership, and cast your vote wisely.