• Wednesday 1st April 2020

• Nepal on the Brink • United States: The Coronavirus Election

  • Published on: March 18, 2020



  • BY SHASHI MALLA

    Nepal in the Time of a Pandemic

    The virus pandemic is not yet with its full force upon us, but it is also clear that we are not individually and collectively prepared to confront it. We have also been left in the lurch by our so-called political leadership. There can be no doubt that they have fully shirked their responsibility, just as Donald Trump did so in the United States.
    First, the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) must collectively take the blame for the dire straits the country finds itself – economically, socially and politically, and now also health-wise. In the last general elections they were able to garner an overwhelming majority [by promising a land of milk and honey], but by all accounts they have failed miserably to bring the country forward.
    The NCP coming to near absolute power has been a near calamity for the country. They have treated the country as their personal and collective fiefdom, and we have been treated to one scandal after another. Corruption is rife, as the unethical and immoral behavior of Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Agni Prasad Sapkota and Gokul Prasad Baskota attest. Their respective personal scandals have been swept under the carpet.
    NCP has its own many internal contradictions and has been kept too busy with internal power play – jockeying for power, influence and the perks of office.
    The top echelons seem to be wholly preoccupied with elevating Bam Dev Gautam to the upper house, so that he can one day become prime minister – successor to Oli? As if the country was not beset with other more weightier problems!
    To use the metaphor of the Corona Virus Pandemic, it would be best for the entire country if the Communist leadership were put in collective political quarantine!
    Oli too busy with his own health problems – as if without him the country cannot exist!
    The opposition parties are also in a dismal state – also too busy with their internal rivalries. What do their pseudo-leaders think of themselves?
    The Nepali Congress finds itself in a steady slide of decline. Currently, it has two factions under leaders with huge egos, who place self and party above the national interest.
    The Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP/National Democratic Party) is re-united again, but for how long. It does have a history of bifurcating/splitting into factions under various leaders and then re-uniting again and again.
    In this dismal party landscape there is little hope for the Nepalese people, especially that the democratic forces align against the autocratic and self-serving communists.

    United States

    Leadership in the Time of Crisis

    The Coronavirus pandemic has profoundly tested the leadership qualities of President Donald Trump and his Democratic opponents who wish to replace him [but also of leaders all over the world coping with the pandemic.
    As The New York Times columnists Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin write (March 14-15), if Trump does lose re-election, the seeds of his demise may prove to have been planted early this year. The challenge for him has been that the type of management response required of chief executives during crises like a pandemic has never been his forte. [This is also the case with Messrs K.P.S. Oli and P.K. Dahal].
    As Jeb Bush, a former governor of Florida [and younger brother of President George W. Bush] who ran against Trump in the 2016 primary and received bipartisan praise for effectively handling hurricanes during his tenure, said: “A leader needs to be transparent, clear, empathetic, serious, and all-in.” He added: “A leader needs to communicate consistently and regularly.”
    Michael D’Antonio, a CNN commentator wrote that Trump’s performance till now has been abysmal! It is characterized by indecision and he doesn’t understand his personal responsibility to protect others or his obligation to lead by example. He has completely failed to provide calm, credible and steady leadership. D’Antonio urges that Trump should step aside, even go into self-quarantine. The country had no need for a stressed-out master of ceremonies!

    Democratic Debate: Biden Comes Out on Top

    In the Democratic debate last Sunday, both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders demonstrated their leadership qualities. Among the many CNN-commentators, Frida Ghitis (also a columnist for The Washington Post and the World Politics Review) wrote that the loser by a mile was Donald Trump. Both Biden and Sanders offered presentations that were more reasonable, coherent and factual than anything the incumbent president has managed. “The contrast with a president floundering in a national emergency was striking.”
    “In moment after moment, Biden made it clear he understands the depth of America’s need for hope and normalcy,” according to Van Jones, who served in the Obama White House.

    ———————————–

    Election Watch: The Race for the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination

    Current State of the Race

    In the national polling average computed by the New York Times,
    Joseph Biden lies at 45 percent and has 881 pledged delegates.
    Bernie Sanders has 34 percent and has 725 delegates.
    TulsiGabbard has less than 1 percent and has only 2 delegates.
    Currently, former Vice President Biden is the overwhelming favorite in the nominating race, leading Sanders by a substantial margin and with an even larger advantage in the polls. These reflect a dramatic shift in Biden’s favor.
    The withdrawal of several other candidates, including the progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, has largely led voters to rally around Biden.
    However, the race is not yet over as Biden is not yet close to reaching the 1,991 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Sanders has the money to continue indefinitely and a solid base of mostly young voters that make up one-third of the party. But for all practical purposes, Sanders has reached the end of the road.
    He has not demonstrated that he can broaden his base and it is not at all clear how he could overcome Biden’s current lead. In fact, the next few rounds of primary elections [including those on Tuesday, March 17] seem to favor Biden. The demographics and dynamics of states like Florida, Illinois and Georgia could be so advantageous to Biden that he could amass an unsurmountable delegate lead. Moreover, recent polls suggest that the American people overwhelmingly consider Biden to be the outstanding leader in a time of crisis.

    U.S. in Perilous Times

    According to The Atlantic, the U.S. remains dangerously behind on testing for COVID-19, thanks to “bureaucracy, equipment shortages, an unwillingness to share, and failed leadership.
    As of March 14, only 16,471 people in the U.S. had been tested for the viral disease. For comparison, at that point in its own outbreak, South Korea had tested more than 100,000 people.
    When asked at a press conference if he takes responsibility for the lack of testing kits, Donald Trump replied bluntly but revealingly: “No. I don’t take responsibility at all” [!] This admission was the key to his entire presidency.
    It should not go unmentioned here that Trump’s ‘America first’ in the context of the COVID-19 threat has alienated the EU, particularly Germany when it emerged that the US government offered German scientists a large amount of money for them to continue their work to develop a vaccine exclusively for the US.
    “The Trump Presidency Is Over”
    This was the damning verdict of the opinion piece in The Atlantic (March 13) by Peter Wehner, who has worked in three Republican administrations and is a senior fellow at the conservative Washington D.C.-based think tank Ethics & Public Policy Center.
    In his incisive and immanently readable essay, Wehner cuts down Donald Trump to size: “It has taken a good deal longer than it should have, but Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain.”
    This tour de force should be compulsory reading for all those following American politics, and especially Republican Congressmen and Senators. It should be an eye-opener for all those behaving like the Three Wise Asian Monkeys that see, hear and speak no evil about Trump and his extraordinary corrupt and malignant presidency that has done phenomenal desecration to America and the world.
    Wehner was so astute that he had recognized Trump, the guttersnipe before his improbable elevation to the hallowed American presidency: “Trump is fundamentally unfit – intellectually, morally, temperamentally, and psychologically –for office.”
    With his wide-ranging practical experience in the administration of three Republican presidents, he intuitively recognized that the paramount consideration in electing a president was that at some point he could face an unexpected crisis, and at this seminal moment, “the president’s judgment and discernment, his character and leadership ability” would be of paramount importance.
    Four years back, Wehner had written presciently: “Mr. Trump’s virulent combination of ignorance, emotional instability, demagogy, solipsism and vindictiveness would do more than result in a failed presidency; it could very well lead to national catastrophe. The prospect of Donald Trump as commander in chief should send a chill down the spine of every American.”
    With the eruption of a major crisis in the form of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has been tested and found woefully wanting in every respect: “the president and his administration are responsible for grave, costly errors, most especially…in diagnostic testing, the decision to test too few people, the delay in expanding testing…”
    Trump also ignored early warnings of the severity of the virus. It is very telling that the Trump administration had previously dismantled the National Security Council’s global-health office, whose purpose was to address global pandemics.
    Wehner also pointed out that “the avalanche of false information from the president has been most alarming of all…Day after day he brazenly denied reality, in an effort to blunt the economic and political harm he faced.”
    Trump made matters worse by delivering an Oval Office speech that was meant to reassure the nation and the markets, but had the exact opposite effect. Wehner concludes that Trump demonstrated a massive failure in leadership that stems from a colossal defect in character.
    The coronavirus has tested Trump’s presidency like no other event, and according to Wehner has reached the inflection point “when everything changed, when the bluster and ignorance and shallowness of America’s 45th president became undeniable, an empirical reality, as indisputable as the laws of science or a mathematical equation…Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain.”

    The writer can be reached at: [email protected]l.com

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