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Panic: President Trump's Rookie Mistake

"I don't want to create a panic."

by Eric Holdeman / September 10, 2020

Bob Woodward's new book on President Trump has many details and quotes backed up by audio recordings. See this CNN story, 'Play it down': Trump admits to concealing the true threat of coronavirus in new Woodward book.

He was taped saying that he knew early on about the airborne transmission of the virus and yet played down the potential impact of the virus on the American people by not sharing what he knew and instead rationalizing, "I wanted to always play it down," Trump told Woodward on March 19, even as he had declared a national emergency over the virus days earlier. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."

You can expect this type of thinking from a city mayor or county executive who has never been through a disaster and does not have a cadre of national advisers who can give him expert advice.

Panic is a topic that I've written about here numerous times. All the research says that people don't panic unless they feel trapped, like in a burning nightclub where the exit doors are chained shut (it has happened too often). 

What kills any consideration of panic is information. Being straight with the American people, telling them how it is, straight from the shoulder as some would say, is what works. With information, even changing information, people will adapt and cope. Keep them in the dark and surprise them and you will pay a price. 

I'm guessing several things didn't happen:

  1. The president is not known for listening to advice from anyone
  2. The people he has surrounded himself, his closest advisers, don't have the knowledge or expertise to advise him on the issue of panic.
  3. People are afraid of confronting the president with facts and information that run counter to "his gut instincts" because they suffer the consequences.
  4. Hence -- experts have no forum to share information that could help to make better-informed decisions. 

At this point I have to point out, "It is what it is." 


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