Not long after the United States’ entry into World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt, in consultation with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, decided upon a “Europe First” strategy: that the United States would concentrate its efforts, in concert with its British and Russian allies, upon the defeat of Nazi Germany, while it maintained a “holding action” against the Japanese Empire in the Pacific theater. Although some of the heaviest American casualties came on Pacific islands while the war waged in Europe, America only turned its full attention to the Pacific after victory over Germany was achieved.
I would submit that today, we are again engaged in a two-front war, at home: against our internal divisive hyper-partisanship and the Coronavirus. I think President-Elect Biden is pursuing an effective war strategy. Although perhaps as driven by practical realities as President Roosevelt arguably was in 1942, Mr. Biden seems focused on tacitly addressing our divisiveness by (at least outwardly) exhibiting a calm inevitability while doing what he can regarding the Coronavirus.
On the Divisiveness Front, I would suggest that Election Day was much akin to D-Day in 1944. Although the war raged for months afterward, D-Day marked the turning point of the war in Europe. My personal greatest fear – that America might descend into autocracy due to the continuation of President Trump’s constitutional powers combined with his dictatorial tendencies — is now seemingly abating. All but the most oblivious Trump supporters understand that Mr. Trump lost. I have yet to find a definitive count of the number of Trump supporters at the Washington, D.C. rally this past weekend; Monday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski mentioned 20,000. Let’s say it was 35,000. This would amount to approximately 1 percent of the votes Mr. Trump garnered within about two hours’ drive of D.C. Although Mr. Trump’s maimed psyche is currently being supported by the greedy and the cowardly – the alt-right media that profit by feeding sugar to the gullible, and the feckless Republican officials more interested in their political careers than in what is good for our nation – the Trump rally turnout hardly constituted a groundswell of rebellion. The mainstream media is turning off the Trump Show. The President’s electoral antics haven’t merited an actual front-page story in the Murdoch-controlled Wall Street Journal for days. That said, winning on the Divisiveness front has arguably moved from achieving Mr. Trump’s departure to obtaining the grudging acquiescence of the majority of Mr. Trump’s less extreme supporters. By maintaining his poise in the face of the President’s irrational provocations, Mr. Biden is enabling the air to continue to seep out of the Baby Trump balloon.
If advising Mr. Biden, I’d have only one suggestion on this front: when he speaks, continue to condemn violence on all sides. Reports of Saturday’s rally indicate that some anti-Trump groups went seemingly seeking confrontation. Mr. Biden should declare that all Americans are entitled to peacefully demonstrate, and that those that oppose the President should avoid going to pro-Trump rallies. Mr. Trump needs a fight to maintain relevance – and if none is offered, his avid support will continue its shrivel to the fringes.
On the Coronavirus Front: In all other realms of national security aside from the virus response, I’d be very surprised if Mr. Biden isn’t informally getting virtually all of the information in the President’s Daily Brief: members of the intelligence community sharing a repast with old friends outside the Administration, who in turn visit with members of the incoming Administration, and … there you have it. And/or: in addition to the fact that Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris gets briefed as a member of the U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, have U.S. VA Sen. Mark Warner and U.S. CA Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic heads of the two Congressional intelligence committees, stopped by to … er … congratulate Mr. Biden in person? Maybe. Would any information passed to Mr. Biden through these avenues constitute a violation of federal law? Probably. Any likelihood of detection and consequences? Little … and none.
As to the Coronavirus response itself: while noting in his news conference yesterday that “We are a war with the virus,” when asked about the Trump Administration’s unwillingness to work with his team, Mr. Biden prodded Mr. Trump by warning that “More people may die if we don’t coordinate” and “You’d think he’d at least want to go off on a positive note,” but acknowledged that if necessary, the Biden team will “try to pull together a serious and consistent plan so we’re ready on Day 1.” It is apparent that Mr. Trump is so locked up in his own narcissistic malaise that no entreaty will move him. My guess: the drug companies and health equipment manufacturers are already sharing at least as much detail regarding their current status and projections with Biden representatives as they are with the Trump Administration. Since Mr. Trump seems intent on inaction, no meaningful federal progress will be made until Inauguration Day even if/when the Trump Administration provides all of its data and plans to the Biden Transition Team. Given comments by Dr. Anthony Fauci, I have hope that the Administration may actually have workable plans.
As Mr. Biden also noted yesterday, things are going to get “much tougher before they get easier” on COVID during the coming months. That said, we can all help ourselves. Let’s end where we started, with WWII: in December, 1944, six months after D-Day, German forces that had been in retreat staged a massive counter-offensive, resulting in what became known as the “Battle of the Bulge.” American forces in Bastogne, Belgium, were outnumbered, outgunned, and short of supplies. The Germans demanded American surrender. The American commander, Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe, responded: “Nuts.” Despite being surrounded and ill-equipped, the Americans held on against the German assault until reinforcements arrived. For the good of our families, our fellow citizens, and ourselves, we likewise have to do our best to hold on. The key to prevailing on the Coronavirus front is within our control – by wearing masks and limiting if not avoiding indoor social gatherings – as we wait for federal reinforcements to arrive as soon as feasible after Inauguration Day.