In battle against Covid-19, it's Germany 1, U.S. zero

Yesterday Stew ran up the Stars and Stripes up the flagpole at the ranch, as we usually do on the Fourth of July, along with the Mexican flag, but it didn’t feel much like a holiday, with the United States under siege by a tragic trifecta of a pandemic still out of control, a sputtering economy, and racial and social strife poisoning the air.

A somber Fourth at the ranch.

As an added blow to American national pride, the European Union announced last week an extension of the ban on visitors from the U.S., along with Russia
and Brazil, which have the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world, and have seen those numbers surge in recent weeks.

A couple of weeks ago, I finished a book about Germany before the Second World War, and, coincidentally, also began reading about how Chancellor Angela Merkel had successfully led her country to make inroads in corralling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even before she took on the Covid-19 challenge, Merkel was being called by some “Europe’s de facto Leader” and even “Leader of the Free World.” 

Indeed, last year, and for the ninth consecutive time, she topped Forbes magazine’s list of the “100 most powerful women in the world.” Some might question singer Rihanna’s and teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg’s names making that honor roll, but not Merkel’s.

Except, that is, for Trump, who in an abusive telephonic rant, reportedly called Merkel “stupid” and a pawn of Russia. Merkel ignored him.

The evolution of Frau Merkel (New Yorker)

Stupid? Hardly. In her handling of the pandemic, Merkel instead has shown a forthrightness, steeliness—and respect for science—that Trump so sorely lacks, and which could have put the U.S. much farther ahead in the fight against the pandemic, than where it is right now—an international pariah where with 2.9 million reported infections and 132,000 deaths.

Indeed, Merkel, with her self-effacing hausfrau mien and wardrobe (see profile in New Yorker magazine), and reliance on sometimes tedious scientific explanations to support her arguments, could be called the anti-Trump, he of the bombastic, often delusional rants, and rambunctious hair.

She doesn’t claim, as Trump once did, to have a “knack for science” or an uncle who’s a renowned scientist. What she does have is a doctorate in Physical Chemistry, and a brilliant career as a scientist in the former East Germany, before she entered politics after the country’s reunification.

Trump the scientist, during a visit to the
Centers for Disease Control. (Vox)

According to one media account, in her first nationally televised address to the nation about the pandemic, on March 22—her first in 14 years except for the annual Christmas messages—Merkel “calmly appealed to citizens’ reason and discipline to slow the spread of the virus, acknowledging as a woman who grew up in communist East Germany, how difficult it is to give up freedoms, yet as a trained scientist emphasizing that the facts don’t lie.

Facts don’t lie. 

Now, compare that to Trump’s torrent of absurd statements about the pandemic, ladled with lies, dissembling, crude politicking and delusional statements about the virus disappearing “like a miracle.”

It’ll make you cringe, particularly when you consider how many American lives a more disciplined, science-based approach might have saved.

Early on, Germany adopted a policy of massive testing, to pin down the extent of the pandemic. In a speech before the Bundestag in April, Merkel cited the advice of expert to “test, test, test,” to get a grip on the pandemic. And so it went in Germany, with test, test, test.

At his disastrous political rally in Tulsa in late June, Trump instead said that he had asked his advisors to reduce testing for the coronavirus. “By having more tests, we have more cases,” he reiterated later on, when someone asked if he had been kidding. “I do not kid,” Trump said.

In May, Trump attempted to compare the U.S. achievements in dealing with the virus with those of Germany. Fact: The Covid-19 death rate per 100,000 in the U.S. is not only 2.5 times higher than Germany’s (24.66 versus 9.24) but higher than the global average, according to Kaiser Health News.

Perhaps far more enervating to Trump are Merkel’s sky-high approval ratings, which were on shaky ground before she tackled the pandemic crisis, but have soared to nearly 80 percent positive, the highest of any European leader. A grateful country widely supports her work to control the epidemic, which she says, it’s far from over.

Now, President Trump, who were you calling stupid?

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