‘The stuff of miracles’
Russell Riley writes that, unlike Trump, earlier presidents found ways to solve major crises
One of the main jobs for any president confronting major crisis is distinguishing merely unimaginable options from the genuinely impossible. Indeed, history indicates that a president relying on gifted help and applying courageous leadership can take a problem that others deem unsolvable and — against overwhelming odds — make it go away. This is the kind of history that Donald Trump might have consulted fruitfully as the coronavirus seized this country — and his presidency.
[H]istory indicates that a president relying on gifted help and applying courageous leadership can take a problem that others deem unsolvable and — against overwhelming odds — make it go away.
Secretary of State George Marshall returned from a trip to Europe in the winter of 1947 and reported to President Harry Truman that the war-broken continent was on the verge of implosion. Food and fuel stocks were catastrophically low, disease was running rampant and almost every political system east of Lisbon was teetering towards chaos or the suffocating embrace of Joseph Stalin. The war weariness of the United States meant there was little tolerance for extending further scarce American resources to deal with Europe’s problems. Yet Marshall and his team of experts rapidly developed an aid plan of previously unthinkable proportions. Truman got Congress to adopt it quickly, saving a continent.
Many Americans will vaguely recall the Marshall Plan as a symbol of American post-war generosity. Yet few will remember how audacious or improbable it was. Where is the George Marshall in the Trump White House? And where is Truman’s bold resolve? The absence of that kind of leadership has taken an incalculable toll today.