“I’m the number one fan of the man from Tennessee”

from the Kenny Loggins song “Please Come to Boston” written by Dave Loggins

Most of us have never heard of Jon Meacham, a Chattanooga native and Nashville area resident. A Vietnam vet and former visiting professor at Vanderbilt, he’s not flamboyant and doesn’t look like a leading man. He hasn’t had a flashy reality TV show. 

He doesn’t see the world as black or white. A very religious man, he also doesn’t attack his enemies. He is friendly with Republicans (like the Bush family) and some Democrats. 

Meacham is just a nice guy, but a brilliant historian. His most positive quality is that he can get directly to the root of a problem and explain it so that the rest of us can understand. 

He has written for the NYT, Washington Post, Newsweek and Time. He has also appeared on a variety of TV news and opinion shows on HBO, PBS, C-SPAN and MSNBC. I recently was fortunate enough to catch one of his appearances on MSNBC (4-18-20) where he discussed the pandemic in both objective political and historical terms.

According to Meacham: “We have two tributaries in American life…a tributary of hope…in a journey towards a more perfect union” and “a tributary of fear… ‘they are coming for us.’” Meacham stated that this fear goes back to 1790 when President Adams unconstitutionally threatened to shut down the free press and unilaterally deport undesirables.

Meacham goes on to describe how the right and left are viewing the crisis. The left is apprehensive, concerned about the lack of an adequate safety net, but looking towards science, facts and experts. On the other hand, the right is motivated by fear, so much so that science and facts become irrelevant.

Meacham stated that we need Presidential leadership and went on to describe how various Presidents, including Reagan, JFK and Lincoln, have overcome major obstacles to have successful Presidencies. He then compared Trump, who promotes a “partisan pandemic”, openly encouraging the misguided “liberation” folks (funded by right wing interests) to protest against various Democratic Governors. 

Maura Judkis of the Washington Post accurately described wild eyed participants in their MAGA hats, who were leaning in towards the camera: “The Ohio protest photo looked like a zombie movie.” Screaming, they truly looked hysterical. 

Per Meacham, our current Covid-19 pandemic has created a “break down of trust.” Like Lindbergh and the American neo-Nazis in the 1930s, Trump has revived and rolled out the “America First” slogan to motivate the scared masses in his base.

Meacham talked about how Trump was concentrating on “finding a ‘them’” to blame. Obviously, this is Trump’s emphasis, rather than addressing the crisis via a well thought out scientifically based plan like the three passed plan drawn up by his healthcare advisors. 

Trump wants Americans to act “not rationally, but passionately” to distract us from his failures as a leader. Along these lines, Trump desperately wants scapegoats, so he has zeroed in on China, the World Health Organization and Democrats.

Meacham went on to explain how truly devastating this pandemic is, comparing it to 9/11. On that horrible day, there were 2977 deaths, compelling us to go to war, a conflict which we are still fighting. 

We are fighting another war. As of 5-5, there were over 68,000 deaths due to Covid-19 in the US and nearly 1.2 million cases. In Georgia alone, we have had over 29,000 cases and over 1200 deaths, although our Governor has reopened the state due to special interest group pressure (versus consistency with national guidelines as designed by healthcare experts).

We can fight this war effectively based on facts and science… or we can fight it ineffectively based on emotion and partisanship as Trump and Kemp have done. The choice is up to us as Americans.


Image Credit: the photo of Jon Meacham was taken by Gasper Tringale (promotional/fair use).

Jack Bernard

Jack Bernard

Jack A Bernard is a retired SVP with a national healthcare corporation. He was Chair of the Jasper County, Ga Board of Commissioners and Republican Party. He was also on the Board of Health for Jasper County and is currently on the Fayette County BOH. Bernard has over 100 columns published annually, primarily in the South.