Judd Gregg: When America comes out the other side

Judd Gregg: When America comes out the other side
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When America comes out the other side of our terrible struggle with this unforgiving virus, which we will, it will be a different place.

One of the things that is apparent is how incredibly brittle is our way of life. This virus is a stark demonstration of just how fast 21st century life can be disrupted, even in a society as advanced as ours.


There is talk from some pundits, and from President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report MORE, that our economy will recover quickly.

People will be able to return to their daily routine, they say. Jobs lost or abandoned will reappear. We will have a “v-shaped recovery.”

This is difficult to see.

We are a consumer-based economy. Seventy percent or so of the commerce of this nation is tied to individuals buying things and spending money.

Most Americans will have had their jobs, their income and in many cases their savings significantly impacted by the economic stop that has been put in place as we attempt to mitigate the virus’s impact.

As we start to return to some level of normalcy, it will be difficult to expect consumers to return to their prior levels of engagement.

There will be a natural reluctance to engage in activities that involve significant numbers of people. More importantly, many Americans will simply be hesitant to spend money, or will not have it to spend in the first place.

A long and somewhat muted recovery is the most likely scenario.

This will not be a depression, but it will be a recession.

However, we as a nation will have changed in many positive ways too as we begin to emerge from this crisis.

A benefit of the “stay at home” admonition has been that the strength of the family has reasserted itself. One of this nation’s fountainheads of success throughout its history has been the commitment to the culture of family.

In recent times this commitment has eroded for numerous reasons. Now, what is abundantly clear is that the power of family has been summoned once again to serve as the glue of the community and the nation in this crisis. That is a good thing.

We will also have a technology boom from this event.

People are growing even more comfortable with using technology for learning, shopping, communicating and every other element of daily life.

An entirely new way of living will have permeated the psyche of most Americans and it will drive numerous technological initiatives.

There will also be a strengthening of our defenses against similar threats in the future. Our government, our leaders, our nation’s health delivery system and all of us as citizens were unprepared for this pandemic.

Our approach will need to be revamped — to ward off the return of some mutated form of this virus but also to protect us from other biological armageddons, whether incubated naturally or by terrorist movements.

Getting prepared for this great risk will be a great opportunity.

It is an effort American science needs to dominate, as it will fundamentally change the world.

When vaccines are developed by American scientists, our government should actively share them with the rest of the world.

This will show a renewal of the American spirit that defined our nation. As with the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe in the post-Second World War period, an American commitment to cure and protect the entire world from the threat of these pandemics will set forth once again the fact that we are a different and special culture.

One of our great strengths is our concern for other people, without a need to gain advantage. This tradition draws others to our values.

This outreach should include even those whom we see as threats like Iran or China, when their people are also suffering.

This will take leadership from our president. It will be a chance for him to imprint a positive legacy not only on America, but on humanity.

This crisis has of course also shone a light on the quality of our American political leadership.

If anything was apparent beyond the massive trauma that this pandemic has caused, it is that our national leadership was not ready for its impact and that there was a great deal of spottiness in our nation’s response.

Crises are not resolved naturally. They are managed through leadership.

America has historically had this type of leadership. President Lincoln in the Civil War, President Franklin Roosevelt during the Depression, President Reagan in the final confrontation with communism and the Soviet Union, and even President George W. Bush in the handling of 9/11 all gave the nation direction and, more importantly, hope.

The same cannot be said for either the president or other key leaders.

From the beginning, the president and his detractors like Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Collins urges voters to turn out in Georgia runoffs Protect America's houses of worship in year-end appropriations package MORE (D-N.Y.), Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiObama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary The five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? MORE (D-Calif.) and New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoFor Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court upholds religious liberty Cardinal Dolan hails Supreme Court decision on churches, COVID-19 Cuomo blames new conservative majority for high court's COVID-19 decision MORE (D) have spent almost as much time pointing the finger of blame as identifying what needs to happen for an effective response.

The president has made this a sort of “me, myself and I” crisis response.

His insatiable need for self-promotion and general adoration hardly personifies leadership.

There is little about his approach that captures the American community, its natural resilience and the inherent strength of our people.

But those in the upper reaches of the Democratic Party also cannot leave behind their antipathy towards the president.

Schumer, Pelosi and a variety of Democratic governors continue with a stream of petty innuendos and insults towards the administration that give little feeling that they understand that we are all in this together.

The legislation meant to abate the trauma caused by this pandemic has been bipartisan but the language of both sides has been aimed at deflecting the blame for failure towards the opposition.


This has not been America’s political leadership’s finest hour.

It has instead been a tortured effort, where neither side displays sincerity as they anemically embrace what needs to be a fully united effort.

The American people are observing this.

They have little else to do as they adhere to “stay at home” orders.

It may be that their conclusion is that their leaders have not done well by them or the nation.

Fundamental change has come to our political system rarely, but it has on occasion occurred.

It usually arises around crisis and this pandemic may energize such change.

It is not clear how and where it will come from, if at all.

Maybe a group of leaders from both parties will say they too have had enough and drive a major restructuring.

Something needs to be done to change the atmosphere of pettiness and self-promotion in Washington.

We need leadership that pulls the nation together, summoning us to higher and more generous callings as a nation and as a people.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.