The Presidents Of The United States Who Faced Great Crises

Washington – Woodrow Wilson focused on the end of the First World War and not so much on a flu that spread throughout the world, and ended up catching it.

George W. Bush climbed onto a pile of rubble after the September 11 attacks and, megaphone in hand, promised that those responsible “will soon hear from us.”

Barack Obama had been in the White House for a few months when an outbreak of the H1N1 virus emerged, which would soon be declared a pandemic, like the current coronavirus.


Most United States presidents have faced one or more crises, be it a natural disaster, a war, an economic decline, a threat to public health, or an act of terrorism.

What matters is how they respond to those crises, according to historians.

“The best thing a president can do at one of those times is calm the nation,” said Julian Zelizer, presidential historian at Princeton University.

That is what Franklin D. Roosvelt did during his 12 extraordinary years in office, guiding the nation through the depression of the 1930s, marked by extremely high unemployment, a severe drought in the center of the country and the fight against the Nazis. and the Japanese in World War II.

During the outbreak of the flu under Wilson’s presidency, which killed some 50 million people worldwide, including 675,000 Americans, the president did not get personally involved in the issue as Donald Trump is doing now with the coronavirus.

Those matters were left to state and local health professionals.

“Wilson never released a public statement on the matter,” said John M. Barri, author of “The Great Influenza”. “He focused exclusively on the war.”

Wilson was so focused on the peace talks he participated in in Paris after the conflict ended that he contracted the flu himself. But he recovered.

Trump, for his part, seems determined to be the public face of the fight against an outbreak that is the most serious problem facing his reelection campaign. Trump, who has no scientific or medical knowledge, is leading the White House’s daily reports on the work of a task force whose management entrusted the vice president.

Trump presents himself as “a wartime president” fighting “an invisible enemy” responsible for hundreds of deaths and thousands of infections in the United States – figures that will continue to rise as the virus spreads – and that has upset everyone’s life.

Millions of people have been asked to stay in their homes indefinitely, depriving themselves of simple pleasures like going to restaurants, shopping malls, and the movies.

The handling of the Trump crisis generates different types of reactions. His supporters approve, his detractors question him, including mayors and governors who want Trump to use his authority to help them get protective gear and other supplies for doctors and nurses.

Trump initially tried to minimize the gravity of the situation and said he had everything under control. Later, however, he changed his attitude and intensified his efforts.

But the damage was done, according to Steve Morrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CEEI), who says a lack of public confidence is perceived due to Trump’s initial handling.

“Lack of confidence is problematic when dealing with something so catastrophic,” said Morrison, vice president and director of the CEEI’s Center for Global Health Policy.

Obama had been in office for a few months in 2009 when the first reports of the H1N1 flu circulated in April. That month, he appointed a team focused on fighting the outbreak and declared a national emergency.

“It is obviously a very serious situation and everyone should know that the government as a whole is taking all precautions and making all the preparations,” Obama said at a press conference that month.

He added that public health officials had recommended that schools with confirmed cases consider closing temporarily, and that he had asked Congress for $ 1.5 billion to monitor the behavior of the virus and store medicines and equipment.

“Everyone should know that this government is prepared to do whatever it takes to control the impact of this virus,” said Obama.

Howard Markel, director of the University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine, said Obama was “very involved” in the fight against H1N1, although not as visible as Trump. Daily reports on the state of affairs were given by the director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

“He stepped aside and allowed experts to be in control,” Markel said of Obama. “It didn’t have to be on the stand, but you knew it was there.”

Almost 12,500 deaths from H1N1 were reported in the United States between April 2009 and April 2010, when the World Health Organization ended the pandemic.

Obama spent nearly $ 1 billion and sent military personnel to Africa to help control an Ebola outbreak in 2014.

Bush was half a newcomer to the presidency when terrorists hijacked planes and crashed them into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a farmland in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.

Days later, Bush climbed onto the rubble of the towers and delivered a memorable speech.

“I hear you!” He said with a megaphone to the clamor of emergency personnel. “The rest of the world listens to them! And those who demolished these buildings are going to listen to us soon.”

A few weeks later, Bush authorized airstrikes against Taliban facilities and against al-Qaida training centers in Afghanistan. Today the United States still maintains a military presence in Afghanistan.



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