As the economic consequences of closing down the American, Israeli and world economies grow exponentially each day, with the potential for a worldwide depression lurking just around the corner, now may be the time to “see the forest through the trees,” acknowledging that the unprecedented economic remedies to save the world economy may not have been possible if the American leadership in 2020 were in the hands of a different person. This is not a political endorsement, but the lessons we learn today have echoes of the past.
“Only Nixon could go to China” is a well-worn metaphor to explain how someone with a lifelong reputation for being a die-hard anti-communist could have gone to Communist China in 1972, opening relations with the world’s most populous nation that changed the course of the late 20th and early 21st century, and whose consequences we are still dealing with today. Israel had its Nixon in China moment in 1978 when the hawkish prime minister Menachem Begin made peace with Egypt and relinquished Israel’s territorial depth.
America in the spring of 2020 is having a “Trump Goes to China” moment that should be recognized for its importance, as it could not have occurred with so little congressional debate if the exact same actions taken by Trump and his secretary of the Treasury were those of a president of the Left. The planned enormous government expenditures designed to provide stability to the nation dwarf the most grandiose ideas FDR had during the Depression; the long-term consequences of this for the United States and the world are completely up in the air. A populist president from the Right who ran on shrinking the American government has, with so little difficulty, been able to implement this unprecedented burst of government expenditure.
Now imagine if Hillary Clinton had won the election and tried to implement the exact same things that Trump and his economic team have accomplished in conjunction with Congress, as literally trillions of dollars were being printed and handed out to desperate Americans and corporations, all the while fighting with a Republican Senate, hoping to get such actions through Congress. Perhaps the circumstances are so scary that it would have all passed Congress as easily as for Trump, or maybe not.
For those who viscerally hate Trump or are “Never Trumpers,” they must realize that no matter how inarticulate the president is, or how many times he backtracks on impulsive statements, Donald Trump may ironically have been the right choice to have gotten this economic package passed so quickly.
THIS WILL not last. The hyperpolarization will return, and the president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are already at it. There is much political rancor ahead, with the presidential election just over six months away.
But more importantly, America and the world have will have to decide when to slowly reopen the world’s economy to avoid a depression, and it is a certainty that no matter what Trump does, even if it would have been the exact same decision Clinton would have made, there will be media and political opponents accusing him of killing Americans, sacrificing lives for money.
In the US, commentators like Don Lemon of CNN are already trying to undermine the president's message, arguing that his news station should not cover Trump’s daily press conferences.
There is plenty of time for politics and hatred down the road. What we need now is to begin to plan an exit strategy to avoid a Depression. We need:
1. to ramp up widespread testing for antibody immunity to assess herd immunity;
2. large-scale studies to determine how prevalent the virus is in the general public;
3. everyone wearing faceguards, as tens of millions are asymptomatic and could be spreading the virus;
4. to keep seniors and the immunocompromised indoors for another 3 months; and
5. to keep social distancing for another three months.
Our goal is to continue to decrease the rate of transmission of the virus so as not to overwhelm the healthcare systems. Upwards of 200 million people will be infected in the US, and millions in Israel. We can plausibly control whether those numbers occur over two months or over one year. Lives and our economies are hanging in the balance.
Nixon went to China, and Trump’s economic plan would make a socialist proud. Could Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decide to become an Anwar Sadat? Crazy things are happening.
The writer is the director of MEPIN (Middle East Political Information Network), the senior editor for security at The Jerusalem Report, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post, and a writer for The Hill.