Fulcher: This is no time for fear or panic

by Chuck Malloy
March 23, 2020 1:37 PM

The deteriorating economy, and hysteria over the coronavirus pandemic, is not what a sitting president should like to see in an election year.

President Trump talked a lot about America “winning” four years ago when he ran for office. He was not thinking about what we’re seeing today – a stock market that is in a freefall, a sports world that is shut down and no Broadway shows. If all this lasts for months, as authorities speculate, we may have an economic situation that makes the Hoover years look like a time of prosperity by comparison. The Carter years could look like happy days are here again.

At some point, the political fallout from this pandemic may be hitting Trump, as it did for Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter. For those old enough to remember, Republicans won the White House in 1980, talking about those long lines and the economic dire straits. Don’t be surprised at some point if Democrats talk about the Trump years, when people can’t buy toilet paper.

Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher, of course, will support Trump. But he sees a potential political fallout and, in his view, it doesn’t have to be this way.

“The impact is not on the disease, but the fear of it. This isn’t anywhere close to the standard flu, which kills (about 36,000) people a year. This is a time for precaution, but not a time for panic and not a time for fear. We’ve been through more difficult things than this,” he says.

“I want to be careful not to undersell it (the coronavirus), because there is a potentially large health threat. But it doesn’t mean we should stop living,” Fulcher said. “Yes, we need to be careful. Wash your hands, stay clean, use the sanitizer, and you don’t have to be in large groups. At the same time, this is America and let’s don’t let this thing take us out.”

Fulcher says the United States should not be compared to Italy and other countries that are having more severe problems with the coronavirus. As flawed as our health care system is, it’s still the best in the world, and there’s no shortage of running water and flushing toilets (only toilet paper).

So, as Fulcher sees it, there should be no reason for widespread panic and hoarding – people buying 10 times more than they need of various items.

What’s unique about this crisis is that Republicans are not ones who usually panic. Ronald Reagan calmly turned around the “malaise” of the Carter years, and made political optimism fashionable. After the “9-11” terrorist attack, it was George W. Bush who marched to the mound at Yankee Stadium during a World Series game and fired a perfect strike. Those guys had swagger.

But there’s no swag these days with Trump, who is telling us to stay away from crowds of more than 10. He can’t seem to shake the criticism about being slow to respond to the pandemic. You can bet that Democrats are just getting warmed up.

At the moment, Trump can’t even get all his fellow Republicans on board to support the emergency supplemental relief package aimed at helping ease the economic pain for individuals and businesses. Idaho’s two House members split, with Congressman Mike Simpson voting for and Fulcher against.

Simpson says he was backing Trump on this one. “The bill includes critical funding for testing, enhanced food security for our more vulnerable citizens, and economic stability provisions to help businesses and employees around country.”

Fulcher says he voted against, partly because the House essentially was voting for a draft, opposed to the bill itself. He added that part of the package had nothing to do with the coronavirus.

“I have this habit … I like to see something before I vote on it, especially when I’m spending other people’s money. We haven’t seen a final draft on it, and call me skeptical, but I don’t trust the drafters of this stuff to do exactly what they say,” he said. “I also don’t like the overreach on small businesses. There’s a mandate that small businesses must have two-week pay provisions … and that’s going to financially kill some people.”

Fulcher was hoping the Senate would make changes to the House bill, which would give him another shot at the issue.

A better idea, in his way of thinking, is for Americans to return to normal activities … and let the good times roll.

Chuck Malloy, a long-time Idaho journalist, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com.