By: Mark Glennon*
Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot should start acting solely in the city’s interest instead of playing politics, especially racial politics. That means exclusive focus on the crisis at hand.
A month ago she brushed off the threat of the the coming health and financial crisis, claiming Chicago was fully prepared and the federal government was overreacting. Her latest message is that use of the term “Chinese virus” is false and racist.
On February 26 Lightfoot accused the federal government of fear mongering and spreading panic, as the Chicago Sun-Times put it, saying,
I will candidly tell you that I was very disappointed with the comments of the CDC yesterday and members of the Trump administration around coronavirus…. We feel very well prepared to address this issue. And I don’t want people to take from the comments … at the federal level that, somehow, they should be worried and that we’re not prepared in this city. We absolutely are prepared… I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and suggest to the public that there’s a reason for them to be fearful.
Note that she made those comments a month after the gravity of the China virus threat was entirely apparent. Why did she dismiss the warnings anyway? Does anybody doubt the motivation was to poke a stick in Donald Trump’s eye?
Would Chicago be better off now if Lightfoot had taken federal warnings at face value and started preparing accordingly? Given the desperate efforts now underway to set surge emergency care and expand hospital capacity, it certainly appears an extra month would have helped.
Yet Lightfoot somehow now has the guts to say this Sunday on Twitter: [Trump] please step up and be a leader. While you have been yammering about hoaxes and fake news, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit all over America. @GovPritzker and others have filled this country’s leadership gap. Lead or get out of their way.” Blatant hypocrisy.
On Saturday Lightfoot delivered this message on Twitter:
COVID-19 is not the “Chinese virus.” It is a worldwide pandemic. My administration stands with the Asian community in rejecting these falsehoods and racism. Chicago’s response to this pandemic will be determined by science and compassion, not fear and bigotry.
Was that to strike a blow against “falsehood and racism” or a political stunt that’s actually divisive, insulting and not in Chicago’s interests?
Some of us like the term “Chinese virus” because, aside from being an accurate and conventional way to label an epidemic (e.g., Spanish flu, Ebola and the West Nile Virus), it’s a means of putting more pressure on the Chinese Communist Party. We feel strongly because the CCP is the most dangerous force on the planet. It bears much or all of the blame for the pandemic. It has enslaved 1.4 billion people under the the most complete surveillance state in history.
We don’t think that makes us racist, and we don’t take kindly to people who say it does, to put it mildly.
We also don’t like word cops telling us how to speak — under any circumstances.
We all know what’s really going on here. Lightfoot, like many politicians, takes every opportunity she can to take a shot at Donald Trump, who uses the Chinese virus term conspicuously. She brushed off the early warnings from from the Trump Administration because, well, it’s the Trump Administration. It would never have been claimed that “Chinese virus” is racist if Trump weren’t the most conspicuous user of the term. After all, much of the regular media were calling it the “Wuhan” or the “Chinese” virus during the initial months of the outbreak.
She doesn’t care how many others she is insulting.
Trump is “divisive and offensive,” she said earlier. Yes, he is. But that’s precisely Lightfoot’s intention as well: Use race to stoke political division. And Trump knows that if he says something edgy his opponents will overreact, insulting not just him but much of the rest of the country. And so the cycle of division deepens.
Those who Lightfoot has insulted include not just Trump but many in Congress who are at least as hawkish on China as Trump and use the same language. But where does Lightfoot figure she will get the money she needs to address Chicago’s fiscal crisis? They will bail her out, she thinks. “This is a B-sized problem, meaning something that can only be solved with billions in needed stimulus support from the federal government,” she said in her speech last Thursday.
Well, Trump is nothing if not vindictive, and plenty of others in the federal government will remember Lightfoot’s words and actions when she comes asking for help.
Lightfoot inherited a fiscal catastrophe for which neither she nor any major officeholder has ever presented a solution. Chicago now faces the additional shock of a potential humanitarian crisis and an economic downturn that could rival the Great Depression — a downturn for which it was the least prepared big city in the nation.
She’s not helping.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.