October Surprise or House on Fire?

House on Fire: Leadership in the moments of crisis

Date: Saturday, October 3rd, 2020, around 2 am

We were all still shellshocked from the debate Tuesday night. This presidential debate on Tuesday was the first of the three series. One of the journalists on CNN called it a “sh$7show”, which was an understatement. Trump behaved like a petulant schoolyard bully in front of 73 Million Americans watching the debates live. He yelled, screamed, lied, and babbled incessantly and incoherently during the majority of the 90-minute “clusterf#$k.” Varoon, my 16-year-old son, watched the debate with a few of his high school friends at one of his classmates’ homes. I texted him about 45 minutes into the debate with a message, “This is f&^$n’ disgusting to watch.” I rarely use foul language in front of kids, and this is the first time I ever texted this as the debate was just incredible to watch. The aftermath of this debate continued for two days — Trump’s refusal to condemn the white supremacists outright puzzled everyone. Varoon was preparing for his polititeen podcast last night, and we discussed Trump’s response to condemning white supremacy groups. If someone asked our local elected official if he/she condemns Al Qaeda, they would probably say without any pause — “Yes, I condemn Al Qaeda, and they are disgusting people,” or something to that effect. The candidate wouldn’t ask for names of the terrorists that need condemnation or wouldn’t say something like Al Qaeda group — stand back and stand by” or worse, “there are bad people on both sides,” or “our US soldiers should be accountable too,” or something to that effect. Almost every time he was asked to condemn white supremacy or the groups leading violence in its name, Trump equivocated, pivoted, and tried to change the focus. During the debate, he called out Proud Boys, a heinous, violent group, to “stand down, and stand by” and then pivoted to “someone has to do something about ANTIFA and rioters.” Trump’s prevarication continued to dominate news all day on Friday, three days after the debate.

As a routine, I listened to “Pod Save America” this morning and caught up on the debate and the podcasters’ views on the event. Pod Save America is an excellent resource for politically inclined progressives as the hosts were members of Obama’s inner circle and led campaign activities during the years 2008 and 2012. Despite being strong progressives, they try to be as well-grounded as possible when analyzing the news of the week and provide perspectives on how America, in general, has been reacting to the current events as well. The debate coverage was fun to hear as Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor confirmed some of my observations on Donald Trump’s general disposition, his shameless lying, and race-baiting. Like every episode I heard so far, it was also revealing. The podcasters outlined some potential weaknesses with Biden’s performance. That’s something I like about this show as they try to neutralize the “echo chamber” problem by trying to view things from the perspective of the other side. During one of the most engaging conversations about the debate, the hosts pointed out the dishonesty of Trump’s comment “no negative effects” from his “mask free” MAGA rallies. The hosts reminded the listeners about the death of Herman Cain after a massive MAGA rally in Tulsa.

It was a typical Thursday evening, and Veda and I had fun viewing and talking about some old musical.ly Videos that she made a couple of years ago. I continued my experiments with brava, our new countertop oven that comes with hundreds of predefined recipes today. We have been cooking some excellent meals on brava for the last three weeks. We did run into an “Oven on fire” problem when Veda tried to make bacon and eggs the second day it arrived, possibly because of some initial misunderstanding about the oven. Varoon and Veda are quite comfortable with the stove and oven around the house now, but when they were young, we had a standing rule of “House on Fire” situations when I was working from home. They both agreed that if I am in a meeting, they would yell or scream only in case of extreme emergencies. We made this rule 5 years ago, and this was executed the first time the day after opening the brava. I excused myself from my zoom meeting and rushed to put off the fire in panic. As I was trying to find the oven mitts and drop the burning plate in the sink with the water faucet turned on, I could think about the hypothetical situation where this happened when I am not around. We talked about such exigencies at our dinner table that day, all three of us laughed out loud a couple of hours later at the silliness of it all. I decided to buy a fire extinguisher for home and teach both my kids how to use them as a further safety precaution.

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After this incident, I have been cooking meals every day in this innovative and simple oven. I tried to make Chicken Tandoori today. It turned out more like curry-flavored chicken drumsticks, very likely because of the faulty spice mix or my inability to follow instructions. We enjoyed the meal regardless, as the chicken came out perfectly juicy and very flavorful.

As my routine, I turned on my nightly news recap “11th hour with Brian Williams”. Though I am a staunch progressive, I can barely handle the constant barrage of conspiracy theories on MSNBC. The only show I enjoy on MSNBC is the “11th hour” as he brings out leading journalists as they file their stories at Washington Post, Politico, New York Times, and other leading outlets for the next day. I didn’t expect much to happen this late in the hour as the POTUS probably finished his rallies and chopper talks for the day. I did not expect there will be an “October Surprise” tonight. The news started with Hope Hicks, Trump’s senior campaign manager, tested positive for COVID19. POTUS tweeted that he is waiting for his test results and beginning the “quarantine process.” The journalists and Brian Williams discussed what it all meant, and how Hope Hicks was in close contact with Trump and his inner circle.

I shut down the TV around midnight and decided to retire for the day. I was just about to enter deep sleep, and Varoon yelled out, “Daddy!!!!” and used his “House on Fire” voice. Once I gathered myself and came out of the bedroom, Varoon explained that Trump tested positive for COVID19. This situation was similar to a “House on Fire” moment for my politically charged house — as we have been involved with local politics and campaign activities to the best of our abilities. Over the last few weeks, we discussed how POTUS put himself and his supporters at risk by having in-person activities during RNC and organizing Whitehouse briefings — flouting all guidelines and safeguards recommended by the CDC. Trump’s open hostility and deceit is the reason why the majority of Republicans believe COVID19 is a hoax, and they refuse to wear masks at public gatherings. This behavior not only puts them and their families at risk, but risks other innocent lives of people around them as well. I am sure the majority of Republicans care for their own lives and their loved ones. They are supposed to be the party of “pro-life” after all. The party cares for the lives of unborn infants. Why would they be careless about their own lives and their families well being?. Despite all the rationale for self-preservation, the republican party became the party of “anti-maskers” and “covid19-deniers” as this crisis questions their beloved leader Donald Trump’s leadership skills. Donald Trump’s reelection would have been easy if he displayed strength, discipline, and focus, as George W Bush demonstrated after 9/11. However, he lacks the self-discipline to stay focused and fight. When his National Security team, Centers for Disease Control, and scientists yelling “House on Fire,” — POTUS ignored it. When the house was burning down, Our President decided to say that everything was okay, and the “house burning down thing?” that was fake news. Our nation’s top executive forgot the basic fact that he was inside this house, along with his family, his supporters, and the rest of the nation.

With the recent diagnosis, President Trump will, unfortunately, face the consequences of his inaction and incompetence first hand. I wish him and the first lady a speedy recovery and do not doubt his return back to normalcy very soon. After all, he has all the best resources at his disposal — the most reputable hospital in the world, copious staff to address his needs, the most suitable living quarters, unrestricted tests, CEOs of major companies at his becoming call, and controlled guest screening. He is the leader of the free world; after all, he deserves all the world’s attention and amenities.

I am sure our beloved President Trump and the first lady will recover very soon. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about the 7 million+ other Americans who contracted the virus, who are struggling to make ends meet, and stay alive during the worst global crisis in our living memory.