Opinion brief: Let’s cut our political leaders a little slack

These are difficult, frustrating, stressful times and everyone is on edge. The angst has ratcheted up several notches as decisions are made about schools opening – or not — and under what conditions.

Public opinion is divided on just about everything related to the coronavirus, and some folks are looking for someone to blame. One easy target, of course, is Gov. Gary Herbert. He’s either too prescriptive or not prescriptive enough. He’s opening up the economy too soon or too late. He’s either pushing schools too hard to open, or he’s not dictating to them enough.

There’s a lot of talk about leadership. Some liberal politicians and some in the news media say Herbert should be taking tough actions — and disregard public opinion. They seem to really want a tyrant to tell them – and you and me – what to do, and use the coercive power of government to enforce it.

Actually, they want a tyrant, but only under two conditions: 1. The tyrant can’t be Donald Trump. 2. The tyrant has to agree with their positions.

In their view, if Herbert declines to be the tyrant they want, then he’s not showing strong leadership.

On the other hand, there are plenty of voices among the “rugged individualists” who believe Herbert has gone too far in dictating behavior, and the economy has been wrecked as a result.

Personally, I believe Herbert and his team, and also legislative leaders, have done an excellent job dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. Herbert has been very active and engaged, has communicated effectively, has listened to his health experts and followed the science, and has struck the right balance as he has faced tough choices.

He will never please everyone, and he shouldn’t try.

I am reminded of a something I heard back in the ’70s from an old investigative reporter named Jack Anderson. I was working as an intern for him in Washington, D.C. He spoke before a group of students and talked about how corrupt politicians were, how they couldn’t get anything done, and how they were mostly concerned about re-election. After he concluded, a student asked this question: “If you’re so smart, Mr. Anderson, why don’t you run for office yourself?”

I will always remember Anderson’s answer: “Are you kidding?” he said. “I’d much rather be up in the stands yelling ‘throw the bum out’ than be down there pitching myself!”

We have plenty of fickle fans up in the stands. This is a hard-fought game and I’m thankful we have a handful of real competitors down on the field, doing their best under difficult circumstances, playing their hearts out. I’m glad Gov. Herbert and his team are down there pitching. Given the unprecedented nature of this crisis, they will throw some balls, and even a few wild pitches. But I believe they are striking the right balance and making the right decisions.

We can get through this crisis more quickly, and get our children back in school and our economy humming, if we join them on the field by voluntarily following recommended health protocols – wearing masks and social distancing. And we could use a little more teamwork. We should give our leaders a few cheers as they take on a tough opponent.