Trump: The Man in the Arena

By: - March 26, 2020

Approximately 110 years ago President Theodore Roosevelt penned his famous essay, “The Man in the Arena.” Roosevelt’s words of wisdom, “it is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” have incredible relevance today.

President Trump in the Arena
Today’s critics are a mass of liberal media interests aligned with the Democratic Party. They set out to destroy President Trump using illegal, unconstitutional methods that would have sent most men or women running or beaten them into submission. But President Trump is neither broken nor bent. Donald J. Trump has stood in this arena virtually alone, facing all comers, with a face marred by dust and sweat and blood, believing that his instincts reflect the desires of the majority of Americans. Having survived extra-constitutional attacks by the National Security apparatus he inherited, and a contrived impeachment effort, he now faces the double threat of pandemic and national economic impairment.

Nevertheless, Trump strives valiantly. He has chosen a world-class team: Vice President Pence, Ambassador Birx, Dr. Fauci, and Surgeon General Adams, to advise and drive policy in the fight against COVID-19. Though the numbers are disturbing – possibly 140,000 could face hospitalization and intensive care in New York alone – this is nowhere near what the world faced in 1919 with the onset of the Spanish Flu, an early coronavirus. More than fifty million people died in that pandemic, in a world much less populated a century ago.

Trump is human, and he errs from time to time, for example by thinking out loud, giving voice to his concerns about restarting the economy, before the population has had time to come to terms with the fight against the virus. However, he is right about the need to find balance in defeating the virus while still ensuring the survival of the economy. There is no one with Trump’s enthusiasm and devotion to defeating this or any emergent enemy.

Our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters will run into the breach daily. Trump needs to consider in advance how we can support America’s new wave of defenders and the unexpected challenges they may face.
Trump’s moment has arrived. Everything he has done in his life comes together now, for this moment. While the media and the Democrats are focused on preventing his reelection, his attention is focused instead on saving hundreds of thousands of American lives, and millions of American jobs.

The United States of America will prevail, but dark days loom ahead. Before the virus can overtake our public health system Trump would be wise to address the nation in stark terms, and thank those moving into the trenches. The vanguard of our response to the attacks of 11 September 2001 were overwhelmingly young men, CIA and Special Operations soldiers fighting against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Doctors, Nurses, Public Health Specialists in the Arena
This battle, which is equally dangerous, will be fought by doctors, nurses, nursing assistants and public health specialists. An overwhelming number of them are women. There is currently no vaccine and we do not yet understand the consequences of continued and repeated exposure to COVID-19. Our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters will run into the breach daily. No one anticipated that those working at Ground Zero at the World Trade Center would face a lifetime of damaged health. Trump needs to consider in advance how we can support America’s new wave of defenders and the unexpected challenges they may face.

Theodore Roosevelt closed his essay The Man in the Arena with the phrase, “so that his place would never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” Given the enormity of the threat of COVID-19, it looks like a generation of medical personnel and health workers have also entered the arena. Their place won’t be with those cold or timid souls either.


Gary Berntsen is a former Senior CIA Operations Officer and Chief of Station. Berntsen is the author of Jawbreaker, The Attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Berntsen led CIA Paramilitary Forces in Eastern Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 seizing Kabul and he was the architect of the Battle of Tora Bora. Berntsen is the recipient of the CIA’s Intelligence Star and Distinguished Intelligence Medal.