Hannah Rosenthal (WI): ‘This May Well be Trump’s Undoing’
Hannah Rosenthal (68), a Democrat from Madison, WI, originally thought she would follow her father, a 16th-generation rabbi, into the family business. Instead, she became a “professional Jew” and a “professional feminist.” Rosenthal has held a range of political and government roles, including Midwest regional director at the Department of Health and Human Services (Clinton administration) and the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism (Obama administration).
What do you think about the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic?
I think the federal response has been confusing, late and embarrassing. The president started by calling this pandemic a “hoax” and moved to the “China flu” and is far more concerned about industries suffering than the illness and about regular poor or middle-class people. His daily reports have people squeezed together and shaking hands–exactly the opposite of what we are being told to do.
What do you think about the response in your state/community?
The Wisconsin response has been swift and clear and shows strong leadership. We are almost completely shut down and our state government is working to get the necessary medical equipment, tests and medications. It is helpful to be calming and clear when what we are seeing at the national level is so weak and contrary.
Has the threat from the virus been overblown?
I do not think our response is overblown. There are many who still believe this is a “hoax” which will hurt with the compliance we are trying to do to stop covid–19. When I see the Florida news about the beaches being full, it is clear the national messaging has not been sufficient. While as a 68-year-old, I know I am at higher risk, many others are acting like it might not matter.
If you are a Trump supporter or leaning toward voting for Trump, has his administration’s response to the pandemic affected your support for the president?
I am not a Trump supporter. I do think this virus and the lack of federal leadership is showing the country the incompetence of our government. Today I watched the markets crash again, negating the entire gains of the last three years. Trump will be hurt by his handling of this, even some of his base is concerned. This may well be Trump’s undoing.
During the most recent debate, who do you think was strongest in responding to questions about the pandemic—Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders? Who do you think won the debate?
The debate showed what Presidential leadership looks like. Both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders showed an all-of-government strategic thinking we want from our leaders. They both showed compassion and concern about how this is affecting people’s lives. They oozed sincerity and caring. The contrast was profound. While they both did a very good job at the debate, I thought that Joe Biden ‘won.’ Bernie seemed resigned to the reality that he was not going to be the nominee. They confronted each other on issues and were almost cordial. I think Biden was starting to reach out to the Sanders’ supporters and came across as beginning the general campaign. I was delighted that he committed to choosing a woman as VP.
Are you concerned about casting your ballot during the pandemic? Have you or did you already vote absentee?
I have voted by mail–our primary is April 7th and there is a strong push for early and mail-in voting in Wisconsin.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I think this is going to be a long haul. And I will finally have time to learn how to use all this technology!