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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Editorial: Abbott’s decision to reopen Texas unmasks his incompetence

It’s official: Greg Abbott is a moron.

With Texans still suffering from the state’s mind-boggling incompetence in the face of a devastating winter storm, the governor decided to kill some more of us by removing the restrictions previously imposed on businesses and individuals to protect everyone from COVID-19.

Abbott made the announcement Tuesday in a highly touted, self-congratulatory speech delivered at a Mexican restaurant in Lubbock.

Abbott, who apparently wants to be seen as the emerging leader of the brain-dead wing of the Republican Party, has failed every test of leadership he has faced during his lackluster six-year tenure as governor of Texas. He was slow to react to the pandemic when it started, failing to enact protective measures such as lockdowns and mask mandates until the disease was wildly out of control all across the state. When he finally took action, his decisions were half-hearted and made with a wink and a nod meant to cover his right flank by letting hard-core conservatives know that his actions were taken under the duress of political pressure, not because he believed in them.

And when local officials in the state tried to crack down on those who blatantly violated restrictions that scientific evidence had shown could save lives he undermined them, pointing out that the governor was the state’s supreme commander in the war against COVID.

Now, with only a fraction of the state’s population vaccinated against coronavirus and new variants challenging the effectiveness of the vaccines being distributed, Abbott has concluded that the threat of illness and death from COVID-19 is so insignificant that we can, for all practical purposes, stop worrying about it.

For crying out loud, governor, who is giving you advice? Donald Trump? Or maybe you’ve adopted the philosophy of Alfred E. Neuman, the goofy-looking Mad magazine character who popularized the catchphrase, “What – Me Worry?”

Don’t misunderstand, folks. We hate these mandates as much as everyone else does. Nobody likes wearing a mask – or, lately, two masks – and we especially hate the restrictions on restaurants and other businesses that have been ravaged by the economic wreckage wrought by COVID. But now is not the time to abandon the fight.

We’ve come so far. We’ve suffered so much. We’ve lost so many lives and livelihoods. There have been so many times over the past year that hope seemed lost, that recovery seemed unreachable, that a return to life as we knew it seemed an impossible dream.

But now, finally, there is hope. There is light at the end of this dark, debilitating tunnel. People are being vaccinated. Infections and deaths have plateaued to some degree. But the vaccine rollouts have been inconsistent, marked by missteps and mishaps that may or may not have been avoidable but which have slowed the process of putting vaccine in people’s arms. We have made a start but there is a long way to go.

How on earth can we justify getting so close to a possible return to normalcy and saying, “Oh, to hell with it, let’s just get back to normal now!”

Abbott says he trusts Texans to do the right thing, to act responsibly by adhering to tried and true precautions to protect themselves and others. Seriously? Surely he knows that many people have ignored the mandates and that many others have complied reluctantly. Does he really believe people will wear masks and comply with social distancing now that he’s  declared they don’t have to?

All we can do is hope that this governor who’s been wrong about virtually everything is right when he says that Texans will do the right thing. All we can do is hope that people will voluntarily wear masks, practice social distancing, wash their hands …

All we can do is hope that Abbott’s constituents will show that they care about protecting themselves and their fellow Texans even if their governor doesn’t.

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