Editorial: Stand down, Mr. President: West Point should not bring graduating cadets back for a Trump commencement address

Tribune Content Agency

Like an addict jonesing for his next fix, President Donald Trump seems to chafe at how social distancing restrictions are preventing him from performing before his campaign rallies.

The president appears to have settled on an acceptable substitute — a June 13 graduation ceremony for the U.S. Military Academy. Having spoken to graduating classes at the Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force academies over the last three years, Trump wants to check off West Point this year.

Like any addict, Trump is unconcerned about the damage he could cause to those around him. Yes, it’s six weeks out, but there’s no reason to believe that New York state, nor the academy itself, is prepared to host a graduation ceremony amidst a pandemic.

Fortunately, West Point may be subtly trying to signal to the commander in chief that bringing back 1,000 men and women in relatively close proximity during a pandemic, in contravention of current administration public health guidelines, is not the greatest idea.

A press release on April 22 included the line, “The Class of 2020 will return to campus in time for the June 13 graduation ceremony.” That language is scrubbed from an edited release now posted in its place.

With damn good reason. The reinitiation of large gatherings is in phase two of the White House’s own state reopening guidelines. New York won’t be initiating phase one until mid-May at the earliest; West Point follows state direction.

So, with the Navy already confronting serious outbreaks on two vessels — the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier and the missile destroyer USS Kidd — here’s the pressing question for the military and its commander in chief:

Which is more important, facilitating a terrific photo op for the commander in chief or preventing the possibility of a COVID-19 boomlet right up the Hudson from the first U.S. hotspot?


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