A few days ago, a story broke about US Navy Captain Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the Navy nuclear aircraft carrier the USS Theodore Roosevelt, who sent an email to 20-plus recipients in the Navy. He very eloquently expressed his dismay that his ship, which was in quarantine in Guam, still had its crew on board. He said the virus was spreading and they had to get the sailors off the ship and, further, since we are not at war, sailors shouldn’t be dying. It is axiomatic in the service you don’t go public with this kind of a thing, by going outside the chain of command, especially where you can expect someone is going to leak it to the media. It was leaked and a story ran in the San Francisco Chronicle. Trump was asked about it at his press briefing and, initially, Trump was critical of the captain. Trump clearly views it as his military, his Navy, his ships and, as we all know, he tends to treat all whistleblowers as if they were being personally disloyal to him. The acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, immediately relieved the captain of his command, despite advice from the chief of naval operations and others that they should first do an investigation before acting. Modly, I suspect, was trying to show Trump that, despite some problems with the Navy in the past, under his direction it could be decisive and knew how to carry out Trump’s wishes. If Modly was expecting to score some brownie points with Trump, he soon discovered he had been a bit rash. Crozier, in his farewell talk to his crew of several thousand, was cheered and applauded, because, to them, he was a hero. He was a man who had sacrificed his Navy career, clearly had given up his opportunity to become an admiral (as happens to many carrier captains), to protect the health and safety of his sailors. Of course, the videos of his farewell talk were all over TV and the internet, and most saw it as a heroic, self-sacrificing act by the captain. Modly was in trouble and he clearly knew it. Trump is always much more concerned with how something plays than what actually happened and he then did a Trumpian 180 degree turn (old Navy term) and now said he was going to look in to it, which in Trumpese means he smelled the wind shifting so he was shifting. Modly might have survived all this if he was politically astute, but like many of Trump’s appointments they are so concerned with Trump’s reaction to everything that he made another crucial error. He decided to speak to the crew of the Theodore Roosevelt, docked in G am, and in his personal remarks to them, which of course were all recorded, he accused Captain Crozier of being either “naive or stupid” and his remarks were immediately all over the press, TV and digital media. His speech blew up in his face and, a day or so later, he was the ex-Acting Secretary of the Navy. Frankly, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Trump picks up the phone, calls the incoming secretary of the Navy and tells him that he wants Crozier promoted to admiral, and Trump want to personally pin the stars on him in a ceremony at the White House. When the Navy tells him there is a careful process they go through in selecting admirals, Trump’s response is going to be, “I’m the Commander in Chief and I just changed the process.” The entire episode is typical of the operational problem with the Trump administration. Good people won’t join it because no one can do a good job if you have to be constantly looking over your shoulder to gauge Trump’s reactions, which can be highly changeable and mercurial. So, I suspect that many people who do join him are all just trying to build a resume, staying just long enough to be respectable, keep their heads down and finally get out to go on to something saner and more profitable. Ex-Acting Secretary Modly just didn’t understand how the game is played.
A brief update on the federal bailout / rescue or whatever they are calling it—the plan to help small business survive the shutdown of the American economy. We applied for the payroll plan, which pays your payroll and some basic expenses for about two months, via a forgivable loan through a bank all done with an SBA guarantee for the bank. We got our paperwork in quickly and, fortunately, have a track record with the SBA, and also working through 1st Choice Bank in Cerritos, and a VP, Tiffany Natividad, whom we have worked with before and we know is very efficient and helpful. We even got all of our paperwork in before the jump-off date for the program. They congratulated us on speed and efficiency and then advised us they already had 500 applications as of a few days ago. We don’t know if we are No. 1 or No. 500 or something in between. It’s clear that all of the banks have been inundated with applications; in fact, the treasury is going back to congress to ask them for another $200 billion or so, in addition to the $350 billion already approved. It’s going to be a while before we get any money, how much of a while none of us know.
I’m sad to report that there have been two deaths in Malibu related to COVID-19: John Bell, a retired contractor, and Emeritus Professor Wayne Strom of Pepperdine. Stay healthy and stay safe. The virus is here among us.