Not Unlike a Horrible Accident
How a comedian failed Ukraine's biggest challenge
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on January 30, 2020.
One day later, Zelensky declared to Ukrainians and the world that the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ukraine was “completely controlled and remained in the field of his constant attention.”
The president said Ukrainian health officials were continuously monitoring the spread of the virus abroad and taking preventive measures inside the country.
Two months has passed. Less than 2,000 Ukrainians have been tested for the virus, which is now spreading in communities nationwide. The country remains mired in political chaos and economic confusion, distracted by the unpredictable zeal of its narcissist leader.
What went wrong?
Zelensky devoted much of February to undermining his handpicked incompetent ministers. He spent March seeking advice from the nation’s rent-seeking oligarchs while using law-enforcement agencies to persecute his political rivals. Bullshitting Ukraine’s international benefactors was also a priority.
It’s impossible to establish exactly the point during his 10-month tenure when function lost is lustre, when churning out hopeful-sounding memes became secondary to their presentation on YouTube, when the cult of haughty ego took hold.
In a country where politicians and officials tend to frequently change partners, flitting in and out of the President’s Office with almost a sinful absence of fidelity, Zelensky has facilitated the reincarnation of Yanukovych-era flunkies, including current Health Minister Illia Yemets, who said money shouldn’t be wasted keeping citizens over 65 years old alive. Worse, Zelensky stills hangs out shingles offering hope for ending a Russia’s six-year invasion through disengagement.
The result isn't unlike a horrible accident, except it’s been caused by an unemployed actor desperate for attention and applause. You want to laugh and be entertained, but you also want to avoid becoming a victim and paying too much attention to the horribleness of the grisly deaths he has failed to prevent.