Looks like it’s going to get nasty between Trump and Cuomo, and maybe other governors, from now on


The irony of yesterday’s announcement of federal guidelines for reopening is that it seemed like a moment when everyone was on the same page. “It’s your call,” Trump said to U.S. governors about the timetable. The guidelines he released were praised as judicious, even if they were light on specifics about how we’re going to ramp up testing in the near term. There was finally a common script from which all would be working together going forward.

But after his “liberation” tweets this morning, followed by the one about the states taking responsibility for testing, in hindsight it feels more like a divorce being finalized. The phase where the feds and the states were working together on things like ventilators and field hospitals is over. The new phase is the one where the states are supposed to take the lead in all key facets, with the feds doing something or other to help — keeping international supply chains moving, hopefully — but otherwise staying in the background. That means Trump no longer has to play nice with governors and governors no longer have to play nice with him.

I’m writing this shortly before the evening press briefing is about to begin. We’ll see if his comments there prove me right. Jay Inslee has already stopped pulling punches, though:

Trump, meanwhile, was focused this morning on Cuomo, the governor with the biggest TV audience for his daily briefings:

You Might Like

The president was restrained under the circumstances. Watch the clip at the end of this post from today’s briefing and you’ll find Cuomo brutalizing him for minutes on end. He doesn’t raise his voice, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Democrat lay into Trump for that long outside a campaign setting.

What’s going to turn up the heat on the Trump/governor standoff is growing public awareness of the shortfall in testing and how it’s impeding reopening for business. Trump will point at the governors, the governors will point at him. Experts say we need to two to three times as many tests as we’re doing now to ensure that monitoring of new local outbreaks is adequate. There’s no plan in sight, per the AP:

“There are places that have enough test swabs, but not enough workers to administer them. There are places that are limiting tests because of the CDC criteria on who should get tested,” said Dr. Megan Ranney an emergency doctor and associate professor at Brown University. “There’s just so many inefficiencies and problems with the way that testing currently happens across this country.”…

This week governors, physician groups and laboratory directors called on the Trump administration to address shortages of swabs, protective gear and highly specialized laboratory chemicals needed to analyze the virus’ genetic material. Hospitals and state health departments report scouring the globe to secure orders, competing against each other and their peers abroad in a system that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., described as “mayhem.”

“The federal government cannot wipe their hands of this and say, ‘Oh, the states are responsible for testing,’” Cuomo said Friday as he complained of a shortage of chemicals manufactured in China. “I don’t do China relations. I don’t do international supply chain.”

“We are weeks if not months away from having a sufficient number of tests,” said former CDC director Tom Frieden to the Hill. Some officials want Trump to use military power to fill the gap: Ted Cruz is nudging him to use the Defense Production Act to produce testing supplies whereas Inslee wants him to deputize the Pentagon itself to put its supply chain to use. The politics of passing the buck to the states will be hard for Trump because of how Americans look to the federal government in a crisis.

Here’s Cuomo. In lieu of an exit question, note that the Wall Street Journal is reporting no fewer than 4,591 Americans died from COVID-19 in the 24 hours between 8 p.m. ET Wednesday and 8 p.m. ET Thursday. Why the daily death toll, which had been flat at around 2,500 daily, would nearly double overnight is unclear. Presumably some jurisdictions are backlogged in their counting or they’re adding “probable” deaths to the toll. Whatever the answer, 4,591 is far beyond the number killed on 9/11 and ever so slightly more than the entirety of American troops killed in action during eight years of the Iraq war. That’s the cultural backdrop to the debate we’re about to have over whether it’s safe to reopen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *