Politics Governs Trump’s Pandemic Response

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April 2, 2020 6:40 p.m.
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Over and over again, President Donald Trump has made one thing clear to governors in need of help during the COVID-19 pandemic: “I want them to be appreciative.”

That is, appreciative of the President and his administration’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

No matter that Trump spent weeks downplaying the pandemic, delayed local responses and sowed doubt in his supporters’ minds. This is about politics, and Trump has said so.

“It’s a two-way street,” he said last week, referring to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others who had criticized the federal government’s pandemic response. “They have to treat us well, also.”

And what happens when they don’t? Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) found out over the weekend, when Trump tweeted that “Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer is way in over her ahead, she doesn’t have a clue.”

“Likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude!” Trump exclaimed.

The President wasn’t just talk: As states across the country have fought to get their hands on a piece of the governments strategic stockpile of masks, gloves and other supplies, Trump’s biases appear to have been reflected in the allocation of those goods.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the government’s stockpile was nearly depleted. Whitmer and the state of Michigan had received just “a fraction” of what they’d requested, the Post reported.

Florida, meanwhile — a must-win state for Trump in 2020 and home to a close ally of his, Gov. Ron DeSantis — got everything it asked for and more.

Just days after requesting hundreds of thousands of masks, in addition to respirators and other equipment, from the government, Florida received the shipment. The state got another shipment two weeks later, the Post reported, and was waiting on yet another shipment as of earlier this week.

Why did Florida receive all of what it requested while other states didn’t? A reporter asked Trump on Sunday.

“Well, Florida, they are very aggressive in trying to get things, and they are doing a very good job,” Trump responded.

But DeSantis, on the contrary, infamously delayed a state-wide “stay-at-home” order until Wednesday — long after other hard-hit states implemented the measure, and even after news reports showed spring breakers from across the country crowding Florida’s beaches.

Whitmer, despite the paltry offering from the federal government, seems to have recognized the trend.

“We’re grateful for the work that they’re doing,” she said of the federal government.

Even when Trump has adhered to the advice of public health experts, politics was reportedly top-of-mind.

Ahead of acceding to the advice of experts and abandoning his plan to reopen the country — and discourage extreme social distancing measures — by Easter, Trump was advised about the polling.

According to The New York Times on Monday, before Trump announced his change of heart, “Political advisers described for him polling that showed that voters overwhelmingly preferred to keep containment measures in place over sending people back to work prematurely.”

Here’s what else we were watching this week:

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

TPM’s COVID-19 hub.
Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.
COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).
Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world).
Worldometers.info (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).
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