Reprinted with permission from Alternet
As President Donald Trump’s administration has repeatedly botched the response to the coronavirus crisis, he has tried to avoid taking responsibility for key aspects of the emergency management and shift it to others. In particular, he has tried to encourage state governors to manage their own crises, even as they often lack the resources wielded by the federal government.
“Governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work,” Trump said on Thursday at a White House press briefing, referring, in part, to the acquisition of hospital supplies. “The federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items, and then shipping. We’re not a shipping clerk. As with testing — the governors are supposed to be doing it.”
This echoed his previous remarks to governors on a conference call Monday, according to the New York Times.
“Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — trying getting it yourselves,” Trump reportedly said. “We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better — much more direct if you can try getting it yourselves.”
And of course, the failure of the U.S. testing regime was the original sin of the Covid-19 crisis in the country; it’s no surprise that Trump is now trying to avoid responsibility.
But officials are pushing back, explaining why Trump’s plan isn’t working.
“We took very seriously the push you made previously on one of these calls that we should not just rely on the stockpile and that we should go out and buy stuff and put in orders, and try to create pressure on manufacturers and distributors,” said Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on a Thursday conference call. “And I’ve got to tell you, on three big orders, we lost to the feds. So my question is: Could you give some of these guys some guidance that says, you know, if states are doing what the feds want, and trying to create their own supply chain on this, then people should be responsive to that? Because I’ve got a feeling that if somebody has a chance to sell to you or has a chance to sell to me, I’m going to lose every one of those.”
Trump had no answer to this question and just directed Vice President Mike Pence to respond. Pence, too, had no real response.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, too, pointed out the gaping hole in Trump’s “leave it to the states” plan.
“States, left to their own devices, can’t solve this. Maximum utility is not achieved by 50 different responses,” Murphy said in a tweet, responding to the president’s remarks on Thursday. “For instance, what if one state has a major manufacturer who can immediately produce thousands of masks. That state’s incentive is to hoard and protect, not share.”
The core problem is that the federal government has the resources and the authority to coordinate and respond to the growing crisis across the country, but Trump has been unwilling or unable to marshal the forces needed to respond to the demands of the situation.
Susan Rice, the former ambassador to the United Nations under President Barack Obama, lashed out at the president on Twitter on Wednesday for being reluctant to use the Defense Production Act to manufacture needed medical supplies.