By pretending he has the power to "reopen the country" and then saying governors are the ones making the decisions, Donald Trump has realized that he can just scapegoat individual states and not have to suffer any political backlash. And it'll work, right up until the COVID-19 casualty rate starts hitting five figures a day.
President Trump released federal guidelines Thursday night for a slow and staggered return to normal in places with minimal cases of the novel coronavirus, moving to try to resume economic activity even amid an outcry from political and health leaders about the nation’s testing capacity.
Despite Trump’s desire for a May 1 reopening, his plan does not contain a date for implementation and is a vague set of recommendations for a three-phased reopening of businesses, schools and other gathering places in jurisdictions that satisfy broad criteria on symptoms, cases and hospital loads.
“America wants to be open and Americans want to be open,” Trump said. “A national shutdown is not a sustainable long-term solution. To preserve the health of our citizens, we must also preserve the health and functioning of our economy.”
The plan effectively reverses Trump’s claim earlier this week that he had “total authority” to declare the nation reopened. The federal guidelines shift accountability to governors and mayors, placing the onus on them to make decisions for their own states and localities based on their own assessments of the coronavirus’s spread and risk of resurgence.
“You’re going to call your own shots,” Trump told governors on a conference call Thursday, a recording of which was obtained by The Washington Post.
The White House guidelines are far less detailed than public health guidances drafted recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and sent to the coronavirus task force.
Trump’s the-buck-stops-with-the-states posture is largely designed to shield himself from blame should there be new outbreaks after states reopen or for other problems, according to several current and former senior administration officials involved in the response who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
There is no federal coronavirus response. None. What's going on is mass looting of the country by Republicans and their donors while the country suffers catastrophic economic losses.
The states are muddling through the best they can, along with the growing number of regional compacts. But anything that happens now, Trump thinks, will be on the governors.
He honestly believes he's done with COVID-19, and he can move on to other things. You'll see him try to do just that.
It will fail. A lot of people are going to die as a result. Things are going to be dire by June or so.
And Trump won't care.