Trump Punts Reopening Decision

[ Posted Thursday, April 16th, 2020 – 17:14 UTC ]

As many of the self-induced drama queen moments from Donald Trump tend to do, this one just fizzled away into nothing. The president is now calling for the decision to reopen the economy to be made by the individual governors, not the White House. This comes as relief for all those who were worried that Trump would throw the country into a constitutional crisis in the midst of a pandemic. Because what Trump is announcing even as I write this is nothing short of an admission of the status quo ante -- the ante being "before Trump's nonsense began," of course.

It was always going to be the governors' decisions to make, since Trump hadn't shown an iota of leadership when the country shut down. If he had, he might have had a case to make that it would then be up to him to decide to reopen, but he didn't do that, so that point is moot. The governors shut down their respective states' economies, therefore the governors would be the ones in charge of opening them back up again.

This Monday, Trump had yet another of those "L'état c'est moi" moments, when he decides that he is really Donald The First, King of America. He claimed his authority to order governors to do whatever he wanted was, in fact, "total." He backed this up with some inane tweets that are too silly to even bother looking up. He based his claim of dictatorial power on absolutely nothing, as usual. He insisted that there were "many" parts of the Constitution that said he had unlimited power over the governors, but of course he couldn't cite any of them, since they don't actually exist. All about par for the course for these misguided monarchical Trumpian moments, really.

The governors, of course, pushed back. Some of them even openly laughed at Trump's claim, which is entirely fitting since it was such a laughable thing to declare in the first place. Obviously, some sane individuals in the White House then had to sit Trump down and explain that, no, he didn't have the power to override the governors and in fact he had no power to reopen the country at all, since he had absolutely nothing to do with it shutting down in the first place. By Tuesday, Trump was still trying to insist that he and he alone had the power (by magnanimously declaring he would be "authorizing" the governors to make the decisions, despite having zero authority to do so), but it was a lot more weak than his outburst the day before. Thus began the walkback that finished today, with Trump announcing "guidelines" for the states that really don't answer any of the key unanswered questions, since they are so light on specifics (like the appropriate level of testing required). In other words, Trump just told the governors what they already knew anyway, while confirming that they were always the ones with all the power to make the decision, and not him.

Trump's motivation was pretty nakedly obvious -- he wanted to be the savior of the economy, but have absolutely no responsibility for the response failures so far (and in future). All the glory, none of the blame, in other words. He may have even timed today's announcement to counter the Thursday unemployment numbers drop, which totalled another five-plus million people on the unemployment rolls. This means that in the past four weeks, 22 million people have lost their jobs who qualify for unemployment checks. This does not count anyone who doesn't qualify for unemployment, however, meaning the true number of people out of work is going to be a lot higher. At just 22 million, though, America has now seen every job added since the Great Recession wiped out. Experts are predicting that the true unemployment rate now stands somewhere between 13 percent and 20 percent. In the depths of the Great Recession, it only ever hit 10 percent, by comparison.

Everybody wants to get back to work, of course, but nobody wants to see a second coronavirus wave as a result of doing so too quickly. Which is why the governors were never going to pay a whole lot of attention to Trump's fantastical target dates in the first place. Trump's now telling them to "call your own shots," which changes absolutely nothing since they were always going to call their own shots in any case. And they're going to do that depending on the data on the ground in each state, not what Donald Trump wants.

Trump must be seething at this outcome, because he has been denied the moment that he was really looking forward to -- him spreading his arms wide and declaring the U.S. economy back open once again. He would be given all the credit for getting everyone back to work, and he wouldn't have to share this stage with the likes of Andrew Cuomo or Gretchen Whitmer. He would be seen as the great decider and whatever date he picked off the calendar would guarantee that the pandemic was, in fact, over and done with (because the virus wouldn't dare to defy him, of course). Everything would soon return to normal, while Trump basked in the glow of praise from all Americans. That was Trump's plan, at any rate.

Instead, what Trump had to settle for was essentially admitting that he was powerless to make a decision that other people were always going to make anyway. He had no authority at all, he hasn't led in any way previously, and the states have largely been left to their own devices in the midst of a national emergency. If any of that had been different, then maybe an announcement from Trump about opening the economy back up might have carried some weight -- but he already squandered any opportunity of that happening.

So the entire week has been yet another run-through of the core Trump playbook -- create a crisis by inserting yourself into something out of the blue, flail around and offer wild suggestions that nobody pays any attention to, and then at some point declare that the crisis is now over because Trump masterfully moved back to where everyone else was at, before he caused the crisis in the first place. Monday: "I have total power to make this decision, and the governors have to do what I say." Tuesday: "I am authorizing the governors to make their own decisions." Thursday: "Call your own shots." And exit the drama queen, stage right. At least until the next self-induced fiasco, at any rate.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


44 Comments on “Trump Punts Reopening Decision”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    . Experts are predicting that the true unemployment rate now stands somewhere between 13 percent and 20 percent. In the depths of the Great Recession, it only ever hit 10 percent, by comparison.

    But, is that really a meaningful comparison. I mean, the Great Recession happened because of a global financial crisis while this economic downturn has been artificially and deliberately forced in response to a health crisis.

    It just seems that the conversation going on about unprecedented job loss, largely temporary or otherwise, needs to be couched not in the usual financial terms but rather in terms of a national and international health crisis.

    In other words, the usual remedies to contain a financial crisis just don't apply here.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I heard Governor Cuomo last night say that states contending with serious outbreaks do not and will not have the capacity to do what is required in terms of testing.

    President Trump has no national plan for testing or anything else nor even the inclination to provide one.

    The director general of the WHO, Dr. Tedros has repeatedly stressed the importance of global solidarity in the fight against this virus.

    He explained that unity at the national level spurs cooperation at the regional level which in turn allows for global solidarity.

    A national plan that entails a massive investment in public health architecture, testing, isolation, contact tracing and quarantine capacity and community education and empowerment seems essential.

    In the absence of such a national plan, how can peoples' lives and livelihoods be protected?

    Science, solutions and solidarity.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Is speaker Pelosi trying to ensure that states get the necessary funding to put in place mail-in ballot systems for November as part of the coronavirus response funding bills?

    I understand many states do this already in large part and it really isn't that hard to put in place and make it secure. Has the situation changed for the better since you last wrote about it in detail?

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Why is it, do you think, that some people may think that China may be the world leader?

  5. [5] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Social distance practice seems to be falling apart in my neighborhood. I made a grocery run on Monday (1st in 3 weeks) - all the staff and most of the shoppers had some form of mask and nearly all staff wore disposable gloves.

    On Thursday I had to make a quick revisit for toothpaste. Very few shoppers had either gloves or masks, and most of staff were doing the same. Sole exceptions: those employees manning the deli and the pharmacy. A very noticeable difference. On the plus side, the place was nearly in the disease transmission sense, not the economic sense.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    If the grocery store is nearly empty and physical distancing can be easily accommodated, then you don't really have to wear a mask, right? I mean, if you are using self scan and you don't have to speak to anyone?

    And, one of the things I have learned from watching the WHO COVID-19 press briefings is that they have stopped using the phrase 'social distancing' in favour of physical distancing because it is important to be physically apart but socially connected.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Wait one second. First in three weeks!?

    That is pretty good. I can't go much longer than 5 days but, it's a work in progress, I guess.

    It's limited, you know, to how many bags I can carry home. The market is right next door and I seem to be getting weaker. :(

    I'll try harder.

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    OH, by the way, the WHO press briefing today will start at 12:30pm, in the eastern North America time zone.

    The team will be focused on transition strategies and how and when to come out of lockdowns safely.

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, here is the link for the WHO interim guidance to help countries plan the calibrated, step-by-step lifting of mitigation measures, released today … to be used, ah ... in conjunction with what the WH put out yesterday. Ahem.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I'm guessing that they pushed back the timing of their briefings from 11am so as not to interfere with Governor Cuomo's pressers at this critical stage. Heh.

  11. [11] 
    TheStig wrote:


    I don't have much faith in masks least not the kind you can find outside a hospital or microbe lab. Be that as it may, the official line in my State and County is 6' separation and wear a "homespun" mask when out in public...and don't go out in public spaces except when absolutely necessary.

    The three weeks was on food that was supposed to last 2 weeks. I have very little appetite. Even so, I think I'm picking up weight. Lack of exercise due to marginal weather and a closed gym.

  12. [12] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i read the WHO report. seems they barely gave donald's funding cut any attention at all.


  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, they are going to assess the budget situation and make their conclusions public.

    I think they'll have no problem making up the shortfall.

    Don't forget the WHO/Global Citizen 'One World Together At Home' concert on Saturday!

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Take care of yourself, TS … don't make those grocery trips too far and few between!

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, don't forget to pick up lots of pie.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    This is the link for the concert tomorrow.

  17. [17] 
    TheStig wrote:


    You too!

    My pantry is always well stocked...I live in a tornado alley.

    I have been making quite a few pies. Fish, chicken and blueberry so far. Blueberries freeze really well. I cheat on the pie crust - the rest is super easy.

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I might try making a few myself. I certainly have enough recipes at hand - recipes are like books, I'm a pretty good collector but they rarely get used - and can no longer use time restraints as an excuse. Wish me luck.

  19. [19] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    All you pie lovers ought to get onto a marvelous pie crust system my wife got from ATK. It's basically saltine crackers and butter, it's ridiculously simple and easy, and adapts well to needs of diabetics as a fringe benefit.

  20. [20] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    The wearing of non-n95 masks are to protect them from you not vice versa. They don't filter that well on the intake but they reduce the cloud area of droplets coming out of your mouth. Many of the societies that went to masks early have had some evidence of a flatter curve. Everyone does it, it helps even if you are not specifically protected by wearing one.

    Here is the first study to come out of random testing in the bay area. I would not put stock in their absolute numbers as there is some testing bias (participants were recruited on Facebook) but it does show that the infection rate is very likely much much higher than the official tested, or even estimated, numbers show.

  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Kind of like a graham cracker crust?

  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Many of the societies that went to masks early have had some evidence of a flatter curve. Everyone does it, it helps even if you are not specifically protected by wearing one.

    I'm wondering if the lower infection rates of those societies making use of face coverings early had more to do with superior public health infrastructure and a much higher capacity for case finding, isolation, contact tracing and quarantine.

    If I start wearing a face covering when I go to the grocery store it will probably be because I don't want to be the only one not wearing one!

  23. [23] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Here is a report from the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. 94% of the crew have been tested. Most of the positives are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. Time will tell how many eventually show symptoms, and these are mostly young fit sailors, but it's looking like the infection rate is fast and high, the fatality rate much lower than the official numbers.

  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    So, according to this study about 6% were symptomatic.

    The TR is a huge ship with a population like many not so small towns. It would be interesting to find out how much of the transmission may be been due to the 6%.

    Where on board were these symptomatic sailors based. Did they have collective access to all areas of the carrier?

    Here's a political piece from Defense One with a detailed look at what happened during the week in which Captain Crozier was relieved of duty:

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
  26. [26] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    Europe is getting pretty hard hit and they seem to have superior public health infrastructure. I personally think this virus is just much more infectious and less deadly than the numbers show or the experts have predicted. This is a very good sign. It means it is blowing through much faster than expected and we might achieve herd immunity quicker...

  27. [27] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I just read your TR link - it's about 40% of the sailors who tested positive were showing symptoms. I'm just trying to understand how the virus spread through the ship. Very interesting stuff.

    I think you're right - this virus does seem to be very infectious and less deadly than the numbers show. But, there is still so much that is not yet known about how this virus behaves and why there is such a wide range of immune responses to it.

    Everyone is talking about when a vaccine will be ready but I still wonder if an effective one will be found at all.

  28. [28] 
    John M wrote:

    From what I have read, it appears that the second week during your infection with the virus while showing symptoms appears to be key, depending on your body's response.

    During the second week, some people will successfully fight off the virus and start to get better. This is apparently largely because the virus has remained at the back of the throat and the back of the nasal passages, and has not moved deeper into the body.

    Other people, for whatever reason, start having a harder time, and while initially start feeling better, suddenly relapse when the virus moves down into the lungs.

    It's at this point that their bodies in a last ditch effort to fight the virus, develop an inflammatory response, particularly in the lungs which is the cause of pneumonia, thus requiring to be put on a ventilator. These are also the people most likely to be helped by blood plasma antibody therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, etc.

    Once on a ventilator, two new groups emerge. Those whose body makes it through the inflammatory response and get better. The other group being those whose other organs like the kidneys and liver begin shutting down as well, and therefore eventually unfortunately succumb to the virus, do not recover and die.

    The twin key dangers of this virus then are 1) It is highly contagious, more so than even the flu. 2) It specifically targets the respiratory system with a vengeance.

  29. [29] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    So, it is acting like the respiratory pathogen that it is.

    One of the criticisms being directed to the WHO - by ill-informed presidents and journalists - is that the WHO was late in advising that there was human-to-human transmission with this novel coronavirus.

    That criticism is as ill-informed as it is ridiculous. Of course there is human to human transmission with this new respiratory pathogen. And, the very first guidance that the WHO put out on 10 January advised that all of the usual respiratory precautions and protocols be practiced, especially in health and occupation environments, to prevent human to human transmission.

    What the WHO did not know was how effective this new coronavirus could be transmitted at the community level because not all coronaviruses are effectively transmitted at the community level.

  30. [30] 
    Kick wrote:

    C. R. Stucki

    All you pie lovers ought to get onto a marvelous pie crust system my wife got from ATK. It's basically saltine crackers and butter, it's ridiculously simple and easy, and adapts well to needs of diabetics as a fringe benefit.

    I know, right!? Yes, sir... you can make a wicked good pie crust from saltine crackers and butter, but remember to use unsalted butter if you're salt averse since there's a healthy (unhealthy) dose of salt in the crackers already.

    Reminds me of good old fashioned 6-ingredient Depression era Soda Cracker Pie. The "secret" 7th ingredient I add is chocolate.

    Oh, Lord. It just hit me square in the face (pun intended) that I am discussing pie with Stucki.

    A now, time for wine. :)

  31. [31] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    By the way, just in case anyone was interested....President Trump just committed three acts of sedition... tweeting for the people of Minnesota, Virginia, and Wisconsin to rise up against their state governments!

    His tweet to “LIBERATE VIRGINIA” also includes a call to protect the 2nd not only is he calling for an insurrection; he’s calling for an ARMED insurrection!

  32. [32] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Whoops... should read Minnesota, Virginia, and MICHIGAN!

    Sorry, Wisconsin, maybe Trump will call on you later...the day isn’t over!

  33. [33] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    well he has to do SOMETHING to keep himself relevant in the news cycle...

  34. [34] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Should Biden win the presidency, the biggest mistake he could possibly make would be to turn a blind eye to the lawless presidency of Donald Trump …

    I hope you won't be too disappointed when he imbues his AG with a laser focus - not on Trump but on what Trump left in his wake.

    Because, they will both be too busy cleaning up a mess - internationally and domestically, not to mention a pandemic - on the grande scale of the Augean Stables, AGAIN!

  35. [35] 
    Kick wrote:


    I know, right!?

    Donald Trump whines that the WHO didn't tell him about that pandemic that Trump claimed he knew very early was a pandemic. He's also "ordering" the governors of the states to handle the pandemic he knew about that no one told him about while tweeting for insurrection against those same governors.

    Pay no attention to those 70 days Trump, the Fox talking heads, and the useful idiots downplayed the pandemic because the entire thing is just an overblown hoax that Trump alone has fixed unless, of course, your loved one died because of Obama's bad tests and Governor Cuomo being unprepared without enough ventilators and asking us for too many when we're happily sending them to Moscow.

    Any questions?

  36. [36] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller

    I hope you won't be too disappointed when he imbues his AG with a laser focus - not on Trump but on what Trump left in his wake.

    I hope you won't be too disappointed when I tell you that in order to clean up the international and domestic mess that Trump has made, some of that focus is going to naturally require investigation into the crossfire hurricane, much of which continues robustly and without abatement.

  37. [37] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    You may very well be right about that, Kick … if there wasn't a serious epidemic, not to mention pandemic, to deal with through 2021, at least.

  38. [38] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    New column up!

  39. [39] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller

    You may very well be right about that, Kick … if there wasn't a serious epidemic, not to mention pandemic, to deal with through 2021, at least.

    The amazing thing about an administration having a huge cabinet of diverse and talented people along with multiple divisions spanning a myriad of specialized departments is that a great number of issues can be dealt with simultaneously... and by design too. The administrations of normal presidential administrations are quite adept at multitasking... nothing new.

  40. [40] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Why are you commenting on an old thread?

  41. [41] 
    Kick wrote:

    ^^^ EDIT ^^^

    The administrations of normal presidents are quite adept at multitasking... nothing new.

    If you think a Joe Biden administration will be so laser focused on "a serious epidemic, not to mention pandemic, to deal with through 2021, at least," that they won't be able to continue handling ongoing investigations, then perhaps you neither know Joe nor those group of Americans that have made it their career to serve this country that we refer to as our United States government... the largest employer in the world.

  42. [42] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller

    Why are your knickers always in a twist about it?

    If the thread is open, I will comment on it.
    If you don't like it, cry more.

  43. [43] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Do you enjoy wasting my time?

  44. [44] 
    Kick wrote:

    If you insist on keeping it up with the incessant whining about my commenting on an "old thread," then it's quite obviously you that enjoys wasting your time.

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