On Monday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted this sensible declaration, Trump-splaining presidential powers as they relate to the coronavirus pandemic:
“For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect. … It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons. With that being said, the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue. A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!”
This took some in the “Fake News Media” by surprise, presumably because they have foolishly read the Constitution and listened to previous things the president has said about governors being wholly responsible for responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s the classic Fake News Media scam of “remembering things that happened in the past” instead of “lacking object permanence and existing only in the moment.”
As a public service, allow me to clear up a few facts regarding President Trump and the role U.S. governors play in coronavirus-related decisions.
First, governors are totally responsible for their states, and anything that has gone wrong in any state with regard to the coronavirus outbreak is the fault of the governor, not President Trump. The president has no authority to tell states what to do.
Second, President Trump has absolute authority to tell states what to do. When the president decides it’s time to “open up” the states and get the economy rolling, he will order it done and the states will comply.
How do we know this to be true? Just look at the president’s Monday morning tweet. Of the claim that “it is the Governors decision to open up the states,” Trump decreed: “Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect.”
I don’t know of anything more legally binding that a presidential tweet-decree.
Now some anti-American, backward-looking nitpickers will whine, “If the president believes he can decide when states open back up and end coronavirus restrictions, why didn’t he direct them to shut down in the first place to slow the spread of the virus?”
And they might point to an April 5 White House news briefing where a reporter asked the president: “But there are still eight governors, all Republicans, who have refused to issue these statewide stay-at-home orders. Your own experts, including Dr. Fauci, have said stay-at-home orders are the most effective way to stop the spread of this virus. So why not do everything possible and urge those governors right now to do that?”
To which Trump responded: “We have a thing called the Constitution, which I cherish, number one. Number two, those governors — I know every one of them — they’re doing a great job. They’re being very, very successful in what they’re doing. And as you know, I want the governors to be running things.”
Or they’ll point to this April 1 comment by Surgeon General Jerome Adams: “We trust the governors and the mayors to understand their people and understand whether or not they feel like they can trust the people in their states to make the right decisions.”
Or Trump’s April 2 tweet—relating to a global pandemic he previously described as “an unforeseen problem”—in which he blamed governors for not foreseeing the problem of this unforeseen problem by stocking up on medical supplies: “Remember, we are a backup for them. The complainers should have been stocked up and ready long before this crisis hit.”
All three of those things, and the entirety of the president’s smart and patriotic efforts to generously distribute blame to everyone not named Donald Trump, are irrelevant because they happened in the past. What matters now is what the president is saying now, and what the president is saying now is he’s in control and states will reopen when he says they’ll reopen. And if they choose not to reopen because they think it’s “unsafe” or “a decision that could cost lives,” the president will be able to blame them for the economic downturn, same as he blamed them back when he said they were responsible for all coronavirus-related decisions.
I reached out to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office Monday to gauge the state’s reaction to President Trump’s decree that reopening things “is the decision of the President.”
This is the response: “Weeks ago when the President was still calling this virus a hoax, Governors across the country were taking steps to protect their residents. Gov. Pritzker has been clear that science will guide his decisions on how best to move forward and he agrees with the experts that we must be able to test expansively, closely trace the virus, and offer treatment before we can slowly return to normal.”
Classic lefty thinking. The governor is willing to sit back and let “science” violate the clear presidential powers outlined in Trump’s Consti-tweetion. Disgraceful.
Just remember, Gov. Pritzker and all other governors out there: If Trump says America is open for business and the economy doesn’t immediately improve, the blame will fall on each of you.
Much like it fell on each of you back when Trump wanted “the governors running things.”
Does this make sense now?
Good. That’s the idea.
Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.