Trump and the Governors

This isn't what leadership looks like.

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, takes questions from the press at a coronavirus update briefing Saturday, March 14, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, takes questions from the press at a coronavirus update briefing Saturday, March 14, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Along the lines of not surprising but still stunning and remarkable is the way that Trump is interacting with the nation’s governors. There was calling Washington Governor Jay Inslee a “snake.” And then the most recent example being an attack on the Governor of Michigan:

This made me think of this (the embedded video clip):

The notion that the relationship between the federal government and the states is some “two-way street” formed around niceness, credit, and lack of criticism (as opposed to, you know, efficacious governance) is bizarre and reprehensible. It utterly undermines the notion of a public servant, which is what the president is supposed to be.

Moreover, the idea that “they [the governors] have to treat us [Trump] well” as some sort of condition for aid is grotesque. It is Trump’s job, as president, to work for the general welfare of the citizenry. And he should do so whether he gets praise or opprobrium.

I have nine departments that I oversee in my college. At this time of crisis (or, really, any time) it would be considered unprofessional of me to require the chairs to praise me if I provide them the resources that they need. Can you imagine me telling the school newspaper that it was a “two-way street” between my office and the departments? That they “have to treat me well” if they want the resources they need to do their jobs? Not only would my colleagues think me crazy (or, an asshole at a minimum) I likely wouldn’t have my job for long.

That these kind of mafia don tactics are tolerated by the GOP is, quite frankly, disgusting.

Along these lines (via the AP): Flatter or fight? Governors seeking help must navigate Trump.

At first, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker tried to play nice. He limited criticisms of the federal government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and asked for medical supplies through official channels.

But nothing came, so he went on television. The first-term Democrat blasted the Trump administration Sunday on CNN for failing to help states obtain masks, gloves and other protective gear.

It got President Donald Trump’s attention. After a Twitter feud and some mudslinging (Pritzker compared Trump to a “carnival barker”), the two got on the phone Monday, and Trump promised Illinois 250,000 masks and 300 ventilators.

Facing an unprecedented public health crisis, governors are trying to get what they need from Washington, and fast. But that means navigating the disorienting politics of dealing with Trump, an unpredictable president with a love for cable news and a penchant for retribution.

Republicans and Democrats alike are testing whether to fight or flatter, whether to back channel requests or go public, all in an attempt to get Trump’s attention and his assurances.

That’s no way to govern.

It’s unusual to see a president and governors publicly feuding and name-calling while their country teeters on the brink of disaster. In past recent crises, presidents and state leaders have gone out of their way to show that politics plays no role in disaster response, and to project the appearance of cooperation. In 2005, as Republican President George W. Bush’s administration received criticism for its handling of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, there was never a sense he was withholding help for personal reasons, said former Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

“I never had to worry that President Bush would be angry with me, personally, so he wouldn’t help the people of my state,” she said. “I knew he wasn’t a petty leader.”

When the Katrina response is used as an example of how to be better, well that says a lot about the current moment.

FILED UNDER: COVID-19, Donald Trump, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    Yet national Republicans, to a man, refuse to exert a single iota of their constitutional and legislative powers to reign this talking monkey in. (Mitt Romney being, briefly, a lone exception.)

    28
  2. DrDaveT says:

    What is more shocking than Trump’s behavior is that none of his supporters care. After all, we knew Trump was a sociopath. We didn’t quite realize that all elected GOP officials and their electoral base are too.

    Still waiting for a reporter to ask Mitch McConnell flat out how many additional COVID-19 deaths he’s willing to incur in order to retain control of the Senate and the Supreme Court.

    ETA: @MarkedMan beat me by 4 minutes…

    25
  3. reid says:

    @DrDaveT: Have no fear, I gave you both a thumbs up.

    Astonishing how truly horrible Trump can be and still have 40+% approval.

    8
  4. Stormy Dragon says:

    It’s actually far worse: the Trump administration is apparently using the DPA to prevent medical suppliers from accepting contracts from states with Democrat governors:

    Michigan governor says shipments of medical supplies ‘canceled’ or ‘delayed’ and sent to federal government

    “Well, we’ve entered into a number of contracts, and as we get closer to the date when shipments are supposed to come in, they are getting canceled — getting delayed,” Whitmer told Blitzer.
    Whitmer said her state was notified that shipments of protective equipment such as face masks are going “first to the federal government” ahead of the states.

    “I know Michigan is not alone. I saw Gov. Charlie Baker, Republican from Massachusetts, essentially say the same thing. Same thing with Mayor Garcetti out in Los Angeles. This is an issue we are confronting as a nation, where we are bidding against one another, where we are struggling to grab every PPE (personal protective equipment) we can get our hands on,” she added.

    6
  5. Kit says:

    I’m afraid that the only aspect of this that shocks me is learning that 60% of the country feels that Trump is handling this crisis well. Words fail.

    16
  6. CSK says:

    @DrDaveT: @reid:
    What you’re both failing to take into account is that “the base,” or Cult45, doesn’t see Trump as the low-rent Mafia-type thug that he is. They see him as strong, someone who stands up and defies all those “elites” who’ve been treating them like garbage for so long. When he calls Inslee a “snake,” or Whitmer a “half-wit,” he’s a hero to them, a savior. Someone at one of the cult hangouts yesterday called him a white knight who battles the enemedia, the Demonrats, and the Republicans on their behalf. He’s the greatest president we’ve ever had: the blue-collar billionaire who made it all on his own.

    8
  7. charon says:

    He is out of control because 52 GOP senators had the chance to remove him but were too afraid to do so. (via impeachment). Mike Lee perhaps from ideology, (as Mitt Romney from Utah shows), the other 51 have so much to fear from the Christian Right that it serves as a zero point preventing action. As long as the bigfoot Christian leaders are all-in on Trump support, nothing can happen to check Trump’s behavior.

    See this:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/27/opinion/coronavirus-trump-evangelicals.html .

    5
  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And now he wants his signature to appear on all the $1200 checks that are going out when “a disbursing officer’s signature would ordinarily be on the checks.” (via TPM)

    You get 3 guesses on how I am going to endorse that check, and the first 2 don’t count.

    2
  9. Raoul says:

    It seems to me Trump and his Trumpvirus are merely symptoms- the GOP is rotten to the core- an end of times death cult who could care less for anyone (of course there are exceptions). I mean even a guy who I semi-respected, Sen. Burr, proved to be a criminal who gave life saving advice to the very wealthy, as to the rest, they seemingly can die. And yes he still among the best the GOP can offer, think about that for a second. Related, the NYT article on the failure of Trumpvirus testing, highlights the incompetence of GOP governance, starting at the top.

    1
  10. Mikey says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I hope having direct deposit means I won’t have to see his illegible chicken scratch.

    2
  11. Joe says:

    he wants his signature to appear on all the $1200 checks that are going out

    A happy collateral benefit, OzarkHillbilly, of not qualifying for this check.

  12. gVOR08 says:

    Paul Campos at LGM quotes the testimony of law professor Pamela Karlan before the House Judiciary Committee regarding impeachment,

    What would you think if, when your governor asked the federal government for the disaster assistance that Congress has provided, the President responded, ‘I would like you to do us a favor.’

    And President* Trump,

    I tell him, I mean, I’m a different type of person. I say Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington, you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan.”

    “If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” Trump said.

    You do understand, don’t you, that this is how Trump thinks it’s supposed to work? Vote for me if you ever want anything from the government?

    12
  13. Liberal Capitalist says:

    From my earnings, it looks like I won’t get a check. And that is OK.

    Someone like me has access to alternate methods of raising capital. I’m taking advantage of low rates, refinance my 15 year mortgage, and pulling $50K out of equity to serve as an additional buffer. Because I can, and I know that things could change in a heartbeat.

    So, no check for me. Good.

    That’s how Democrats know it should work. That money should go to those that are worst affected. Likely it won’t, but we can always wish.

    4
  14. Kari Q says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    I’m taking advantage of low rates, refinance my 15 year mortgage, and pulling $50K out of equity to serve as an additional buffer.

    I’ve been considering something similar. My husband is strongly opposed because his father lost his home in 2008 after a lifetime of tapping equity whenever it was available. It’s a tough call for us.

  15. steve says:

    I am going to disagree with you here Steve. Have decided to start this practice at our hospitals. Any staff who are not totally subservient to my every wish no longer get PPE gear. Now I get lots of groveling. These have become beautiful relationships. The Friday night rallies where they gather to cheer for me have been intoxicating. Who knew?

    Steve

    7
  16. @steve: Hmm. Maybe I should rethink my management style.

    2
  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Can you imagine me telling the school newspaper that it was a “two-way street” between my office and the departments? That they “have to treat me well” if they want the resources they need to do their jobs? Not only would my colleagues think me crazy (or, an asshole at a minimum) I likely wouldn’t have my job for long.

    While I see your point, what’s the value in having power if you can’t use it to force others to your way of thinking? (Or, maybe your just not a Myers-Briggs NJ type.)

    @Kari Q:

    after a lifetime of tapping equity whenever it was available.

    Is not quite the same as taking out $50K as an additional buffer (and I assume putting it back when it’s no longer needed).

    2
  18. gVOR08 says:

    According to MSN Trump has backed off quarantining NY. Don’t know if Cuomo was sufficiently obsequious, if someone told him he legally can’t, or maybe somebody pointed out that if he actually took a specific action, he’d be held responsible for the consequences. Personally I think he never really considered it, but he figured talking about got him points with his base.

    1
  19. PJ says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    While I see your point, what’s the value in having power if you can’t use it to force others to your way of thinking?

    “What are nukes for if we can’t use them?”

    1
  20. Kari Q says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Is not quite the same as taking out $50K as an additional buffer (and I assume putting it back when it’s no longer needed

    You are right, of course. My husband is compensating for his father’s financial mistakes by being far more conservative than he was. Thinking about taking equity out is stressful for him in ways it is not for me because of different family and life experiences. Logically, it’s an easy decision, I think. Emotionally, it’s far more complicated.

  21. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Having grown up below poor, I had to learn how money works. First right move was taking out loans (and grants, etc) to go to college. Then reading through all the financial aid possibilities. Studying what I did in college was of no help (at least in understanding finance).

    While I am still not great at it, it’s better to know that is used as a tool rather than an ends in itself.

    Since many of us have free time, I suggest a read through “Rich Dad, Poor Dad“. I buy a copy for all my nieces and nephews when they finally get to a point where they can focus.

    Better yet, if you have a library card, since many are closed, most of their electronic resources are available. Download a copy and have your laptop read it to you.

    2
  22. Ken_L says:

    @CSK: Well yes, quite. But the shock is finding that half the country thinks like this.

    2
  23. Ken_L says:

    Trump has declared he has no intention of submitting to the oversight of his half-a-trillion dollar slush fund that Democrats insisted be in the bill he just signed.

    His cult will cheer this demonstration of his refusal to appease leftists. Republicans will smirk that yeah sure Congress might have voted for it, but it’s not important so who cares? If anyone ever bothers to take legal action trying to force him to do it, it will either take years to wind its way through the courts or it will be dismissed because the applicant doesn’t have standing.

    I’m not sure what you’d call the American system of government these days, but it certainly isn’t constitutional republicanism. And the tragedy of it is that the Democratic Party couldn’t unilaterally restore constitutional republicanism even if it wanted to, against the stubborn resistance of the right.

    6
  24. Teve says:

    @Ken_L: I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a secession movement from the left.

    1
  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: Yep. Talk is cheap, it’s all he has ever had.

  26. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Kari Q: I was talking to my sister last week. When we settled Dad’s estate several years ago, she and my brother-in-law put their funds into the market. I decided to leave the great majority of mine in cash, for fear of another 2008. She said, “I wish we’d done that.” There is a corollary to Murphy’s Law which states, “Nature sides with the hidden flaw.” It certainly seems to apply to our present circumstances.