On a normal day, in normal times, I’d be writing about our governor’s press briefing Friday and his demonstration of how to make your own anti-coronavirus mask, along with his forever-to-be-mocked suggestion that “Let’s make it cool. Show everyone what you’re going to be clever and cool about wearing masks.”
I would then, um, borrow my friend Alex Burness’s tweeted line that we’re now being asked to take fashion advice from “one of America’s least fashionable public officials.” And then I’d note that I, of course, am almost certainly Colorado’s least fashionable journalist and the last person to criticize anyone’s fashion choices.
You can see where I’d be headed. The column writes itself. Later in the day, Donald Trump would reveal that the CDC has recommended that everyone wear masks in public. And in introducing that new recommendation, Trump would immediately say that, yeah, maybe, it’s just a recommendation, but it’s not for him.
Of course, it’s not for him. And he might as well have said that we should all just ignore the experts once again.
Actually, he basically did say that: “You can do it. You don’t have to do it. I’m choosing not to do it. It’s only a recommendation.”
But this is not a normal day, of course, or a normal time or a normal anything. So instead, I’ll go to Cory Gardner, who did the abnormal thing — for him, anyway — of criticizing the Trump administration’s mishandling of the ventilator crisis.
My first thought was to resist making too much of it. I mean, it was a pretty obvious call. We’re running dangerously low on ventilators — not to mention hospital masks and other protective gear — in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, only to learn that thousands of ventilators in the Strategic National Stockpile (who came up with that name?) were actually broken.
But then I thought, what the hell. Let’s do go there.
So, Gardner wrote a letter to the Health and Human Services inspector general Thursday asking him to investigate the maintenance issues and the problems of providing ventilators to the states. He told Politico that “any kind of mismanagement or abuse needs to be rooted out and those responsible held accountable.”
What made it interesting is that on the same day — although Gardner said he had written his letter earlier — Jared Kushner, the Son in Law in Chief, made his debut at the daily coronavirus press briefing/Trump rally in order to admonish all those whiny governors and desperate hospital workers begging for help from the federal government that “the notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.”
The obvious question is who exactly is the “our” in “our” stockpile. I’m pretty sure the “our” is like, you know, all of us.
In fact, all you had to do was to look at the HHS web site, which stated that the stockpile was created for states to use in times of emergency — like, say, this one. Well, actually, you had to look pretty quickly, because by Friday morning, the web site had been changed to say the stockpile’s role was to “supplement” state and local supplies. If only someone had thought of that during Katrina.
When Politico asked Gardner about Kushner’s statement, he replied, “I don’t know what Kushner was talking about, what he meant. But the stockpile is for the country. And the country is made up of states in the federal government.”
You’d like to think that this was Gardner showing, at last, some real separation from Trump — or, to put it another way, a sign of rats jumping off the sinking ship. I doubt that. I’m not even sure the ship is sinking. But it shows the tightrope that Gardner is walking. Inside Elections just moved the Colorado Senate race to from toss-up to “Tilt Democratic.”
Trump got a slight polling bump as the pandemic grew worse, but my guess is that the bump will disappear over time, as the pandemic grows worse and the economy continues to falter. If you look closely into this issue, Trump was warned of the need for more ventilators and masks in late January. Some senators met with him in early February when, according to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), everything was under control.
Ah, those were the days when you could pretend everything was OK and the market wasn’t cratering and millions weren’t out of work and the acting Secretary of the Navy didn’t just dismiss an aircraft carrier commander for going public with his demand for more help as coronavirus sweeps through his ship. Hundreds of sailors cheered Capt. Brett E. Crozier as he left the ship.
But in these days, we have Kushner now apparently in charge of handling the supply chain of medical needs during the crisis, which, according to Trump and assorted sycophants, is now being laid at the feet of governors and mayors who weren’t sufficiently prepared. Or so the story goes. As Trump put it, the federal government is just the “backup” team and the governors were never satisfied.
Kushner would add that many governors are bad managers, adding: “What a lot of the voters are seeing now is that when you elect somebody … you’re trying think about who will be a competent manager during the time of crisis.”
I swear he said it. Here’s the clip. He’s standing next to Trump. You’d almost laugh if it weren’t so tragic. As I may have said before, the Trump years have put an end to irony, but this is proof.
It was Kushner, who has no expertise in medical supply chains or in Mideast policy or whatever he’s supposed to be in charge of, who told “Dad” that Andrew Cuomo didn’t need all those ventilators he was asking for.
Trump was clearly annoyed Friday in having to defend Kushner’s indefensible statement. He went to his A material, saying a reporter’s question (a female reporter, of course) had a “nasty tone.” And he said this about New York’s desperate situation: “They should have had more ventilators….we have a lot of states that have to be taken care of.”
It wasn’t the only time it got heated. It may be too late for Trump to happy talk his way out of this crisis, but he keeps trying. As he said Friday in yet another round of self-congratulation, “We have done a job like no one has never done a job.”
That’s only a recommendation. You don’t have to agree.