Captain Trump to Cuomo: I love a good mutiny

He’s gonna be so super-pissed when he finally figures out that he’s not the captain here, Cuomo is.

Watching Trump grossly overstate his authority and sound increasingly unhinged in doing so is a wonderful thing to behold if you favor federalism. The left is getting a master class from a “mad king” on why they should prefer local authority to centralized authority; not one of them out there would rather have Trump calling the shots on the coronavirus response right now instead of their governors. As Ed said in this morning’s post, Cuomo himself increasingly sounds like a “Tenther.” (Check him out in the clip below from this morning’s briefing, citing Alexander Hamilton.) Those lessons won’t stick among Democrats as well as they should if Biden wins this fall, but they’re bound to adhere to some degree. If making the country sit through a four-hour recitation of Trump’s enemies list at the “coronavirus briefing” every afternoon ends up inculcating strange new respect for state sovereignty then maybe the briefings were worth it after all.

The multistate pact in the northeast that Cuomo announced yesterday gained a new member overnight with Massachusetts joining, a state led by a Republican governor. The west coast is also forming its own confederation. Other regions — probably Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota in the midwest, I’d bet — are destined to follow. In my lifetime I’ve never seen a federal response so poor that individual states felt obliged to band together and coordinate their own regional solutions for dealing with a national crisis, but here we are.

I think the “pacts” are forming mainly to give governors political cover in defying Trump when he inevitably demands that they reopen for business sooner than it’s safe. It’s easier for each individual governor to say no if they have support from five or six neighbors. If it’s a “mutiny” (and it isn’t), it’s because they’re afraid the captain is steering the ship onto the rocks. But it’s not all politics: New York City announced today that it’s going to work on procuring its own tests because the feds just haven’t been very helpful in ramping up.

[De Blasio] said Indiana-based Aria Diagnostics would donate 50,000 testing kits and, starting April 20, the city would buy 50,000 more kits a week, including nasal swabs, tubes and viral transport medium (VTM) to transport specimens. The city’s Economic Development Council is building a new supply chain as well — one that de Blasio said would produce up to 50,000 more tests weekly.

Local manufacturers and 3D printers will produce testing swabs and tubes, while academic and commercial labs will produce VTM. Production is expected to begin in early May. Ultimately, the goal is to get New York City a steady supply of 400,000 new testing kits a month, de Blasio said.

“If the federal government can’t get this done then get out of the way so we can get this done,” the mayor said. He asked for ongoing federal support, saying “give us the components,” and opened the door for any group or individual who wants to help.

If Trump follows through on the veiled threat in his tweet to stop supplying things that states “need” — like ventilators, I guess — if their governors don’t bow to his wishes to reopen soon, it’ll be the most disastrous political miscalculation of his presidency, even beyond firing Comey. The prospect of him withholding life-saving aid from sick people because local leaders won’t comply with his demands to recklessly end social distancing before it’s safe is the one thing that might force Republicans in Congress to start using legislative power to rein him in, just to try to insulate themselves from the backlash. It’d be the closest we’ve gotten to a real-world test of Trump’s scenario of shooting someone on Fifth Avenue and not losing a single vote. Even a toady as obsequious as Rand Paul felt obliged to correct him today (without naming him, of course) on his ludicrous assertion yesterday that he has “total” authority in a pandemic emergency:

Trump’s job approval is already down a few points since peaking two weeks ago. Falsely insisting that he can tell governors when to reopen for business before it’s safe will push it down further. Playing hardball with things states “need” to try to force them to do what he wants could push through his floor of 40 percent. His cronies had better stage an intervention soon to prevent him from doing real, lasting damage.

If you doubt that the politics are bad for him, look around at how many defiant statements Cuomo’s given in the past 16 hours or so about the president’s insistence that he has ultimate authority here. He called Trump’s message yesterday “schizophrenic,” said there’s “no value” in watching the briefings, pointed out that “The Constitution says we don’t have a king,” and threatened to sue if Trump tried to order the states to reopen. He knows what his approval rating looks like nowadays compared to what Trump’s looks like. He’s at no risk of losing this political war. Even if Trump won in court, which is unlikely, most New Yorkers would stay home voluntarily and Cuomo would point to that as popular vindication. The president should cut his losses before this gets worse. Stick to bullying red states, where the governors (or most governors, I should say) will do anything he wants to protect themselves politically no matter how many people it endangers.