Report: Trump and Pence repeatedly encouraged Georgia governor to reopen early before reversing course the next day

This AP story is teeing up readers to bash Trump (and Pence) as fickle, which is fair enough. E.g.:


Don’t forget the switch from “total authority” to “you’re going to call your own shots” in the span of three days. But, but, but, but — the real takeaway from the story is that Trump actually listened to his health experts in the end, even though Brian Kemp of Georgia was poised to do the very thing the president had been agitating about for weeks. Trump wanted to reopen early, Kemp said okay, then Fauci and Birx looked at his plan and said, “Nope.” So Trump said “Nope.” Which was the right call.

If he’s going to change his mind every eight seconds, he should at least make the responsible move in the end. He did here, even if he made it only for reasons of political self-interest, because he fears he’ll be blamed for Georgia’s second wave if he doesn’t disown today’s reopening.

Behind the scenes, the administration had also been supportive. The president spoke to Kemp more than once about the plan and both Trump and Pence called Kemp on Tuesday to praise his performance as governor and his plan to reopen, according to the two administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because were not authorized to publicly discuss the conversations.

But on Wednesday, members of the White House’s virus task force revisited the plan and felt it was too soon and would be difficult to defend in that afternoon’s press briefing. Dr. Deborah Birx, who helps lead the White House’s coronavirus response, then spoke to the president after the meeting and suggested that it was too soon to reopen Georgia, an assertion with which the president agreed, according to the officials.

Trump then called Kemp and asked to slow down his plan, to which the governor said no, said the officials.


Imagine the scandal if Fauci and Birx had told Trump that Georgia was moving too soon and he blew them off and stuck with Kemp anyway. As it is, he claims he never told Kemp that he was okay with the specifics of his plan, only the general impulse to reopen:

One counter to the White House’s skepticism about Georgia’s reopening is that Kemp is consulting with his own public-health experts. If they say it’s safe for the state to cautiously reopen certain businesses, who is Trump to second-guess them? But is Kemp actually consulting with experts? WaPo hears otherwise:

Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, announced he would let tattoo parlors, hair salons and bowling alleys reopen without receiving guidance from the panel of doctors tapped to advise him and without giving advance notice to regional health departments responsible for carrying out his orders, according to physicians and state officials…

In these states, among the fastest to jump-start their idle economies, plans are proceeding without the full approval of medical professionals and emergency response officials closest to the ground-level unfolding of the outbreak, which has claimed nearly 50,000 lives in the United States. The quest by certain governors to reopen by May 1 — the date favored by President Trump — has blindsided some of the officials advising them.


It’s a political debacle in the making if Georgia sees a new spike. Trump’s being reasonable in not wanting to go anywhere near it, especially since he can always try to take credit if it goes well. (“I was calling for the country to reopen before Kemp even thought of it.”)

I’m optimistic about Georgia avoiding a large second spike, only because I think consumer demand will be too weak to generate one. Rigorous social distancing is the new rule de facto in American even if it’s no longer the rule de jure in states like Georgia. “We cannot ‘reopen’ America,” says Jonathan Last in a new piece today. Only consumers can do that, and they’re in no mood.

How will the airline industry “come back” when people decide to take flights only for travel that cannot be avoided—and international travel is severely restricted?

How will professional sports—which require thousands of people to be packed into small spaces—play in front of live crowds again? The sports leagues may be able to limp along with only broadcast revenues, but the micro-economies built around stadiums and arenas will not.

As teleworking becomes increasingly accepted—or even preferred—the physical office will wane. What happens to commercial real estate?

The list goes on and on: Dine-in restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, theme parks, concert venues, convention centers, shopping malls, museums, libraries, schools, colleges—every one of these businesses is headed into a nuclear winter that has nothing to do with stay-at home orders.


The spectacle of the mayor of Las Vegas offering her city as a “control group” a few days ago was especially absurd, notes Last. Vegas is dead. Even if casino workers and hotel maids could be forced back to work, how does she propose to make the city’s hospitality industry viable with demand reduced by 80 percent or whatever garish amount it ends up being?

The same ABC poll found just 17 percent of *Republicans* thought that social distancing and stay-at-home orders are an overreaction by government that’s taking away people’s freedoms. The stay-at-home orders will be lifted sooner or later but social distancing is here to stay, potentially in extreme forms unless officials like Trump and Kemp can boost testing and set up a contact-tracing system to reassure the public that it’s (more) safe to go out. Until people feel there’s less risk in resuming economic activity, not enough will do it to keep most businesses afloat. Given the nature of its attractions, Vegas especially seems like it’s destined for a long deep freeze until the threat from the virus is completely past. If Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson want to get back to business ASAP, the best thing they could do is bankroll ways to fast-track a vaccine and therapeutic drugs that might shrink the fatality rate. Until then the “reopen” debate is basically a mirage.

Here’s Hannity last night making clear that Kemp has momentarily lost the favor of MAGAworld.


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