New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft answered a call for help in securing a shipment of N95 masks from China and the critics were quick to speak up. The criticism has more to do with the Trump administration and Kraft’s friendship with President Trump than anything else. No good deed goes unpunished.
Last night I watched Anderson Cooper’s show on CNN. I tuned in late and only watched a couple of segments – one was with Governor Cuomo and Kraft. Cooper brought on Kraft to talk about an extraordinary gesture made by Kraft and his son, Jonathan.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, like other governors, is scrambling to locate and purchase personal protective equipment for health care workers. Among his friends is Jonathan Kraft. Jonathan is the chairman of the board at Massachusetts General Hospital and he is also the Patriots’ president. As Baker was sounding a plea for help among his influential connections in the business world, the Krafts stepped up. Governor Baker made a deal to purchase more than a million masks but had to find a way to get them shipped back to Massachusetts. The Kraft family’s plane was offered up as transportation.
This was easier said than done, though. The plane is used to fly the New England Patriots around, it isn’t set up as a cargo carrier. The plane had to be modified. Along with that, the red tape involved in China presented a huge challenge for everyone involved.
Then, most critically, they had to secure permission to land in China—a delicate feat during this global pandemic. Even if they received the proper permits, they were worried the pilots would be required by China to quarantine for 14 days before returning.
The primary issue was the simplest: getting the right to land the 767. Gov. Baker, the U.S. State Department, Robert Kraft and others sent letters to China’s consul general in New York requesting the special permits. The letters, dated March 24 to 30, ask for waivers to allow the humanitarian mission and state that no member of the crew would leave the aircraft.
By last Friday night, the crew had moved to Wilmington, Ohio, because the plane needed an avionics upgrade for the international trip. The mission received waivers from China to land and do so without quarantining—nobody would be on board besides the necessary flight crew—but they were told the crew still needed visas. So the entire group scrambled to a local pharmacy and took pictures for the application. The pictures were flown to New York to be taken to the Chinese consulate, and then flown back to Ohio. Huang Ping, China’s consul general in New York, proved to be a major ally in the effort to get the rush jobs done, including by opening the consulate over the weekend to get the visas processed in time, people familiar with the matter said.
The crew brought along maintenance people and tools, just in case the plane experienced any problems in China. Most importantly, besides the use of the plane, the Kraft family agreed to pay $2M, about half the cost of the goods. The order for 1.7 million N95 masks was produced by various manufacturers across China. The Krafts provided logistics by using a connection to provide boots on the ground. Executives at Chinese tech giant Tencent offered up a crew of over a dozen people to help make sure the masks were counted, inspected and move quickly through customs.
One amazing part of this story is that the American crew was only granted permission to be on the ground in China for 3 hours. It took 2 hours and 57 minutes. Some masks will arrive in a second shipment, as there wasn’t enough room on the plane for the whole order to be loaded at once.
The Republican governor of Massachusetts works with the Democrat governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, trying to secure medical supplies and equipment to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. On CNN last night, Robert Kraft announced that the plane had arrived at Logan Airport in Boston and that with agreement by Governor Baker, 300,000 of the masks would be sent to New York.
Great story, right? In the midst of so many sad and bad stories about the pandemic, it’s a welcome relief to hear a good story. Not so for some Trump critics, though. Atlantic staff writer Jemele Hill is an outspoken critic of President Trump. She tweeted out her displeasure with Kraft’s generosity, because, Trump.
The responses to her ugliness only caused her to double down.
After one Twitter user asked her if it was “necessary” to make such political attacks, Hill replied, “Yes it is necessary. If we don’t critically think about how we got here, we will be back here again.”
“If you consider facts divisive, oh well. But maybe these owners and billionaires need to better understand that just as their money can do a good deed, it can cause also cause irreparable damage,” Hill told another Twitter user.
A Democrat on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team, Representative Katherine Clark from Melrose, MA, weighed in.
“This is not how it is supposed to work,” said Representative Katherine Clark of Melrose, a member of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team. She described herself as “very grateful” for the Kraft family’s generosity and help getting the critical gear, but said “what we need is a coordinated federal system.”
You would think that Clark would know the basics in government, since she holds a federal office, but she missed the part about the state’s responsibility to provide for its residents. Then, when the need is more than the state can handle, the federal government steps in. Clark should know that this is exactly how government is supposed to work – it’s federalism playing out. Democrats immediately look to the federal government as the first responder, not the back-up responder in disasters and in this case, the pandemic crisis. Governors Baker and Cuomo are setting a good example of working together regardless of politics. Too bad Rep. Clark can’t control herself long enough to focus on the needs of her constituents instead of taking shots from the sideline against the Trump administration.
No one was prepared for this coronavirus pandemic. There is room for criticism all around. There will be plenty of time later for reviews and lessons learned. Now is the time to pull together and help those in need. The petty politics can wait for another time.