Grudge match? Collins joins Trump, attacks Kemp's Georgia re-opening strategy

Could all of this be about Kelly Loeffler, or do Doug Collins and Donald Trump have a legit beef with Brian Kemp’s reopening plan for Georgia? Following up on Trump’s criticism from last night, Collins — who unsuccessfully lobbied Kemp for an appointment to an open Senate seat that went to Loeffler instead — accused the Republican governor of failing to communicate clearly on how the state would reopen its economy at the end of the month.

“When you are telling people to still stay at home but yet we are going to open certain businesses,” Collins told the Fox and Friends panel this morning, “that creates a problem in which people are not sure what to do.” But isn’t that pretty much what all of the scenarios for reopening will do?

“The president wants the country open. I want the country open. The governor wants the country open. The problem is how do you do it? And I think that’s the problem with leadership,” Collins told “Fox & Friends.”

“Leadership is about communicating,” he continued, “and when you are not communicating clearly — look, the governor did not take away the stay-at-home order, but yet selectively decided certain businesses are going to open up.” …

Adding to the confusion across the state, several mayors have claimed they were not informed of Kemp’s plans prior to his announcement, and have suggested they will urge their constituents not to follow the governor’s advice for reopening.

“I will tell you this: My concern was not having the local input into that,” Collins said Thursday, echoing those local frustrations and arguing that Kemp’s rollout of a reopening plan “made people nervous.”

It’s tough to separate Collins’ — and Trump’s — criticism of Kemp from the sharp political battle over the appointment of Loeffler to the open Senate seat left from Johnny Isakson’s retirement. Collins openly campaigned for that appointment after making it clear he intended to run for the seat in the next election regardless of whether he got appointed to it or not. Trump publicly endorsed Collins for the seat and continued putting pressure on Kemp to select him, only to get defied when Kemp selected Loeffler instead. Trump does not like to get crossed up by anyone, even (or especially) fellow Republicans, and clearly Collins is no fan of Kemp’s now either.

With that said, though, they may also be right. Georgia may not be the best place at the moment to test the limits of “liberation,” especially with the president perhaps rethinking that campaign anyway. The administration wants states to wait until they see a two-week decline in cases, which means that the curve will flatten enough to allow health-care infrastructure to handle more new cases stretched out over a longer period of time. Georgia hasn’t seen a sustained decline in new cases yet.

Furthermore, Kemp has chosen a somewhat curious list of businesses to reopen off the bat, as soon as tomorrow despite federal guidance to keep “flatten the curve” protocols in place for another week or so.  Bowling alleys and gyms feature equipment that get constantly shared use, for instance, while hair salons and tattoo parlors feature work that can’t be done at a six-foot distance. All of these have to open up at some point, but … next Thursday? When the curve isn’t bending downward yet? Four days later, Kemp wants to reopen movie theaters and in-house dining for restaurants too, which is at the very least somewhat optimistic.

Collins and Trump have an axe to grind here, but it doesn’t make them wrong. Kemp’s got the right idea, but perhaps just a too-optimistic timeline. Kemp should go back to the drawing board and meet with Georgia’s mayors to come up with a consensus approach, if one can be found.

Here’s the full conversation on Fox & Friends, in which Collins also talks about the pitfalls of legislating in haste. Just because you qualify for money doesn’t mean you should take it, Collins scolds Harvard. On the other hand, maybe Congress should have stuck around to fine-tune that bill, too.

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