President Donald Trump has attracted a lot of attention with his near-daily press conferences from the White House that are supposed to be focused, on paper at least, on the Coronavirus response. On Monday, however, he went to the absurd extreme of claiming that he, as president of the United States, has “total authority,” which flies in the face of literal centuries of U.S. political and legal tradition, but he used the claim to justify his flatly false insistence that he’s the final say on reopening the economy after Coronavirus-induced social distancing. This Tuesday on MSNBC, New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo insisted that the press conferences are a farce and might as well be a “comedy skit,” but in the real world where they’re actually unfolding, the incompetent belligerence is “frightening,” he said.
“Monday’s coronavirus briefing offered a particularly stark portrait of a president seeming unable to grasp the magnitude of the crisis — and saying little to address the suffering across the country he was elected to lead.“ https://t.co/wSeCwFr35S
— Daniel W. Drezner (@dandrezner) April 14, 2020
He’d been discussing the role of state action in combating the Coronavirus. It is not the president who has implemented stay-at-home orders across the U.S. that have helped wind down the new Coronavirus infection rate. It’s governors. Asked if there was any value in governors tuning into the president’s daily only barely Coronavirus-related petulant meltdowns, Cuomo insisted:
‘No, a governor should not watch that. There is no value in it. It is infuriating and offensive, and, frankly, ignorant of the facts. The president stood up and said, ‘Forget the constitution of the United States, forget the concept of federalism.’ To hear a Republican stand up there, by the way, and argue big government and total authority of the federal government is somewhat amusing. If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funny, it could be a comedy skit.’
Yet in the middle of this deadly pandemic that shows no obvious signs of abating, the president made clear that the paramount concern for Trump is Trump — his self-image, his media coverage, his supplicants and his opponents, both real and imagined. https://t.co/cL17AWWO8U
— Ashley Parker (@AshleyRParker) April 14, 2020
But — as he notes — the situation is, in fact, quite serious. The man at least partly in charge of the government’s response to the Coronavirus — Donald Trump — doesn’t appear to understand how U.S. government works, and he’s masking his incompetence by only barely metaphorically shouting that it’s gonna be his way or the highway so governors better pay up.
Facts First: The President does not have "total" authority over coronavirus restrictions. There is no legislation that explicitly gives the President the power to override states' public health measures. https://t.co/MXAFutMMfJ
— CNN (@CNN) April 14, 2020
‘It’s frightening! This is the last place we should be, this crazy politics, this absurd positioning when we’re talking about life and death… it’s absurd that we have to deal with this!’
Trump’s attempts to claim power for himself are completely and dangerously out of control at this point. At his Monday press conference, Trump ranted:
‘When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that’s the way it’s gotta be. It’s total.’
TRUMP, March 13: "No, I don't take responsibility at all."
TRUMP, April 13: "When somebody is the President of the United States, the authority is total." pic.twitter.com/bIzVMb9rtE
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 14, 2020
That is completely incorrect. It’s just wrong. Governor Cuomo noted during that MSNBC appearance that Trump has basically resorted to declaring himself to be “King Trump” and insisting that there’s nothing anybody can do about it.
These issues have potentially grave ramifications. A premature reopening of the economy could help drive a spike in Coronavirus cases and deaths because the virus would spread without the supplies to track and confront it. Trump has consistently failed to grasp this concept amidst his paranoid claims that his opponents are conspiring to use the virus to make him look bad.
New York Gov. Cuomo says the president has "basically declared himself 'King Trump'" when he said he has the total authority to reopen the states. https://t.co/plAt48dixl
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 14, 2020