Apr 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump's coronavirus self-protection plan: Spread responsibility to the states

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's reopening plan includes lots of hurdles for states, but the key factor for him was that he got to fire the pistol.

Why it matters: Even though he’s delegating to governors, Trump didn’t want them to call the reopening first. And if he waited until next week he would’ve been trailing in several red-state governors’ wake.

Between the lines: The plan ("Opening Up America Again") appears cautious, because doctors wrote it. But the overarching message is that the decision is up to the governors.

  • You'll start seeing red states announcing reopenings very soon — perhaps within days.
  • Watch for Texas and Florida to set the standard among the red states.
  • Alabama and Mississippi are also expected to move quickly, according to administration sources.

What Trump is being told: The level of concern about the economy is extreme in the senior ranks of the White House.

  • Multiply everything you’re hearing by 100 to get a sense of the mindset, especially within the economic team.
  • Top Trump aides are desperate to get the economy restarted to avoid a depression.
  • But the reason they’re not giving orders to reopen at any cost is that they believe a major second wave would all but guarantee prolonged economic calamity.

Behind the scenes: As you could see from yesterday's press conference, Trump is far more eager than the doctors to get the economy open and refuses to believe there will be a long "new normal" of impeded business.

  • But advisers have also told him that while most of the public won’t blame him for the arrival of the virus on America’s shores, and while much of the country will view his early missteps as clouded by China’s deceit, Trump won't be able to avoid responsibility for the calamity if he goes too hard and pushes the country to reopen too quickly.
  • Hence the relatively cautious plan, and the deference to the states.

The bottom line: Some advisers are relieved that POTUS is delegating to the governors so heavily because, among other things, it spreads responsibility away from the federal government.

  • In other words, Trump won’t be the sole proprietor of whatever happens in the coming months.
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