“Pandemics have a way of cutting through a lot of noise and spin to remind us of what is real and what is important,” Barack Obama said in his endorsement of Joe Biden for president. “This crisis has reminded us that government matters. It’s reminded us that good government matters — that facts and science matter.”
In the perfect timing department, Obama delivered his video statement following president Trump's attempted power grab from the nation's governors, who have closed down their states in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Their bold actions, which have earned widespread public acclaim, counter the late and inept response of Team Trump. More important, they stepped into the national spotlight at the expense of the self-proclaimed cheerleader-in-chief.
The president, whose rhetoric is designed to distract and dodge questions about his administration's poor response to COVID-19, played true to form. He attempted to accuse the "fake news media" of creating conflict and confusion by reporting that it's up to governors, rather than him, to open up the states. "Let it be fully understood that is incorrect. It is the decision of the president and for many good reasons," Trump said on April 13.
He upped the stakes with a later tweet: "When somebody is the president of the US, the authority is total."
Trump's tweet sounds like the recipe for an authoritarian government, according to Robert Chesney, University of Texas law professor. ”This isn’t ancient Rome where there’s a special law that says in the event of an emergency all the regular rules are thrown out the window and one person, whom they called the dictator, gets to make the rules for the duration of the emergency or for a period of time," he said.
Is Trump so afraid that his re-election is slipping away that he is willing to trigger a constitutional crisis in order to retain his grip on power?
New York governor Andrew Cuomo said: "The president basically declared himself King Trump." He then reminded Trump "we don't have a king. We have a president."
A Wall Street Journal editorial urged calm, noting that Trump may be right about having the power to "reopen" the states.
"But this is really a political and policy issue, and getting into such a fight would be counterproductive," it said. "The president will help the country more, and gain more politically, by clearly explaining his own strategy for reopening."
The paper noted that even in an election year, there shouldn't be a fight about reopening the country. "The public wants to go back to work, but it wants to know how to do so safely."
As Obama so eloquently noted: facts and science matter. One just can't simply wish for "packed pews on Easter," an economy ready to roar in May or the ability to rule by fiat.