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As the leader of a national Republican organization, it would surprise few that I am encouraging support for President Trump as he makes tough decisions on the best path forward in dealing with COVID-19.
At the same time, it might surprise others when I say the choices and actions of Cuomo and Newsom, as well as leaders at every level, are deserving of our belief that they are made for the common good. There is no value to see them as the basis to score political points.
America’s leaders are struggling to do their best to limit the damage inflicted by COVID-19. It’s about time, we cut them all a little slack in how we evaluate their efforts. This is no time for a gotcha approach.
When President Trump first expressed the hope that we could return to our jobs and earn a living before Easter, the criticism was quick and often harsh. The president made clear the decision would be driven by the data. Thus, when he announced the crisis could stretch to August, it seems fair to ask whether Americans would have been ready to abide by the restrictions if he first suggested we shelter in place for five months.
Shortly after Trump’s comments, Cuomo wondered aloud whether imposing such an absolute shutdown was a good idea in the first place. “What we did was we closed everything down,” he said. “That was our public health strategy. I don’t even know if that was the best public health policy.” Some Trump supporters angrily demanded to know how anyone could say the president was reckless, but it was OK for Cuomo to wonder if a shutdown ever should have happened.
In both cases, it would have been far better to resist the rush to politicize the comments. This is all new ground for everyone.
It has been encouraging to watch the president and two Democratic governors put aside their typically adversarial relationship to help get aid to those most in need.
At every turn, we have been encouraged to listen to the experts. No doubt, Dr. Deborah Birx fits that description. Recently, when pressed on what could have been done sooner or better, she noted that it was not until Jan. 14 that we knew there was human-to-human transmission. On Feb. 3, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said there was no reason to ever do a travel ban. She was not affixing blame. Instead, she was pushing back at an aggressive reporter who wanted to appear tough, especially on the president.
Brix rose to the occasion: “We can talk about why didn’t Italy do something or Spain do something or Germany do something, or we can really say right now — we can all do something. We can do social distancing and all of the pieces that we know is starting to work around the globe in country after country. And, then when we get through all of this, we can ask the questions about could we have done some piece of this better as a global community.”
There is some good news. The GOPAC Education Fund recently conducted research on the public’s understanding that the COVID-19 situation is without precedent, interviewing 3,700 voters in 11 swing state House districts in North Carolina. In the race for president, it is a virtual tie between Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. At the same time, the president enjoys a 10-point margin for his handling of the coronavirus crisis (52 percent approve, 42 percent disapprove). Simply put, the voters seem to be saying they get that dealing with COVID-19 is tough stuff.
It is imperative that our leaders work together. It has been encouraging to watch the president and two Democratic governors put aside their typically adversarial relationship to help get aid to those most in need. Newsom and Cuomo have been crystal clear that the president has been an ally in combating this pandemic.
Newsom recently commented: "I'd be lying to you to say that he hasn't been responsive to our needs. He has… The fact is, every time I've called the president, he's quickly gotten on the line." Cuomo made similar comments when he said: "He is fully engaged on trying to help... He is being very creative and very energetic and I thank him for his partnership."
For better or worse, we are all in this thing together. We would do each other a favor if we evidenced a little more patience and understanding for those doing their best to make the right decisions. We can go back to making everything political another day.