Welcome to the COVID-19 Games, where the tributes are governors fighting for the scraps of critical protective gear still available, and where success still depends on kissing Trump's ass.
Last week Trump was playing quid pro quo with Americans lives, telling governors "it's a two-way street. They have to treat us well." The result of not doing so is not getting help. Take New York, which requested 30,000 ventilators and got 4,400. And is being outbid by FEMA on the private market, where the state has been trying to procure more. “What sense does this make?” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Tuesday. "The federal government, FEMA, should have been the purchasing agent. Buy everything, and then allocate it by need to the states." Wisconsin's Democratic Gov. Tony Evers asked for 190,000 nonsurgical masks from FEMA last week, and has struggled to find ventilators. He has no idea where the masks are.
On the other hand, Oklahoma asked for 16,000 face shields and got 120,000. It had received about 84,000 N95 masks by the end of last week, "more than twice its original request." Then there's Florida, which is expecting its third shipment from the feds. It got 100% of what Trump's good buddy Gov. Ron DeSantis asked for in the first two shipments. Kentucky has gotten more than it requested. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maine have only gotten part of what they've requested. (There you go, Sen. Susan Collins, more lessons learned for you.)
It's not just Trump's political future he's thinking about. Sure, he needs Florida in 2020, but he also needs Michigan, where he's treated Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer abysmally. It's about who is playing the "dear leader" game to his satisfaction. All the governors know that and it factors into what they're doing. One aide to a Democratic governor told the Post they've been playing nice and have found Trump to be receptive. "But we watch the news, we see what he says about people who criticize him," said the aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Probably so Trump doesn't find out which state and can't retaliate.
Not that it's all Trump's Stalin complex. There's also just sheer incompetence. Yes, Trump's ego makes trying to appease him within the administration more chaotic, but the people he's got working under him are just as incompetent as he is, unable to lead their gutted departments. For example, "Pennsylvania received some shipments without packing lists, leaving officials there unsure about what they had been given." California got 170 broken ventilators from the national stockpile, requiring them to have to track down someone who could repair them and losing days of use of them in the process. Alabama got 28 cases of face masks that had dry rot, which is apparently a thing that can happen to face masks and which should not have happened because someone in the damned government should have been making sure that everything in the damned national emergency stockpile was still usable.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.