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Monday, April 20, 2020

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There is a glimmer of reason to suspect the dreaded coronavirus has summited its American mountain of death and is poised to start a downward slide toward normalcy. The hope-filled development has prompted President Trump to ponder what he calls “the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make”: When to reopen the economy. Whatever course of action the president chooses, one thing is certain: His critics will consider him a coronavirus quack.

In preparation for the looming Judgment Day, Mr. Trump announced the formation of a new advisory council composed of top White House aides, economists, labor leaders and business tycoons to work with his existing medical team in helping him select a restart date. His authority to turn the ignition key for the nation’s economic engine and ease it back into gear is, he claimed last week, “total.”


A coalition of governors, instinctively charging the president’s red cape, have claimed their own right to call the shots on reopening their states for business. “If he says to me, ‘I declare it open,’ and that is a public health risk or it’s reckless with the welfare of the people of my state, I will oppose it,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Tuesday on MSNBC. His counterparts in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island intend to join in coordinating plans to reopen their plague-stricken region.

The president has taken a bold stand on shaky ground. Whether it’s constitutional is a question that doesn’t need an answer now because he says he’ll work in conjunction with the governors on best choices for their opening days.

For their part, Americans locked in economic purgatory aren’t concerned with picking nits over who gets to say “go.” Rather, they simply want to return to work and earn a paycheck without winding up in the morgue.

Congressional Democrats have formed their own brain trust to scrutinize Mr. Trump’s coronavirus response. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the dramatic step of empaneling a select committee to oversee the expenditure of a $2.2 trillion economic relief package signed into law earlier this month, existing oversight notwithstanding.

The speaker’s move exposes political armaments being readied to unleash on the president for any flaws — real or imagined — in his handling of the contagion. Talk of a 9/11-style commission to evaluate possible negligence on the Trump administration’s part adds to the likelihood that Mrs. Pelosi and company intend to pin the medical quack tail on The Donald.

Media allies have already equipped the nascent committee with a blueprint for attack. In an April 11 article titled “Behind Trump’s failure on the virus, The New York Times complained that Mr. Trump “was slow to absorb the scale of the risk and to act accordingly, focusing instead on controlling the message, protecting gains in the economy and batting away warnings from senior officials.”

That the president’s attention was divided is certainly factual: He was “batting away” Democrats’ Senate impeachment attack when the pandemic exploded. While fighting for his political life, though, he still managed to halt most airline traffic from China.

Struggling with obscurity in a disease-dominated news environment, Democrats’ 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden has floated his own proposal for opening the economy. It features the continuation of social distancing to reduce virus transmission, robust use of the Defense Production Act to boost the availability of health care equipment and antibody testing to help local authorities zero in on disease outbreaks. If his plan rings familiar, it’s because it might as well have been pilfered from the Oval Office.

More relevant is the question of whether a President Biden would have more swiftly halted the flow of travelers from virus-infected nations. There is little in the candidate’s views to suggest he would have done so. Loose immigration policy prevailed during his watch as Barack Obama’s vice president, and his own campaign policy paper timidly terms the sporadic flood of humanity that washes over the southern border “irregular migration.” The notion that Mr. Biden would have jettisoned his globalist ideology in time to save Americans from inbound virus-carrying travelers is giggle-worthy.

There is no playbook that lays out a national defense against a modern-day contagion, or for determining when the coast is clear for re-emerging afterward. Democratic recriminations accusing the president of coronavirus quackery exhibit the symptoms of another dangerous disease: Trump Derangement Syndrome.


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