Sunday, April 12, 2020


The Washington Post reports that the Trump administration won't centralize the acquisition of needed medical and protective equipment, but is also thwarting the states when they try to buy the equipment themselves.
Rushing to stave off a shortage of medical-grade protective gear to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Minnesota officials leaned on a local company’s global connections to airlift a cache of N95 masks from a Chinese factory back to the state for delivery this week.

Washington state purchased 750,000 cotton swabs for coronavirus tests, taking a risk because the product located by officials has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The state is also betting that a Seattle-based outdoor gear company, known for its backpacks and parkas, can reconfigure its operations to produce N95 respirators.

And California, acting as a “nation state” in the words of the governor, began buying 200 million masks per month to shore up supplies in that state and, potentially, across the country.

Elsewhere, some governors and lawmakers have watched in disbelief as they have sought to close deals on precious supplies, only to have the federal government swoop in to preempt the arrangements.

Officials in one state are so worried about this possibility that they are considering dispatching local police or even the National Guard to greet two chartered FedEx planes scheduled to arrive in the next week with millions of masks from China, according to people familiar with the planning. These people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, asked that their state not be identified to avoid flagging federal officials to their shipment.
Imagine if the parties were reversed. Imagine if President Hillary Clinton were responding to a pandemic by diverting necessary equipment ordered by a red state. (Of course, a Democratic president wouldn't fail to step up the way President Trump has and wouldn't divert equipment based on pique, cronyism, and bad advice from his a son-in-law. Most Republicans wouldn't either.) Imagine if the state challenged by President Clinton were Texas. Governor Greg Abbott wouldn't formulate a stealth plan to protect the shipment -- he'd go on Fox News and loudly proclaim that he was sending out the Texas Rangers to make sure that the shipment reached his state. This would be such a victory for the right in the culture wars that the president would be forced to back down and reverse her policy immediately.

But unfortunately, I can't see how blue-state governors can get Trump to back down. When Southern and Western right-wingers play the anti-"federal overreach" card, even "liberal" journalists conclude that respect is owed to the rugged descendants of the men and women who conquered America, living off the land, blah blah blah. There's no comparable myth in New York or California or Illinois. Maybe there's a different kind of myth surrounding NYPD cops, who I suppose might be persuaded to defend a shipment to the city. But for all the respect New York's cops get on the right when one of them is the victim of violence ("Blue lives matter!"), we could barely get conservatives to care when first responders from the city were dying of post-9/11 cancers.

I hope I'm wrong about this. In a pandemic, the feds should help the states get what they need; if they abdicate, they should at least not interfere as the states try to navigate the sellers' markets in the goods they need. The Trumpers won't take the lead, yet they insist on fighting with the states as they try to step up. It's the worst possible approach.

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