Donald Trump’s exchanges with Democratic politicians usually go something like this: He picks a petty fight, almost always lobbing a tweet with a low-grade schoolyard taunt. The politician he targeted makes some bland statement about not engaging, but slips in a few passive-aggressive comments to needle him back. Political reporters lap it up.
That’s what’s been playing out between Trump and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer over the past week.
Except this time is different, Whitmer says. This time, Trump’s routine is going to lead to Americans dying.
While Trump is taking shots at her from the White House, Whitmer told me, “more people are going to get sick and more lives are going to be lost because we don’t have enough testing, because we don’t have enough [personal protective equipment], because there aren’t enough ventilators, because the national stockpile, I understand, is getting close to being depleted. And we’re not even close to meeting the needs of people that are already sick, and more and more are going to get sick.” This isn’t a normal political fight, she said. “There’s going to be a horrible cost.”
Whitmer is trying to be diplomatic, even as she tries to negotiate for lifesaving equipment with a president who seems ready to let his personal vendettas guide his public-health response. She’s worried not just as the governor of a state that’s been shorted, but as the daughter of a man with COPD who’s living in Florida and who’s potentially put at more risk by the governor there, Ron DeSantis, who until earlier this week was taking more of a trust-his-gut approach to the pandemic. Whitmer said she’s dismayed by “the inconsistent messaging and the lackadaisical attitude at the national level, [which] really undermined the seriousness of the issue for a lot of people,” and by the “staggered inconsistent response we’ve seen nationally.”