It’s very much “We need you, Mr. President; can I get your help with the Army Corps?” A couple of weeks ago, ventilators. We talk about “How’s it look out there?” Hospitalizations. “What are you seeing?” He knows that I’ve had health issues, so to his credit, he will almost every time ask me how I’m feeling, which obviously I’m grateful for.
The vice president is also very much involved in a lot of the very specific conversations. I would remind folks to distinguish between fact-based, getting installments of what we need, versus having everything we need. Those are two different realities. But the fact of the matter is, there’s no call we’ve placed that has gone unanswered. Even if we don’t like the answer, we get an answer.
Dovere: Why do you think that’s so different from how the president acts in the briefings?
Murphy: I don’t watch the briefings. … I watch news shows at night, and I watch highlights. I’m not denying that I know they exist. I don’t have those sorts of conversations [like happens in the briefings] privately. Maybe they will happen, but they have not happened.
Dovere: When you see America leading the world in infections and deaths, what does that tell you?
Murphy: We weren’t prepared as a country, as a testing matter. And we’re going to need to do a 9/11 Commission-like postmortem on where we were, where we are, where we need to be. But a lot of the stuff that we’re not going to be agreeing on is outside of the purview of the fact that the house is on fire right now. And I need help with the fire brigade.
Read: What will happen when red states need help?
Dovere: The White House has suggested that state aid might be tied to forcing states to reopen. What would that mean for your state?
Murphy: I want to open. I’ll be the happiest guy in America, never mind New Jersey, when we open. But here’s the problem with the state aid: We’ve got expenses which are through the roof. Revenues that have fallen off a cliff. And we’re helping everybody from “You lost your job” to “You’re in the hospital” to “You’re a small business and you’re going up on the rocks.” I don’t know that folks really think this through right now, but in particular, for folks who are on the fiscal year that we’re on—we’re [in] a mid-year, mid-calendar fiscal year, and a lot of states are—if we don’t get state aid in big numbers, we’ll have an Armageddon in terms of services that we can’t provide, layoffs that will be widespread. It will bring us no joy to do any of that. But we’ll have no choice. We can’t print money. I’ve got a constitutional requirement to balance the budget. The state aid is desperately needed.
Dovere: If the president calls again and tells you he wants you to open the state, what do you tell him?
Murphy: So far that conversation has been respectful of the realities in New Jersey. It has not been associated with any financial aid coming at us out of Congress or elsewhere. … If we’re putting lives explicitly at risk, I can’t hit the “go” button. And nobody’s told me to do that, by the way. And I hope it stays that way.