Maryland’s governor takes a shot at President Trump

If you’re the Republican governor of a state as “blue” as Maryland, it’s good politics to differentiate yourself from President Trump from time to time. Maryland’s governor Larry Hogan went so far as to consider running against in Trump in the GOP primaries. Fortunately, he had the good sense not to undertake a mission that quixotic.

Now, Hogan is differentiating himself from Trump on responding to the Wuhan coronavirus. But in doing so, he’s positing a clash that doesn’t quite exist — at least not yet.

Hogan says:

. . .I think [Trump’s messaging] doesn’t match with what we’re doing in Maryland. . .We don’t think that we’re going to be in any way ready to be out of this in five or six days or so or whenever this 15 days is up from the time they started this imaginary clock. Most people think that we’re weeks away from the peak if not months, and that’s the advice we’re getting from the smart folks at Johns Hopkins and NIH and University of Maryland and places like that.

Has Trump said that we are going “to be out of this in five or six days”? Not to my knowledge. What I heard him say yesterday is that he thinks measures can be taken to help kick the economy back into gear in weeks, not months.

Today, reportedly, Trump said he would like to see the country “opened up” by Easter, which is April 12. However, according to the same sources, Trump also said he wasn’t sure Easter would be the day, but that it was the date he was aiming for so people could attend religious services.

There is no inconsistency between Trump’s position and the one Hogan is taking. If, as April 12 approaches, Trump is calling for a major relaxation of social distancing type measures in states like Maryland, and if Hogan thinks the time isn’t ripe, there will be a disagreement. Right now, Hogan seems to be looking for one.

Hogan also said:

[W]e’re just trying to take the best advice we can from the scientists and all the experts and making the decisions that we believe are necessary for our state.

He cited “the smart folks at Johns Hopkins and NIH and University of Maryland and places like that” as those from whom he’s trying to take advice.

These are people who should be advising Hogan. However, he will also need to obtain information from economists and businesses about the impact various social distancing measures are likely to have on Maryland’s economy and livelihoods of Maryland residents. Unless one believes that saving just one life is worth any and all adverse economic consequences, economic considerations have to become part of the public policy equation.

Hogan’s statements highlight a reality that some may be overlooking: Governors like Hogan have the power to impose curfews, order that restaurants and bars be closed, etc. It is doubtful that the president has the power to override such orders.

I doubt that Trump would want to try. The smarter move might be to get his view on the record and then blame governors like Hogan if economic collapse ensues in their states.

The best outcome would be for Trump and the various governors to get on the same page. But if governors like Hogan and Andrew Cuomo are going to ignore economic considerations completely, it won’t be possible for Trump to be on the same page as they are indefinitely.

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