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Sun Apr 5, 2020, 10:39 AM

Foot-dragging GOP governors are imperiling the whole country

PRESIDENT TRUMP likens the struggle against the pandemic to a war that will yield a colossal toll in human lives, but refuses to urge states uniformly to issue stay-at-home orders. The president’s equivocations have produced an uncoordinated jumble of policy subverted by foot-dragging governors who treat the coronavirus less as a national emergency and more as a political annoyance. They are guilty of an abdication of leadership whose consequences will be measured in body bags.

Messaging is critical in this crisis. By telling people in the strongest terms to stay at home, even with certain exceptions, most governors have conveyed the gravity of the spreading threat; that is likely to save many lives. By failing to do that, and treating a plague as one interest to be balanced among many, other governors treat the peril with a nod and a wink. Their message, sotto voce, is: Let’s not all get our knickers in a twist.

The nod-and-a-wink governors — in the Dakotas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Arkansas and elsewhere — pose as powerless to order a lockdown, or note they have already closed schools, restaurants, gyms and other establishments, but won’t order blanket edicts to individuals. They point at other states’ exceptions that allow people to carry on with essential work, or get groceries and pharmaceuticals. In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson says staying at home is a matter of “individual responsibilities”; in Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson scoffs there is nothing “magical” about stay-at-home directives; in Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds protests that “I can’t lock everybody in their home.”

Those governors, all Republicans, have been enabled by Mr. Trump, who points to states that don’t yet “have the problem,” and remarks that it’s “awfully tough to say, ‘Close it down.’ ” He favors flexibility and is seconded by Vice President Pence, who says the federal government “will defer to state and local health authorities on any measures that they deem appropriate.”


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