By Nehru Odeh
While covid-19 is taking a toll on humans across the globe, especially the United States, both President Donald Trump and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, are fighting dirty over it. Lately they have been engaging in a war of words both on social and mainstream media over the dreaded disease and government responses so far.
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While Trump is saying he has done enough to combat the disease and that the states are not showing enough gratitude, Cuomo is saying more needs to be done, adding that the states need help in the areas of funding and testing.
“Maybe he should get up and go to work. He wants to say I did enough. None of us has done enough. We haven’t because it is not over. We have a lot more to do,” Cuomo said, blasting Trump at a press conference on Friday.
“(Trump is saying) ‘Well, just say thank you or what I have done and I am now out. I’m not doing anything else. I have done my part’ … He is doing nothing. He said it’s up to the states. It’s up to the governors, which is what it always was because it is always within the governors’ power,” the governor said.
Cuomo fired the first shot when he criticized Trump during his daily news briefing over the federal aid needed to carry out Trump’s three-phase plan to reopen the state economies
“Don’t give them this massive undertaking that has never been done before and then not give them any resources to do it,” Cuomo said at the briefing. “Don’t ask the states to do this. … It’s up to the governors, up to the governors, up to the governors. OK. Is there any funding so I can do these things that you want us to do? No. That is passing the buck without passing the bucks.” Cuomo calls for additional federal funding, allocation to states based on need.
Minutes later, Trump responded on Twitter, saying the governor should “spend more time ‘doing’ and less time ‘complaining.’” The president said that the federal government built New York thousands of hospital beds that he said the state didn’t need or use and provided a large number of ventilators that it should have already had
“Get out there and get the job done,” Trump tweeted. “Stop talking! We built you thousands of hospital beds that you didn’t need or use, gave large numbers of ventilators that you should have had, and helped you with testing that you should be doing.
“We have given New York far more money, help and equipment than any other state, by far, and these great men and women who did the job never hear you say thanks,” the president added. “Your numbers are not good. Less talk and more action!
After a reporter read Trump’s tweet to Cuomo at the press conference, the governor gave a lengthy response in front of the cameras.
“All he’s doing is walking in front of the parade, but he has nothing to do with the timing of the parade,” said Cuomo, who added that Trump loves talking about big businesses and airlines getting bailed out, but state governments still need funding.
“We’ll show gratitude,” Cuomo said, “How many times do you want me to say thank you? And I’m saying thank you for doing your job. This was your role as president.
“You want me to say thank you? Thank you for doing your job,” he said. “Thank you for participating in a modicum of federal responsibility in a national crisis, which you know is a national crisis because he declared a federal emergency. So thank you for having the federal government participate in a federal emergency.”
Cuomo continued with the implied irony, thanking the president for helping to build 2,500 hospital beds in the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, which was a number that he said was determined by a federal projection.
“If you don’t agree with your projection, fire the head of the CDC, fire the White House coronavirus task force people because they did the projections,” said Cuomo, who moments later showed a memo that he said was written by Trump adviser Peter Navarro, who initially warned about the coronavirus outbreak in January, projecting it would infect millions of people. “Fire them all, that’s what I say. Fire them. You know the show the president did … You’re fired.” (He was actually referring to the popular “The Apprentice”, where trump would wag his finger, saying “You are fired”).
As regards gratitude, which Trump says Cuomo hasn’t shown, the governor said if the president wants thanks, he’ll give him thanks for “doing his job.”
“I’ve said [thank you] a number of times. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. Send a bouquet of flowers?” Cuomo asked. No one can back out now, he added, saying Trump can’t wipe his hands of the situation and leave testing solely up to the states just because “the president doesn’t want to help on testing.”
When addressing the reopening of the economy, Cuomo said the states have the power to open. “The states are opening on their own timelines. The governors are going to open when they think they should open.”
He also said mass testing is key, but that the current health care system and labs are not capable of carrying out the mass quantities needed. He announced that he will be signing an executive order mandating that all public and private labs in New York coordinate with the state’s Department of Health to “ensure prioritizing diagnostic testing for public health and restarting the economy.”
When asked about the notable tone shift after weeks of saying there’s no time to play politics, Cuomo said he’s trying to get a message to the president. “This is an important moment. Trump doesn’t want to provide funding to the states and he doesn’t want to help with testing,” Cuomo said. “I don’t care about his politics, but if we don’t have federal help on testing, that’s a real problem.”