The political battles of the coronavirus pandemic have taken the form of a fierce fight between Gov. Whitmer and President Trump, who are now sparring over when and how states will ease stay-at-home orders.
LANSING, MI — Pressed about the President’s attempts to “open up” America again on a short and strict time table, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had a potent clap-back in reply: that just isn’t how it works.
“The government doesn’t get opened up via Twitter”, she said during Monday’s press conference.
She gave similar comments to NPR Tuesday when pressed on the same issue by All Things Considered. The program wanted Whitmer’s response to the President claiming authority over the states’ reactions to the pandemic.
“We’re going to have to make decisions based on the best science, the best medical advice and what’s in the best public health of the people of our individual states,” Whitmer told NPR. “We’ve had to act unilaterally at the state level, and we’re probably the best ones to be able to make a decision when it’s time to safely reengage our economies. And I’m hopeful that my colleagues are listening to the best medical minds they have in their states, and we’re all thinking about doing it in the safest, smartest way.”
President Trump has repeated, emphatically and often, that he has the authority to return the nation to normalcy as Courier reports.
“For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect,” he tweeted. “It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons. With that being said, the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue. A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!”
Despite it being absolutely not the decision of the President, Trump has made that argument again and again — that he has the authority to end shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders that have broadly been characterized as a “lockdown” active to varying degrees nationwide. President Trump has even decided to empanel an “Opening the Country Council” according to Politico.
But as Business Insider notes, the decision to end any given state’s orders rests with those states. That isn’t just a function of those states being the ones who issued the orders to begin with, but is also protected constitutionally by the Tenth Amendment.
“Can president Trump order them to change course? The short answer is no, unless he wants to disregard the constitution,” former Clinton White House aide William Galston told the Independent. “If governors choose to disregard his call to reopen their states, their decisions will be final, and the president Trump will have to live with them.”
And Whitmer’s clap-back hits on another issue with how President Trump tends to execute his office — tweets don’t have the force of law. As USA Today noted, major policy positions of the Trump administration have taken the form of tweets, but often those tweets stated as if they are actual Presidential orders lack any actual force. This was especially notable when President Trump first attempted to ban transgender Americans from serving in the armed forces and his tweet on the subject was outright ignored by the military as it was not issued as an actual, formal order.
Whitmer first drew President Trump’s ire by criticizing his response to the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus called COVID-19. The ‘Gander reported that the interpersonal conflict between Whitmer and Trump might even have led to Trump reducing or slowing the flow of resources into the state to address the pandemic.
But Trump’s anger at Whitmer has elevated her to a national stage, making her a symbol both of the coronavirus response and of the opposition to Trump himself. Whitmer is a favorite potential running mate for Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Trump’s dismissive remark calling Whitmer “that woman in Michigan” has become a rallying symbol for Michiganders.