April 22, 2020

Whoa!

Trump Leaves Patrick and Other Lockdown Dissidents Out on Limb
with Volte-Face on Reopenings with Surprise Snub on Georgia Plan

MIKE HAILEY

President Donald Trump appeared to pull the rug out from under his conservative base on Wednesday night when he threw up a yellow flag on a southern Republican governor's plan to lead the reopening of an American economy that's been torpedoed by the coronavirus.

After encouraging supporters to rally against virus restrictions at protests around the nation last weekend, Trump threw Georgia Governor Brian Kemp under the pandemic bus with a stunning expression of disapproval on the aggressive timetable that he'd implemented to the delight of anti-lockdown advocates in the nation's eighth largest state.

Trump said that he wouldn't take action to stop the Peach State from getting back to business at the pace that the first-term governor had dictated in a plan that the president portrayed as a violation of federal guidelines that he'd endorsed late last week. Trump suggested that Kemp should make the call that he thinks is right without the need for apology or fear of reprisal.

But Trump's sudden shift to a more cautious approach might have defused a potential powder keg within the GOP in Texas where veteran party activists like Houston insurance agent Norman Adams have recruited hundreds of plaintiffs for a lawsuit against Republican Governor Greg Abbott in connection with the coronavirus restrictions that he's imposed statewide.

The president's third major turnabout in the past six days appeared to leave high-profile Trump supporters who've been vociferous lockdown critics like Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick hung out to dry.

Patrick - a conservative Republican who's been Trump's most prominent ally here - had appeared to be an unofficial surrogate for the president when he called for an abrupt cancellation of restrictions on businesses here in a national television interview this week.

Contending that a strong economy should be a more pressing priority than the public health, Patrick blamed Democrats exclusively for the lockdowns that he portrayed as anti-American without alluding to the role that Abbott and other Republicans have had in them.

Patrick escalated the attempt to hold the rival party responsible for a paralyzed economy when he tore into Hidalgo County Judge Lina Hidalgo for an order that she issued today in a move that will require people in the Houston area to cover their faces in public places.

"Her abuse of the use of executive orders is the ultimate government overreach," Patrick declared. "These kind of confused government policies fuel public anger – and rightfully so.”

A first-term Democrat who unseated a longtime GOP incumbent in 2018, Hidalgo announced the mask edict that could result in fines as high as $1,000 for violations at a press conference with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. Turner is a former state lawmaker who represented Houston in the Texas House as a Democrat.

The Trump thumbs down on the Georgia back-to-business plan drew praise from Democrats who'd been warning that some states were moving way too fast with reopenings that could backfire with a spike in coronavirus infections and deaths.

The Trump warning on the Georgia time schedule could give Abbott significant cover from heat from the right with the more deliberate approach to the Texas reopening that's essentially in line with the federal recommendations that the president endorsed last week. Republicans and Democrats alike will be watching with interest to see if Trump's tapping of the brakes will have the effect of muzzling Patrick and others who've garnered a wealth of attention with lockdown bashing escalations.

Kemp - a former Georgia secretary of state who'd emulated Trump since taking over as governor 16 months ago - had issued an executive order that gave gyms, barbershops, salons and a long list of other businesses that have been shuttered for several weeks a green light to reopen by the end of this week. The fast-track approach that Trump had been touting would allow restaurants and theaters to get back to business on Monday if Kemp doesn't decide to put the brakes on it for the sake of pleasing the president.

Trump Administration officials had signed on to the Georgia restart plan despite warnings that the Peach State and some of its counterparts in the south were rushing into reopenings that could send COVID-19 rates that have been declining on an upward surge.

The chief obstacle to a full-scale national reopening that Trump been pitching has appeared to be a substantial lack of testing and monitoring abilities in states like Georgia and Texas that have been expecting to be at the front of economic resurgence parade. But Trump has vehemently insisted that the nation had sufficient testing capabilities to weed out people who'd been infected by the virus without obvious symptoms before they returned to work and exposed others unwittingly.

Trump had sent waves of disappointment through his base on the hard right last week when he deferred the authority to decide the extent of restrictions to the individual states after several days of proclaiming himself to have the singular power to override them with a national directive. But Trump loyalists were reinvigorated when he started tweeting shows of support for demonstrations that demanded the immediate withdrawal of limitations that mayors and county judges had imposed initially before states like Texas extended them statewide in the last three weeks.

CONSIDER THE SOURCE

Mike Hailey presents state politics with a personal touch. He's the only Texas Capitol journalist who's been to the dark side and back - having worked for two major newspaper bureaus before signing on as press secretary for Bob Bullock - the most powerful and legendary political leader of his time in the state. Hailey's Comment, which is published in Capitol Inside on a regular basis, is a direct reflection of that experience.

04-14-20: Virus Remap

04-13-20: State Virus Rights

04-08-20: Mystery Trend

04-07-20: Virus Target Peaks

03-30-20: GOP Remake-19

03-25-20: Doomsday Tax

03-23-20: Fiscal Hemorrhage

03-19-20: Political Casualties

03-12-20: Closed for Business

03-05-20: Salvation Show

03-01-20: Blue Wave Sign

02-19-20: Mad at Trump

02-18-20: Senate Special

02-05-20: Handshake Play

02-04-20: Trump Shadow

01-29-20: Hit List Refine

01-23-20: Ballistic Review

01-01-20: Blue New Year

01-01-20: Make My Day

Copyright 2003-2020 Capitol Inside