As the U.S. coronavirus casualty list stands tops 26,000 nationwide, how many people could have guessed that Gov. Andrew Cuomo would tell millions of New Yorkers on Tuesday that he refuses to fight with President Donald Trump after Trump suggested governors were usurping his alleged power to determine when to reopen state economies ahead of federal orders.
“Abusing their power”? “Federal orders”?
Cuomo responded to this baseless taunt Tuesday afternoon during his daily COVID-19 press conference in the state Capitol. It is arguably the finest statement Cuomo ever made in political office, and there was no trace of politics in it.
In a steady, unemotional voice, the governor said: “We do not have a king in this country. That has been a topic discussed since our founding fathers. We didn’t want a king, so we have a Constitution and we opted for a president.”
But this president wants to jump-start the U.S. economic recovery right now. Forget about the health of the American people and the imperative to get a comprehensive national testing program in place to get a handle on the number of people infected with COVID-19 and, just as important, the number of people who are not. Trump seems unable or unwilling to do this.
While Trump was clearly spoiling for a fight, Cuomo, who took the high road, said he will not engage with the president, especially with American lives at stake.
“This is no time for any division between the federal and state governments,” Cuomo said. “If he wants a fight, he’s not going to get it from me — period.”
Cuomo is right not to take the bait from President Trump and leap into a partisan fight that seems designed to discredit the governor and the Democratic party and make Trump appear to be a hero. We can’t afford to gamble with people’s lives.