If President Trump urges states to reopen too early and coronavirus spikes again, the president “owns it,” according to Senator Angus King (I-ME)
“When you're in a bar fight and you knock the other guy down, you don't turn your back on him. You make sure he's down to stay,” the senator told me in a Skype interview Monday.
Trump tweeted Monday it was his decision whether or not to open up the states, blaming the “Fake News Media” for misconstruing this.
King seemed to disagree, saying “the states are really the ones that are going to make these decisions… [the] governors are going to make the decision.”
King acknowledged it's “a tough decision. But,” he says, “if the president says we should reopen, a number of governors are going to take that signal and go ahead and follow his advice. And if it all works out, the economy springs back and the virus stays in remission, if you will, it's all good. But if it comes back in a big way, it will have been a catastrophic mistake.”
King mentioned that he’s on the Armed Services Committee, where he and his fellow members have debated when it is appropriate to leave Afghanistan or Iraq. “And the term that we always use is conditions based, not calendar based,” he said. “The decision [to reopen] should be based on what the conditions are, where the spread of the virus is, what the likelihood of a resurgence is, not on an arbitrary date in the calendar.”
King pointed out that infection curves are likely flattening because of measures that we are taking to protect ourselves. “If we’re seeing a plateau in cases, because of the shutdown, because of the social distancing, then if we step back from that prematurely, we'll just have another spike,” he said.
“This is a big risk for the president. There's a lot of debate going on about whether he should have acted sooner and what his responsibility was for the first couple of months,” King said. “But if he urges a reopening of the economy, let's say on May 1, and we then have a catastrophic spike, he owns it. There'll be no doubt about responsibility in that situation. And that's why I think that the people at the White House are really thinking hard about this.”
Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @serwer.