First of all, she has a name. Gretchen Whitmer. She is not “the woman” or “all she does is sit there” or “you know who I’m talking about” — all phrases President Donald Trump has used besides saying the actual name of the person Michigan voters elected to govern us.
It’s “Gretchen Whitmer.” Show some respect. At a time when Americans must adjust to a world without hugs, kisses or handshakes, the least a president of the United States can do is call our governor by her name.
And stop complaining about her “complaining.” Gretchen Whitmer hasn’t done anything that every Michigander doesn’t want her to do — ask the federal government for masks, ventilators, test kits and other aid to fight the COVID-19 virus that is infecting and killing us.
She’s not speaking for herself. She’s speaking for the people.
Trump’s response? Don’t call her back.
“I say, ‘Mike (Pence, the vice president) … don’t call the woman in Michigan,” Trump said during his news conference Friday. “You know what I say? If they don’t treat you right, don’t call.”
So let’s get this straight. The leader of our great country, when he feels that he hasn’t been treated “right,” doesn’t return the call of a governor begging for help to save the lives of her constituents?
Trump to Michigan: Leave a Message.
I have tried to shy away from too much Donald Trump criticism during this crisis, to look away from his incoherent ramblings, to shake a head at his massive exaggerations, to sigh when he tells the world he’d like “all the churches full” on Easter, two weeks from today, when every scientist worth a damn says we won’t even begin to see the peak of national coronavirus infections until then — or weeks later.
I’ve tried to avoid bashing such moves because, frankly, what good does it do? Three years of insults, lies and embarrassing statements haven’t changed people’s minds about this president. Besides, COVID-19 isn’t political. It attacks the left and the right, the engaged and the apathetic, and kills with the cold indifference of an executioner.
But when political pettiness can hold up shipments that might keep our Michigan loved ones and medical personnel alive? Well. No one should be silent.
You’re familiar with the New Testament passage about, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child … but when I became a man, I put away childish things”?
Time’s up, Mr. President.
Her name is Gretchen Whitmer
“The governor of Michigan, she’s not stepping up,” Trump complained to Fox News on Thursday night. “I don’t know if she knows what’s going on, but all she does is sit there and blame the federal government. She doesn’t get it done and we send her a lot.”
Hmm. Let’s break that down. “I don’t know if she knows what’s going on.” You can be Whitmer’s biggest critic, but you must admit she knows what’s going on. She jumped into action early on this virus, dialing down crowd sizes, closing the schools, going after gougers, then shutting the state down altogether, long before most states took similar steps.
“All she’s done is sit there and blame the federal government.” No, Whitmer has done exactly what other governors have been — and should be — doing: asking for testing kits, masks and ventilators from the feds — which is supposed to stockpile such things — same as Andrew Cuomo in New York, Gavin Newsom in California, Jay Inslee of Washington and Phil Murphy of New Jersey.
Those four states are the only ones with more COVID-19 infections than Michigan. That’s right. We are fifth in the nation, as of Saturday. That ought to put us near the top when it comes to emergency aid. On Thursday, Whitmer requested a federal major disaster declaration for Michigan.
And while some say she should have done that sooner, Whitmer said Friday vendors with whom the state had orders were being told “not to send stuff to Michigan.” She told a local radio station: “I reached out to the White House … and asked for a phone call with the president.”
Of course, the president won’t call her back, because he doesn’t talk to people who don’t “treat you right.”
Thankfully, on Saturday, the situation improved, with the disaster declaration accepted (which means more funds and supplies) and a shipment of around 120,000 masks, and possibly a million more on the way, according to U.S. Sen. Gary Peters.
But while that sounds like a lot, COVID-19 cases in Michigan exploded from around 350 to over 3,000 in a single week. That’s a nearly tenfold increase — in a week! Expect that pace to continue and you see how fast we’ll go through such supplies.
And yet our calls for federal help are like dialing an airline during the holidays? Fat chance of speaking to somebody?
“What do you want the governors to do?” the president was asked Friday.
Trump spread his hands.
“All I want them to do — very simple — I want them to be appreciative.”
Path to the naughty list
What’s this all about? Sadly, as with so many things the last three years, it’s about Donald Trump’s perception of himself. Gov. Whitmer was critical of the initial federal response to this virus. She wishes we had a more coherent national plan.
So what? So does almost everybody who’s really examined this thing. Trump, the man in charge, went from saying COVID-19 would be temporary and was going to “disappear” to telling everyone he knew it was a pandemic “long before it was called a pandemic.”
Both statements are — how else to say it? — horse crap. As is his incredible preoccupation with how people “appreciate” him. This is why Whitmer is on his naughty list? Not enough gratitude? This is what prompted him to tweet out Friday night to all us Michiganders:
“Your governor, Gretchen “Half” Whitmer is way in over her head, she doesn’t have a clue. Likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude.”
This from the man who blames previous administrations, China, and pretty much anything but the mirror for his own administration’s lack of preparation or current zig-zag approach to this disaster?
This is the message he sends to Michiganders — a nasty, immature put-down of the person we must trust to lead our state out of this crisis?
What happened to our leaders being “above” petty squabbles in times of trouble? When I asked Whitmer on Friday if she felt disrespected by Trump’s comments, she said, “I try not to read too much into it … . I’m not gonna get caught up in all that craziness.”
Our president’s response?
He calls our governor a half-wit.
Which of the two “doesn’t have a clue?”
Baby in a suit
Trump’s attacks on governors threaten to pull apart the country precisely when it needs to come together. And you can trace them directly to his hurt feelings. If Trump perceives someone to be critical of him or even his policies, he uses a flamethrower in response. Take what he said about Jay Inslee, whose state (Washington) was walloped by coronavirus earlier than any other, and who was critical of the administration’s slow response.
This is how Trump referenced Inslee on Friday night: “The governor is a failed presidential candidate, as you know. He leveled out at zero in the polls. He’s constantly chirping and, I guess, ‘complaining’ would be a nice way of saying it.”
This after Trump previously calling Inslee “a snake.”
How does any of this nonsense belong in press briefings about the biggest national health crisis in a century? How does tweeting out “I love Michigan, one of the reasons we’re doing such a GREAT job for them” — as if when Donald Trump loves you, then he’ll do a great job for you. Isn’t his responsibility to do a great job for everybody? In every state? Regardless of their governors?
All this petty nonsense should be gone at a time of national crisis. Yet, incredibly, it’s there. And we accept it. Why? Because three years is too long to rail against something that won’t change.
Let’s be honest. We have come to tolerate an infantile person in a grown man’s job, a baby in a suit.
But this new disease won’t bow down — not to child or man. It continues to rip through us, leaving some to die alone, unable to hold anyone’s hand in their final moments, unable to be properly buried or remembered in a service of their families and friends, for fear of catching the very illness that killed their loved one.
Right now, here in Michigan, our numbers are alarming. Detroit is a hot zone. We need assistance more than most states in the country.
Yes, we are going to get through this and yes, we are going to beat this, because that is what we do, as Michiganders, as Americans. We will innovate, adjust, endure and prevail.
While we’re doing that, we don’t need presidential name-calling. We don’t need disrespect. We don’t need the most powerful person in the nation, whom we helped elect to his job, refusing to return our governor’s calls and acting like a pouting child waiting to be asked nicely before he shares his toys.
Now is not the time to be a child, Mr. President. Now is the time to put away childish things. To be a man. You can begin by respecting a woman. Her name is Gretchen Whitmer. She is our governor. And like her or not, she represents us to you. She counts. We count. Please, at least act like you understand that.
Contact Mitch Albom: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com. Download “The Sports Reporters” podcast each Monday and Thursday on-demand through Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and more. Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.