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Hey, President Trump: Her name is Gretchen Whitmer

by | Mar 29, 2020 | Detroit Free Press, Comment | 5 comments

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.”

Good Lord.

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: malbom@freepress.com. 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.

5 Comments

  1. RoseofSharon

    He didn’t ignore her request by the flip remark about don’t call her back but said President pence would call her anyway…With a smile on his face when he said it

    Could’ve been joking around… Nobody’s respecting anybody in this country… And they need to respect the person in office they need to respect the office… He signed a bill that is getting Michigan what it needs as best as he can supply it because there are not a lot of them to get… America needs to stop bashing and bitching about each other and do what they need to do to be a united country on both sides of the fence… I’m sick of everybody complaining about everybody else and just Complaining about every little thing with everybody on earth…Get it done
    Why have we become a country, That does nothing but get on social media and Tear each other apart. No matter what the post is about, how big or how small somebody’s Complaining about it or the person it is about, and tearing them apart… All of those who are judging have big problems. God said that he would judge each of us in the way that we judge others… So most of us in this world have serious problems when we face God on Judgment Day ….something to think about.

    Reply
  2. TundraTimm

    “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” Mark Twain

    Reply
  3. Tmb

    Great article. There are no excuses for the POS. How disrespectful he is to our Gov. No words to describe him. Gretchen For VP 2020

    Reply
  4. Irish Rose

    March 30, 2020

    Hello Mitch Albom,

    I never dreamed I would be writing to you. I trust this finds you and your family well and safe during this Pandemic sweeping across the world killing many people.

    Firstly, let me say I have loved your books, my favorite being “Tuesdays with Morrie”. I loved that book so much I bought over 100 copies to give away. My Pastor hadn’t heard of the book. I gave him a copy a little over a year ago, he loved it and said it ministered to him. He is on Hospice now and has only days to live. My brother; Mike Kiley started a church 40 years ago in San Jose, California and recently retired. He had never heard of the book; I gave him a copy a year ago and he and his wife read it together. They loved it. The book is such a blessing to many, I could tell story after story. Your story was truly a testimony of faith, hope, and inspiration for all of us.

    I love Michigan, I lived there my entire life, graduating from high school and nursing college in Michigan. I know just about every inch of the state including the upper peninsula. All my brothers, sister, and my mother moved to California years ago and wanted me to move there. I couldn’t leave Michigan; it was and will always be HOME.

    I have loved you; you were one of my Hero’s. A man who learned much wisdom and put it into practice from a wise, elderly man. I had you way up high on a pedestal. When you write something, people are going to listen because of who you are.

    I am dismayed by your writing regarding the Governor of Michigan and the President. No, I didn’t say their names, you know who they are. Are you going to criticize me for not writing their names.

    I believe being president would be an overwhelming task for anyone.
    Can any of us imagine how another person can memorize and recall the name of every governor in every state in America? President Trump can be brash and does not speak in an elegant manner like most politicians. Most politicians are educated as attorneys and make polished speeches. I am not suggesting President Trump was justified the way he spoke of Governor Whitmer. I am especially not satisfied with the way he answers questions at his press conferences. But I was taught to respect our President. However, from the beginning I too thought Governor Whitmer was slow to act. She waited until the Ohio Governor acted then followed his actions. I believe 1 day in this war we are fighting could make the difference in whether we win or lose the battle.

    I am deeply distressed by your writing and it is not about what political party you endorse. I honestly don’t know how anyone could carry on with so much opposition, criticism, and hate, as President Trump has had to endure. Couldn’t we not add to the fire, try to be united in kindness, love, and prayer for our president and our country? Do we need to add fuel to the already flames and dissension of our country? We are going through an unprecedented time on the entire planet, many are suffering from isolation, sickness, and fear. Many have died all across the world from this Invisible War/Corona Virus.

    I beseech you Mr. Albom to help unite our county instead of further dividing it. What you write is being read and has an influence on the citizens of America, and the world. I truly do not believe that Morrie would have reacted as you have. Perhaps write something positive, to lift our spirits, to give us hope instead of despair.

    May God help America and the world.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Sincerely,

    Carol Kiley

    P.S. I am reminded of a little verse I memorized as a young girl.
    God said to build a better world
    I answered; “How?
    The world is such a vast place
    and I so small and useless am
    there is nothing I can do”
    But, God in all His wisdom said;
    “Just build a better you.”

    Reply
  5. lovelandlbj

    Thank you, Mr. Albom, for this response to the disrespectful, ignorant actions of our president!
    At this critical time in history, we are counting on leadership from our president. Character counts! It is not a time to be political but to be compassionate towards the people of our nation and its governors. In order to get respect, one needs to give respect! Clearly, our president has never heard those words!

    Reply

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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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