Trump is often influenced by raw, self-interested politics. He’s looking to win votes in Michigan in November, but right now he’s depriving Michiganders of the help they need, because of his feelings about their governor. How does she make sense of that?
“I’m not sure how to answer the question,” Whitmer said.
Our full interview can be heard on the latest episode of The Ticket.
What follows is an edited and condensed transcript of their conversation.
Edward-Isaac Dovere: Do you remember the first you heard about the coronavirus?
Gretchen Whitmer: You know, in January and February, [thinking] This is a global phenomenon that it’s really just a matter of time. In February, my sister really started sounding the alarm. She was watching it very closely. Our dad is in Florida and we’ve been consistently, for a couple of months, trying to get him to come back to Michigan—frankly, because we’re so concerned about his ability to get the care he might need. He has COPD. And we really started working on him. We still have not been successful. And that’s why I’ve been watching what that governor’s not been doing, increasingly alarmed.
Dovere: What may turn out to be the final “normal” rally of the campaign happened in Detroit on March 9, the night before the Michigan primary. It was a Joe Biden event, and you were there endorsing him. The next day, things started to shut down. Why did that rally go on?
Whitmer: We were getting so much inconsistent messaging from the federal government and we hadn’t seen it occur in Michigan at that juncture. Now, the next day were the first two cases. And that’s when everything went to hyper-speed. But, you know, I’ve thought about that evening, because I’d told people, “We’ve got this virus. We’ve got to stop shaking hands.” We’re doing fist bumps, doing elbow bumps. You know, people were kind of teasing me about it, because they say, “Oh, I can shake your hand,” you know? I think that the inconsistent messaging and the lackadaisical attitude at the national level really undermined the seriousness of the issue for a lot of people. I think it still is.
Dovere: If you could go back in time and talk to yourself the morning of that rally, would you have said to cancel it?
Whitmer: I would say: Start buying every N95 mask I could get my hands on. I would say: Start shutting things down immediately. You know, despite all that, we’ve been more on the aggressive side and have moved faster than a lot of states. And each of those decisions has hurt. It weighs on you. You worry about people losing their jobs and not having money, and businesses that may not open again, and kids that you’re pulling out of school. And even at that juncture, there was conflicting advice even in the medical community.