In a time when everyone is holding Zoom meetings, why did the governor of New York schlep to Washington, DC, on Tuesday? For the same reason WIllie Sutton robbed banks. Because that’s where the money is (and what’s needed for the COVID-19 tests).
To put it simply: It was part of the hostage deal. Cuomo wanted help with COVID-19 testing, so he had to bend the knee. And it probably worked.
Ironically, the fact that he had to do this sort of proves Cuomo’s point: that New York, in fact, needed help from the federal government. Despite all the talk of tests being widely available, Cuomo explained that the main problem has been getting reagents, the chemicals without which the kits are useless.
“The problem with testing has been the national manufacturers of the equipment who make the testing kits they have to send to the state labs,” Cuomo said Friday evening, at a press conference after meeting Trump and returning to New York where he seemed to be carefully parsing his words to thank the president, while not providing him with any more clips that Trump could use in a campaign spots. “That is where the federal government can help. States cannot do international supply chains.”
Having the states handle the tests while the feds help with his supplies, Cuomo said, “is an intelligent division of labor in my opinion: let each level of government do what it does best, and it ends this back and forth, what do the states do, what does Washington do, who’s responsible, etcetera.”
It seems that, by taking the trip, New York’s odds of obtaining the chemicals it needs for testing dramatically improved. During Tuesday's briefing, Trump described Cuomo as “terrific to work with.” He noted that New York was “the epicenter of the outbreak,” that the two men have “a very good understanding, and that it was “a very good meeting.”
What a difference a couple of days makes.
The other day, I noted that Cuomo had bested Trump when the two tough guys from Queens traded barbs about why New York asked for so many more ventilators than it ended up needing. Cuomo was right on the merits. But when it comes to coronavirus testing, Trump controls the means of production.
Cuomo said later on Friday that he’d also told Trump that “you know the state governments are broke, to use a very blunt term. You know the state governments are now responsible for the reopening, the governors are going to do the reopening and we have no funds to do it.” And, Cuomo said, before fuming about how Congress keeps breaking promises to give money to the states whose budgets have been hit because that isn’t as “politically sexy” as writing checks to individuals, “the president said that he understands the issue.”
It’s always good when people can meet face-to-face and hash out their problems. Still, it’s hard not to see this at least partly as a way for Trump to demonstrate dominance over another Alpha dog. As a developer, the Donald knows the adage: location, location, location.
To be sure, insisting on a home-field advantage is not uniquely a Trumpian play. It stands to reason that powerful leaders would prefer to summon others to their home field. What is more, the adage that you get more flies with honey than vinegar is not a new one. But few leaders are as petty when it comes to demonstrating symbolic displays of power. This is a guy who gets an extra scoop of ice cream during meetings, for heaven’s sake. It’s almost like he watched Jack Donaghy’s “Negotiate to WIN!” VHS tape (see rule 3) and is playing it out in real life.
This is straight out of the Trump playbook.
Remember that time Reince Priebus left his RNC headquarters, and traveled to Trump Tower in order to obtain a signature (Trump’s non-binding pledge not to run a third-party campaign)? It was almost a Neville Chamberlain-esque maneuver. Why would the chairman of the RNC go groveling to New York?
I still don’t get it.
It’s much more understandable why Cuomo would make the trip to DC to see the president. Priebus, stupidly, gave away leverage. Cuomo, for the sake of his constituents, had to pay homage.
At the end of the day, Cuomo had to be nice to Trump. That’s part of the deal. And yes, it stinks. Yes, it’s petty. Yes, it’s disturbing. But it’s a small price to pay if, by humbling himself, it helps the people of New York to survive this pandemic. As they say, no man stands so tall as when he stoops to kiss an ass.