Georgia's Kemp neglected to warn people about his dangerous gamble

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's (R) decision to re-open businesses is tough to defend, but so too is the way in which the governor made it.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks about the coronavirus at the Capitol on April 8, 2020, in Atlanta.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks about the coronavirus at the Capitol on April 8, 2020, in Atlanta.Brynn Anderson / AP
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By Steve Benen

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) announced new steps this week to re-open his state's economy, inviting a series of businesses -- including gyms, barber shops, tattoo parlors, movie theaters, and bowling alleys -- to open their doors as early as tomorrow.

It was just last week when Donald Trump announced new White House guidelines, including benchmarks states should expect to reach before launching re-opening initiatives. Georgia has not yet cleared those federal benchmarks.

The Republican governor is proceeding anyway. It led Dana Milbank to note, "Whether you're going to heaven or hell, the old joke goes, you'll have to change planes in Atlanta. But Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is proposing to offer a new nonstop service to the Great Beyond: He has a bold plan to turn his state into the place to die."

The decision is tough to defend, but so too is the way in which Kemp made it. We learned this week, for example, that the governor didn't bother to connect with the mayor of his state's largest city about his decision.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms said on Tuesday morning that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) hadn't given her or other state leaders a heads-up when he announced he would let several businesses to resume operations.

Kemp didn't inform his own coronavirus task force, either.

Key members of the coronavirus task force Gov. Brian Kemp tapped to shape the state's pandemic strategy said they didn't know about his decision to reopen some shuttered businesses until he announced it at a press conference. In interviews and public statements, a half-dozen members of the task force said they only learned about Kemp's move to let barber shops, theaters and dine-in restaurants begin to resume operations after he made it public.

Even Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, from neighboring South Carolina, expressed concern publicly that Georgia is "going too fast too soon." The senator added, "We respect Georgia's right to determine its own fate, but we are all in this together. What happens in Georgia will impact us in South Carolina."

Quite right. The virus is indifferent to state boundaries. If Georgia's governor places a dangerous bet and loses, Georgians won't be the only one feeling the adverse effects.

It led ABC News' Jonathan Karl to ask Donald Trump about this yesterday, noting that there's routine travel between states like South Carolina and Georgia, and the results of Brian Kemp's recklessness won't be limited to his own constituents.

The president replied that Kemp is "a very capable man" who "knows what he's doing." Trump added, "We're going to find out."

How reassuring.

For her part, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) appeared on MSNBC yesterday and urged city residents to "please stay home," the governor's policy notwithstanding. She added, "Follow the data, look at the science, listen to the health care professionals and use your common sense."

That sounds like excellent advice. Here's hoping the governor was watching.