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The problem with Trump's shot across Andrew Cuomo's bow

Attacking Cuomo, Trump said higher-than-expected death tolls are evidence of an elected chief executive's failure and "incompetence." That's ... not smart.
Image: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference in New York City on May 21, 2020.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference in New York City on May 21, 2020.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

In pre-recorded remarks, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) addressed the Democratic convention virtually last night, reflecting on his state serving as "ground zero" for the early coronavirus outbreak. The governor, not surprisingly, criticized the Trump administration's "dysfunctional and incompetent" response to the crisis.

"We saw the failure of a government that tried to deny the virus, then tried to ignore it, and then tried to politicize it," Cuomo said. He added, "For all the suffering and tears, our way worked and it was beautiful.... Americans' eyes have been opened and we've seen the truth: That government matters and leadership matters."

It wasn't unusual to see Donald Trump fire back via Twitter, but I'm not sure he thought through the nature of his message.

"Now [Associated Press] estimates that the real Cuomo number of people killed because of his total incompetence is 11,000, not the 6000 that was originally thought!"

It was one of 12 Cuomo-related tweets the president either wrote or promoted over the course of a half-hour last night.

To be sure, there's room for real scrutiny of New York's response to COVID-19. Yesterday, The Atlantic published a compelling piece questioning the extent to which the state should be seen as a coronavirus success story.

But while those questions certainly matter, Trump's preferred line of attack is bizarre: is the fact that New York had a higher-than-expected death toll evidence of an elected chief executive's failure and "incompetence"? Is this really the line the president wants to peddle as his country's death toll climbs past 170,000 -- and counting?

As historian Kevin M. Kruse put it, in a missive that was clearly sarcastic, "Yes, attributing the blame for coronavirus deaths to the politicians in charge is an excellent thing for you to do, yes, that's very smart, yes."