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April 14, 2020 09:20 AM UTC

Totally Predictable Gardner Damage Control Falls Flat

  • 5 Comments
  • by: Colorado Pols
President Donald Trump, Sen. Cory Gardner.

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports–it would appear somebody has come to the conclusion that last week’s public relations debacle for Sen. Cory Gardner, who tried to turn the negative story of an order by the state of Colorado for 500 ventilator machines snatched up by the federal government into a positive via a “personal request” to President Donald Trump for a mere 100 ventilators, went as badly politically for Gardner as we thought! Damage control efforts are now urgently underway:

It was Polis who, on April 4, told CNN that FEMA swooped in and purchased ventilators Colorado was on track to acquire. [FEMA Region 8 Administrator Lee] DePalo said he wasn’t involved in that procurement but believes it was likely a misunderstanding on Polis’ end.

“In some cases, it can just be a lack of understanding of what happened. I wasn’t on the call for the 500 (ventilators), so I can’t speak specifically to what was said on that call, but I do know we’re not out there taking that stuff,” dePalo said.

It’s a disappointing interview from a federal official we’d normally have no reason to second-guess–FEMA Administrator Lee DePalo says he “wasn’t involved” with the 500 ventilators Colorado tried to order and was prevented from acquiring, which seems very odd given his position, but apparently he can offer us the blanket assurance that the Trump administration is not just “out there taking that stuff.”

The problem is, there are news reports all over the country that say the Trump administration is indeed “out there taking that stuff.” As the Los Angeles Times reported last week:

Although President Trump has directed states and hospitals to secure what supplies they can, the federal government is quietly seizing orders, leaving medical providers across the country in the dark about where the material is going and how they can get what they need to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Hospital and clinic officials in seven states described the seizures in interviews over the past week. [Pols emphasis] The Federal Emergency Management Agency is not publicly reporting the acquisitions, despite the outlay of millions of dollars of taxpayer money, nor has the administration detailed how it decides which supplies to seize and where to reroute them.

And the New York Times on April 6th:

In Massachusetts, state leaders said they had confirmed a vast order of personal protective equipment for their health workers; then the Trump administration took control of the shipments.

In Kentucky, the head of a hospital system told members of Congress that his broker had pulled out of an agreement to deliver four shipments of desperately needed medical gear after the supplies were commandeered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency…

Although local reporters frequently seem to treat the news in Colorado as though it occurs in a vacuum, the reality is there are multiple news reports that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is appropriating medical supplies that local medical and government officials believe, for whatever reason, are supposed to be headed to them. There appear to be differing excuses from the federal government for this conflict, and everyone knows that at the end of the day the federal government has the power to bigfoot smaller governments and the private sector out of the way.

But President Trump told states like ours to fend for ourselves in acquiring needed equipment to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Colorado’s 500 400 commandeered ventilators is not a unique case. And now we’ve seen clear evidence that the federal government is redistributing these supplies based on Republican political priority, not medical necessity. Sen. Cory Gardner’s overpackaged rollout of the “news” of 100 ventilators with a Trump Tweet and Fox News appearance make it obvious what’s motivating these decisions–and that’s before you read about Martha McSally playing the exact same game in Arizona.

What we see in the available poll numbers, from Gardner’s dismal in-state approval before the crisis to Gov. Jared Polis’ 75% approval of his handling of the emergency, is that the voters of Colorado are much smarter than most Republicans give them credit for.

Which doesn’t bode well for this or any other belated CYA.

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