During interviews with reporters on Friday, Gov. Jared Polis disclosed an interesting–but not very comforting–development in the race/game/”free market experiment” to obtain vital supplies to combat the COVID19 pandemic. Everyone knows by now about the intra-governmental treachery Colorado encountered trying to purchase 500 ventilator machines for the state’s emergency inventory, only to have that purchase bumped aside by the Trump administration–later receiving 100 ventilators via a “personal request” by close Donald Trump ally Sen. Cory Gardner as a consolation prize that did not have the intended positive public relations effect.
Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner reported the latest news from Friday’s interview with Gov. Polis, and full credit given–Gardner’s Rolodex as chair of the East Asia subcommittee of Senate Foreign Relations, as reported some days before by CBS4, scared up 100,000 crucial COVID-19 tests for the state’s pandemic arsenal, direct from South Korea.
But getting them home to Colorado, says Gov. Polis, was its whole own cloak-and-dagger challenge:
RW: More than a week ago, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner announced that he’d helped negotiate a deal for the state to buy 100,000 tests from South Korea. Maryland apparently negotiated something similar and its governor was so concerned about federal seizure that he had his National Guard in place to protect the tests. Have Colorado’s tests arrived, first off.
JP: Yes. We didn’t tell anybody about it until after they got here for that very reason. We were worried that the federal government or somebody else would take them. [Pols emphasis] So once they got here, we talked about it. They’re here, they’re being deployed. We’re one of only two states acquired over a hundred thousand tests from South Korea. We’re, we’re very excited to deploy those…
RW: You were so concerned that the feds might swoop in as they had with ventilators that you kept this under reps?
JP: Well, yeah, we kept it under wraps. We simply didn’t know if anybody would swoop in. I mean, we didn’t want another state or the feds or anybody. The danger with the feds and the FEMA in particular is they often, you know, go to the front of the line in acquisitions. This is what happened to us with regard to a ventilator acquisition where, you know, we were basically told by the legitimate company and the CEO that, look, FEMA has delayed all the state orders. So, you know, it’s not canceled. Maybe you’ll get it someday in six months. But basically FEMA is buying our entire production for four months. We can’t fulfill yours. So yes, we don’t talk about things till they’re here. I guess for two reasons. One is we don’t really know that we have until they’re here because you never know what’s happened with the global supply chain. But the other is, yeah, we don’t want to give the competition, which could mean other countries, could mean our own country, [Pols emphasis] could mean other states. We don’t want to give him a heads up of what we’re doing.
After the experience of trying and failing to purchase 500 ventilators “on the open market” as President Trump instructed states to do, Gov. Polis’ wariness to ensure this shipment of critical COVID19 tests was actually delivered to the state is certainly understandable. Our success in essentially smuggling 100,000 tests past our own federal government is however nothing to celebrate, being a small piece of a much larger story.
A story of failure.
Are we glad that Cory Gardner has personal strings he can pull in Asia to obtain what the federal government can’t–or won’t–provide? Certainly, just like Gov. Polis gritted his teeth and said “thanks” for the 100 ventilators. But this is taking place against the backdrop of a nationwide scandal over inadequate supply and politicized distribution of emergency supplies that Gardner has never once acknowledged, even as he participates in Trump’s corrupt patronage system along with other vulnerable Republicans like Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona. Buried behind the Colorado Springs Gazette paywall on April 24 we come as close as Gardner gets to answering this question, and it’s essentially to concede that’s how the game is played under Trump:
Gardner did not respond directly to a question of whether shipments of emergency supplies would ever be fully based on need rather than on the personal connections of lawmakers, but added that he was “happy to help” introduce Colorado hospitals to manufacturers… [Pols emphasis]
While the Trump Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has included confusing messages and deferrals of responsibility to governors, Gardner declined to assign blame to the White House, saying “I’m not into finger pointing.”
However, he quickly criticized congressional Democrats for holding up the most recent relief bill that added $250 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program designed to preserve small businesses’ payrolls…
It’s not just that Gardner is a raging hypocrite after waging fact-free vituperous warfare on Barack Obama for the last six year’s of Obama’s presidency. And readers know of course that Gardner took credit for the same items Democrats “held up” a recent coronavirus relief bill to obtain. Sometimes Gardner doesn’t even try to separate truth from fiction, including last week when he took credit for thousands of COVID19 tests that meatpacking workers in Greeley say they never got. But by refusing to acknowledge Trump’s incompetence and corruption, knowing full well the extent of the administration’s failures in this pandemic as Gardner tries to piecemeal compensate for them with side deals, Gardner is no less part of the problem than Trump himself.
Thanks for not ratting Colorado out on these tests though, really.