In troubled times we often find some great book, or work of art, or film that helps put everything in context. And I’m a little worried that right now for Donald Trump it’s “Mutiny on the Bounty.”
“Tell the Democrat Governors that ‘Mutiny On The Bounty’ was one of my all time favorite movies,” Trump tweeted recently. “A good old fashioned mutiny every now and then is an exciting and invigorating thing to watch, especially when the mutineers need so much from the Captain. Too easy!”
The Democratic governors’ sin appeared to be their attempt to work together on a deescalation of our coronavirus stay-at-home rules. Everybody is obsessing about getting back to some semblance of normal. Most people who have been studying the situation think that would require a ton of testing and an elaborate system to isolate the infected.
However, one person mulled over the situation and thought of “Mutiny on the Bounty.”
Now “Mutiny” is the story of sailors who rise up against a cruel, greedy and possibly crazy Captain Bligh, setting him adrift on a rowboat. A little weird that our commander-in-chief would be so enraptured. But so very Trumpian that he appeared to have no clue Bligh was the villain.
Actual plot is not a presidential priority. Trump loved “Gone With the Wind,” which I believe he remembers as the story of a sassy Southern spitfire who becomes the third wife of a handsome Yankee patent medicine salesman turned Confederate talk-show host.
The shelter-in-place rules certainly have fomented some rebellion in right-wing circles, and Trump has had a rather shifting perspective. For a while he wanted to be totally in charge. Then he wanted the governors to take over. Then he began egging on protesters who want to force the governors to drop restrictions.
Some governors didn’t need any urging at all. Remember Kristi Noem in South Dakota? She spurned the stay-at-home drill as an exercise in “herd mentality.” (Nobody knows herds like South Dakota.) When employees at a pork-processing plant came down with the coronavirus, the governor preferred to talk about how she’d been working with Jared Kushner — Jared! — on a plan to test the power of Trump’s favorite corona-cure, hydroxychloroquine. (“It’s an exciting day.”)
Since then, hydroxychloroquine’s been flunking its tests and even Trump no longer talks about it. South Dakota, meanwhile, now has 1,858 coronavirus cases.
Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, is trying to drop as many constraints as possible, even as the state’s list of coronavirus victims ratcheted up to 20,000, with 838 deaths. Kemp only started shelter-in-place earlier this month — at which point he also confided that he’d had no idea people who don’t look sick could still be spreading the virus.
But that doesn’t mean he’s not qualified! Any more than Donald Trump doesn’t deserve to teach cinematic history.
Thanks to Kemp, on Friday Georgia will become open for businesses like gyms, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys. Even Trump doesn’t think it’s a good idea. And nobody can possibly discuss this without asking what convinced Kemp his state was in desperate need of access to tattoo artists.
Really, governors, think about this stuff. You do not want to go down in history like Ron DeSantis of Florida, who will be remembered forever as the guy who decided professional wrestling was an essential business that needed to be continued during the shutdown. It’ll probably be in his obituary.
The other day at a press conference, DeSantis did attempt to set a good example by donning a face mask. Unfortunately, he couldn’t figure out how to put it on.
This might be the right time to mention that more than 4,000 Floridians have been hospitalized with the coronavirus. And that even if the rate starts to drop, it’ll just come back again unless we really change the way we’re handling the infections.
“The thing to focus on is whether people want to avoid a second wave,” said Danielle Allen, lead author of a report by more than 45 experts in health, science and economics for Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.
Trump has said that he wants to let the governors make their own decisions “because from a constitutional standpoint, that’s the way it should be done.” That certainly would have kept him off the playing field, except for the part where he added, “If I disagreed, I would overrule a governor, and I have that right to do it.”
I hope that’s perfectly clear. At the same time, if there’s one thing everybody’s getting used to, it’s lower standards.
“Good is now not terrible,” said Andrew Cuomo.
New York’s governor became a hero this month for lambasting Trump over his failure to give the floundering states much help. Lately, with an eye on federal aid, Cuomo’s been far more conciliatory. The two got together this week in Washington for a meeting that was described by both sides as “productive.”
After all, Cuomo said when he returned home, very few people go to the White House and then “come out and say it was an unproductive visit.”
So — we’ll soon have a return to normal in a lot of states, whether the experts think they’re ready or not. Then the next wave. Trump will keep doing what he does. Unless they put him on a rowboat.
Gail Collins is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times