“Hi,” said the female caller. “May I speak to John?”
“Who is this?”
Pause of three seconds.
“Governor Whiter? “
“Oh ma’am,” John said, his tone apologizing. “Hi, how are you?”
That’s the question that was loaded. This special appeal, one of Whitmer’s dozens to be made on Monday, April 6, comes at a relatively calm time for the governor who has become one of the most visible political leaders in America amid the Covid-19 pandemic. But these past few weeks have gone crazy. Since Michigan’s first case was identified on March 11, Whitmer, who has declared a state of emergency, closed schools and businesses, banned large gatherings, expanded unemployment benefits and ordered residents to take shelter on the spot.
That is not enough. With Michigan’s death rate soaring, and the state running out of resources, Whitmer began asking for Washington’s help while openly criticizing the lack of a national Covid-19 strategy. Predictably, this triggered ad hominem retribution from President Trump. He called him “Gretchen‘ Half ’Whitmer.” She dismissed the governor, during a White House press conference, as “a woman in Michigan.” He stated that his administration would only help governors who “appreciate” his efforts.
Meanwhile, by Whitmer’s handling of the compliment gathering of the plague, he has gained heights as a trendy choice to become Joe Biden’s partner – a fact that is not lost on Trump, who continues to choose him to be attacked. All this further complicates the situation of Whitmer’s nightmares, injecting fragile egoism and the politics of the election year into a public health disaster that is increasingly gloomier.
“Well, I’m fine,” Whitmer answered. “You know, I got a message that you called our office on Tuesday and talked with Nathan. And I know you share your wife’s experience at Henry Ford [Hospital] and just want to touch the base and see if there are any updates. We have worked very hard to get Personal Protection Equipment for him, but I want to hear from you directly. “
“Well,” said John, clearing his throat, “I’m a little choking now. Because, umm, literally my father-in-law just died at 2:30 at the hospital from Covid.”
Panting whiter. It’s 3:07 p.m.
“Geez,” the governor murmured, his eyes closed. “I am sorry.”
Whitmer spent the day absorbing anecdotal body blows. There are medical professionals who, after being out of quarantine for 19 days, get unlimited leave because of their health conditions. There are school supervisors who are worried about hungry students and insolent bus drivers in their area. There is a doctor who tells the story of seeing many patients until their last moment, then calls family members who are waiting in the parking lot and delivers bad news.
The governor had maintained an even stable, very worried look, when he heard about the extraordinary death rate in one hospital, he hung up and said quietly, to anyone specifically, “What do we do with all the corpses?”
But now Whitmer sounded rather unsteady. The story of John – suddenly lost – has landed like a straw maker.
Maybe a governor shouldn’t show vulnerability in times of crisis. But John, an Army veteran who served three combat tours, didn’t seem to mind. Both are bound now, talking about his family, his circumstances, his fears. John’s fiancée – not his wife – is a childbirth and delivery nurse who has been wearing the same mask for seven days. Some medical personnel at his hospital have tested positive, adding to the panic due to the lack of PPE. During the next 10 minutes, Whitmer asked John about hospital security protocols, begged him not to wake his fiancé to get an answer (he worked overnight shifts), and assured him that help was on his way.
“Well, I appreciate that call, governor,” said John. “I tried to call the White House. I will be honest, I am conservative. Always so. I voted for President Trump. But I just hope he will stop with his madness. You know, this is not the time – at all. And I will say it to him on his face . “
John continued, “I cannot understand the president’s word …” The state must have a plan. “That can’t be only in the country. I mean, we are Unite American countries. We should unite. “
Very quickly, a grin of satisfaction pulled at Whitmer’s cheek. This grin is known to anyone who has tried to roll it, anyone who has received his famous intelligence in Lansing. At this moment, a grin of satisfaction. After all the harassment he had taken from the president, here was a Trump loyalist, someone who was hurt and anxious and fed up with being too small, telling Whitmer that he supported him. He looks ready to drop one sentence.
But the governor quickly regained his poker face. This is not the time, indeed.