Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown blasts Trump but praises Republican governor's response to coronavirus

Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, is praising his state’s Republican governor’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, while at the same criticizing President Trump’s “incompetent” handling of the situation. 

“You contrast experience and character in the chief executive in Ohio with the chief executive in the White House. And Trump’s character means he lies all the time and he can’t ever take responsibility and accept blame,” Brown told “Skullduggery,” a Yahoo News podcast

Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine, has earned high marks from observers for his early and aggressive moves to hamper the spread of the virus. While officials dithered, DeWine canceled public events and became the first governor to implement a statewide school shutdown. 

By contrast, Trump “has no idea how these government agencies work, he has no idea how to scale up what we need to do, he doesn’t get the expertise around him,” according to Brown. 

And while DeWine listened to his health advisers, Brown said Trump is “narcissistic and always pointing fingers [so] has trouble surrounding himself with smart, capable people. ... The president has run out the career people, professionals that knew what they are doing, and put political hacks in.”

Brown won his Senate seat in 2006 when he defeated DeWine, who was then the incumbent. Now Brown now calls his old political foe an ally, and said they discuss the pandemic at least once a week. 

Brown has few good things to say about Trump’s handling of the crisis, specifically his refusal or inability to marshal the full resources of the federal government when they are needed most. Although Trump frequently compares the struggle against the virus to a war, Brown says the country should re-learn the lessons of World War II, when the government stepped in to ensure that private industry manufactured everything the nation needed to win. 

To that end, Brown talked about Trump’s reluctance to invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA), a Cold War-era law that allows the president to compel the private sector to manufacture materials necessary for the nation’s defense. 

“In a national emergency, in a pandemic, the government ought to tell these businesses what to do,” Brown said. “I don’t know ... if it’s an ideological thing with the president, but he simply hasn’t moved heaven and Earth — not even close — to do what you have to do to scale up on production of protective equipment and production of components that go into broad-scale testing.”

Trump finally invoked the DPA last week in a bid to stop companies from exporting and hoarding needed medical equipment, although critics like Brown say that the president’s delay in using the DPA cost lives. Brown said that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an advocacy group that represents large corporations, was also at fault because it had “lobbied” Trump against using the DPA. 

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Brown said it would not have been difficult for the president to tell big businesses they need to temporarily pivot to support the effort to defeat coronavirus. He argued that the president could have simply guaranteed businesses a certain amount of sales on the front end and agreed to help scale down production once supplies were no longer needed.

“It’s pretty simple: You say, ‘OK, you need to transition here and retool,’” Brown told “Skullduggery” hosts Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman. “But you need the government, you need the White House doing that. … [Trump] is surely incompetent.”

Brown also expressed sympathy for one of the experts Trump does have at his disposal, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a frequent participant in Trump’s lengthy and often heated daily press conferences. 

“You can watch Dr. Fauci, he looks sometimes like he’s in a hostage video,” Brown said.

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