- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2020

If all the world’s a stage, it seems that the current pandemic has provided a big one for ambitious politicos not so subtly seeking national recognition or interviewing for a step up the ladder of ambition. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appears daily to comfort the afflicted, warn the public of dangers still lurking out there and, hopefully, perform better than the current occupant of the White House who he apparently hopes viewers will conclude is far less sympathetic, dishonest and perhaps dangerous.

Mr. Cuomo has gotten advice and assistance from his brother, CNN’s Chris Cuomo, as he has worked to turn the daily television briefings on the coronavirus into what The New York Post’s Kyle Smith describes as the “Cuomo Brothers Feel-Good Pandemic Variety Show” to provide not just information and comfort to the citizens he has ordered to stay home, but to provide a quasi-reality show for them to tune into during their confinement.

The governor’s backers and progressives in the media give the show pretty good reviews as it seems to be softening his image and allowed some to suggest that Democrats should perhaps consider dumping good old Joe Biden, who isn’t performing very well these days from the makeshift studio in the basement of wherever he’s holed up in Delaware and let him take on Donald Trump in November. It isn’t going to happen, but the fact that they’re talking about him has suggested to others looking to the future that it’s an act worth emulating.

So now in the aftermath of putative Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s announcement that he has pretty much decided to pick a woman to run with him we have Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer working the pandemic for all it might be worth as well. She began by staking her claim as among the most outspoken critics of the president’s handling of the crisis, but has since highlighted her concern for the suffering of its victims, allowing reporters to listen in on some of her calls with Michigan victims and their families.

She still takes shots at President Trump, of course, but seems to realize that when this is all over there will be a desire for a softer tone. Still, although few had heard of her or knew anything about here a few months ago, she has used the opportunity before her to emerge as a national figure. Old Joe has even put her on his “short list” as a possible running mate and hosted her as his guest on his podcast.

The president seems to be playing into the hands of his opponents as if he were a national drama critic attacking a play that’s barely opened in New Haven. He’s helped elevate Ms. Whitmer by attacking her and has been spotty in his own handling of his briefings. Even The Wall Street Journal and Brit Hume of FoxNews have suggested that he rein in his tendency to spend half the time during his television briefings to attack his critics lest it diminish him in the eyes of viewers. Still, he seems to agree with Mr. Trump that air time is air time and while dismissing his act and praising Mr. Cuomo they’ve been trying to get him kicked off the air. 

To this end, a progressive outfit calling itself “Free Press” petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to censor the president’s coronavirus briefings because as the commission has ruled in the past it has a “compelling interest in preventing substantial public harm” and that listening to a Trump briefing inflicts just such harm on a viewer. 

Needless to say, the FCC drop kicked the petition out this week, finding that at best the petitioners didn’t understand the FEC’s commission, but that “at worst, the Petition is a brazen attempt to pressure broadcaster to squelch their coverage of a President that ‘Free Press” dislikes.” In the view of most of the president’s critics, regardless of how they judge the value of the information imparted during his briefings or his oratorical style, is that he should shut up and let those who share their distaste for him dominate the airwaves.

What the White House and the president’s critics seem to forget is that at the end of the day the public is going to grade President Trump and the rest not on the basis of what they think about each other or how entreating they might be in front of a camera, but on whether they’re right and on the leadership and common sense they demonstrate as the country works its way out of the present crisis.  

• David A. Keene is an editor at large for The Washington Times.

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