- - Monday, April 6, 2020

A few Democratic governors have sought to build a more positive relationship with President Trump amid the coronavirus crisis, but Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has chosen to lead her party’s drumbeat of criticism. She is the new Democratic star who recently gave her party’s response to Mr. Trump’s State of the Union address, and is on Joe Biden’s short list of vice presidential running mates.

Ms. Whitmer appears almost daily on cable news shows. She alleged, without providing evidence, that the Trump administration caused medical supply vendors “not to send stuff here to Michigan.” She attacked the administration for not giving “clear directives and guidance.” Mr. Trump responded by tweeting that she “likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude.” Her most recent theme is that Mr. Trump is derelict for not providing a stay-at-home order for the entire country.

On “Fox News Sunday” this past weekend, Ms. Whitmer said that a number of hospitals in the Detroit area are already at capacity. Indeed, Michigan has the fourth-highest per capita death rate from the disease. But she was slow to act. The neighboring states of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio have much lower death rates, but their governors issued stay-at-home orders before Ms. Whitmer did. 

Mr. Trump is the one who has introduced extraordinary measures to fight the virus. The president used his emergency powers to enable off-label use of drugs to fight the virus, while Ms. Whitmer initially fought this in her own state. Now that the death toll has surged, Ms. Whitmer has finally changed her tune.  

We know these drugs are safe, since we use them for treating other illnesses. They just haven’t yet been proven effective against the coronavirus. But a March 24 letter from the Whitmer administration warns physicians and pharmacists that they risk losing their professional licenses if they prescribe drugs such as hydroxychloroquine. 



This drug shows real promise in small studies, but has yet to go through the years-long testing process that the FDA requires to prove efficacy. As Mr. Trump said, if someone is dying anyway from the coronavirus, what do we have to lose from giving these drugs a try? We may also learn something about the treatment that could redound to the benefit of others.

Ironically, a week after first threatening to take away the licenses of doctors, Ms. Whitmer demanded that the federal government use its Strategic National Stockpile to quickly supply her state with these drugs.

Mr. Trump has slashed government regulations, such as restrictions that prevented university hospitals from developing tests for the virus. But outside of Ms. Whitmer’s about-face on these drugs, it’s hard to think of a single regulation that a prominent Democrat has supported scrapping. To them, only more regulation is the answer.

There may not be any apocalypse in store for Americans, but people have real concerns about the limitations of police protection amid a pandemic. A fifth of Detroit’s police force is quarantined or sick, and not able to do its job. 

Telecommuting isn’t an option for police, and their jobs are now even more dangerous than usual. Police also have their hands full with enforcing their state’s stay-in-place lockdown.

Many departments, including Detroit’s, have understandably scaled back normal policing in an effort to limit officers’ potential exposure to the disease.

Amid a surge in gun and ammunition sales, the Trump administration’s Department of Homeland Security declared that firearm retailers are essential and should not experience disruptions during the pandemic. By contrast, Ms. Whitmer is one of only seven governors who either closed down gun stores or at least failed to list gun stores as essential businesses. Did Michigan gun stores close? Michigan is also no longer issuing concealed handgun licenses 

Prison inmates who are deemed to be at high risk of infection are also getting released early from jails and prisons. At some of Michigan’s jails, the inmate population has been reduced by more than 25 percent since the crisis began.  

So, at the same time that Michigan police are stretched thin and not responding to calls, criminals are being released early from prison. Gun-control advocates such as Ms. Whitmer normally tell people to rely on the police for protection. But what are people supposed to do if they have to fend for themselves?

There is a systematic difference in Ms. Whitmer’s and Mr. Trump’s approaches. Mr. Trump is much more willing to trust individual doctors, patients and citizens to make the right decisions. The government can help in times of crisis, but sometimes we don’t need bureaucrats overseeing our every move.

• John R. Lott Jr. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author, most recently, of “The War on Guns.”

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