Keeping up with Donald Trump during this pandemic can be frustrating. You never know from where he is coming.
Initially, the president told the country that COVID-19 was no big deal. A few weeks later, he said it was a health threat like none ever seen in our lifetime, and he recommended that cities and states that had not already imposed limits on gatherings, shuttered nonessential businesses and ordered people to stay home do so.
Now worried about how the nation’s economic suicide might affect his re-election chances, Trump claimed he had the power to override the states and reopen the economy over their objections. “When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total,” he said on Monday.
By Tuesday, apparently someone had read him the parts of the Constitution that say just the opposite, and Trump was backing away, saying he would leave it to the governors to determine when and how to resume business and social activities in their states.
He’s got it partially right now. In fact, it’s not just governors but mayors and local governing bodies that also have a say in this. Who doesn’t have a say, other than in matters of interstate commerce, is the president. He can persuade and cajole states to lift restrictions or maintain them, but he can’t order either way.
The 10th and final amendment in the Bill of Rights spells it out: Powers not delegated specifically in the Constitution to the federal government are reserved to the states or to the people.
Our country is the United States of America, not the United Kingdom of America. If only Trump could get that through his head.