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Trump Vs. Governors: Power During a Crisis

How much power should the president have when everything goes wrong?

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The year 2020 has become one of crisis – first came the Coronavirus pandemic, then social distancing was suddenly interrupted with protests and riots.

Amid the riots that have taken over many U.S. cities, President Trump announced that he plans to deploy military soldiers onto the streets. While several presidents have called the National Guard into action before, and some states have done so during the riots, it is rare for active soldiers to be put in that role. This has happened twice before – in 1989 to stop looting after Hurricane Hugo in Florida, and once again in 1992, during another controversy over the police’s treatment of black Americans.

Is Trump’s plan sound, or is he overstepping the mark? How much power should the president have in the midst of a crisis?


In response to the president’s plans to put down the civil unrest, CNN’s Don Lemon claimed: “We are teetering on a dictatorship.” Former Democratic candidate for president Julian Castro seconded Lemon’s motion with, “The president is acting like a budding dictator.”

Such criticism comes after months of Trump essentially being called a weenie by the left for giving so much power to the states during the COVID-19 crisis. Who doesn’t remember the endless questions put to the president at the height of the Coronavirus briefings that began with, “Why don’t you just …?” and Trump responding ad nauseam with, “It’s up to individual governors and states to decide.”

A March 31 Politico news article reprimanded, “The Trump White House is doubling down on a strategy to govern the coronavirus pandemic: pushing authority and responsibility for the response onto the states.”

All this was well and good until the media felt the president was taking too much power. Unable to decide whether the president is coward-in-chief or the reincarnation of Fidel Castro, the news website Vox played both sides well. On April 3, 2020, a Vox article scorned the president with, “In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, our federal government, led by Donald Trump, has essentially abdicated its traditional role of spearheading a coordinated response.”

Then in a written lecture to the president on the Tenth Amendment on April 15, Ian Millhiser wrote for Vox, “On Monday, President Trump delivered an astonishing press conference, in which he claimed the sort of powers ordinarily associated with an absolute monarch.” Christina Wilkie doubled-down in a CNBC article, “In reality, the authority to protect the public health of U.S. citizens by directing shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders lies squarely with the nation’s governors, and not with the president.”

President Trump on conference call with state governors.

Does too, does not, does too, does not — okay, folks, why don’t we learn to play nicely in the sandbox?

Well, here is why — because the media may not fully comprehend that the U.S. Constitution purposefully set up a tension with respect to the balance of power in America. We are a country, yes, but we are “united” states and, as such, must recognize the perpetual push and pull that exists within our system of government.

The issue of states vs. federal authority is not going away – how should these different levels of government best handle a national crisis?

Leesa Donner

Leesa K. Donner is Editor-in-Chief of and A widely published columnist, Leesa previously worked in the broadcast news industry as a television news anchor, reporter, and producer at NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates in Charlotte, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC. She is the author of “Free At Last: A Life-Changing Journey through the Gospel of Luke.”

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