Former California Governor Jerry Brown: President Trump 'abdicated' in coronavirus response

While calling for increased testing and tracing in the face of COVID-19, former California Governor Jerry Brown accused President Trump of shirking his responsibility as Commander-in-Chief.

“The President has abdicated,” Brown told FOX 11’s Elex Michaelson in an exclusive interview on The Issue Is.

“He’s thrown the ball to the governors, who can do a lot, and have a real role to play, like the Mayors, but at the end of the day, we need a Commander-in-Chief, like Roosevelt, who one day after Pearl Harbor said ‘no more private passenger cars, America is making Liberty Ships, airplanes, and tanks.’”

In that spirit of FDR, Brown called on President Trump to invoke the War Powers Act, mobilizing American industries to produce millions of fast and reliable tests that will allow states looking to reopen to identify and isolate those affected by the virus.

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President Trump previously invoked the Defense Production Act in April, ordering some 137K ventilators to be produced by the end of 2020.

Now, like California, with its population of nearly 40 million, averages about 35K tests a day, Brown expressed concern, saying the number should be at least a “couple hundred thousand” daily, especially if the state hopes to send children back to school.

Brown pointed to actions in Taiwan and China as a possible road-map for America, asking why the United States can’t test more aggressively while, at the same time, China has announced plans to test 11M residents of Wuhan.

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According to the University of Oxford, the United States leads the world in raw testing, having performed some 9.4 million tests. However, looking at a per capita basis, the United States trails the likes of Canada, Denmark, and the UK, averaging about 28.4 tests per 1,000 people.

Still, Brown wondered why America isn’t able to produce 10 million tests a week, or even a month. He answered by saying that in times of crisis, that responsibility ultimately falls under the leadership of the President.

“There is only one man who has the key, and the key is currently Donald Trump, and so far he isn’t opening the lock.”

“You’ve got to be relentless about that, you cannot pussy-foot around, or you’re going to have this virus hanging on, destroying the economy, killing more people, and making more people suffer the horror.”

But increased testing is only the first part of the solution.

Brown, who serves alongside former Governors Schwarzenegger and Davis on Gov. Newsom’s “Economic Recovery Council,” said there is also a fiscal response that is desperately needed, especially as the state tries to take a measured and practical approach to reopen in the face of record levels of unemployment and a potential budget deficit of $54B.

“We need, right now, from our President, and the Congress, a fiscal investment, trillions of dollars,” Brown said.

That investment would be two-fold Brown said.

“First of all, they’ve got to help people who can’t work to support their families.”

“Secondly, we have to invest and create the demand in infrastructure and jobs, because 70% of the American economy is consumers buying stuff,” the former Governor added. “That 70% [of people] is not buying, therefore, the only other entity that can equal 70% of the American people is the American government, and we know it can work, it worked in WWII, it worked in the Depression.”

To meet those needs, both in regards to testing and financial aid, Brown called on Governors to make their voices heard, either virtually, or face-to-face with the President - even as Governors like Newsom claim they have received everything thus far requested from the President and Federal Government.

On the subject of Newsom, Brown told Michaelson he thinks the current Governor, his successor, has risen to the challenge of the crisis and has done a "good" job, even if he wonders whether America is doing good under the circumstances.

"He's got a lot going for him," Brown said of his former Lt. Governor. "He's bright, he's got experience, he was mayor of a big, complicated city, he's got a lot of good people around him, and he's got all this advice in the world. The big challenge is the cards he's been dealt are very difficult cards to play, even if you're Superman."

From state-level politics to the national stage, Brown also expressed concerns over the November election, saying that while Vice President Biden may be up in the polls, oddsmakers see President Trump winning reelection.

With the pandemic, climate change, and other issues on the ballot, Brown said the country needs a Rooseveltian-figure to "grab the bull by the horns."

"We just need a commander-in-chief to do what Roosevelt did at a comparable time in American history, and so far, that isn't happening," Brown said. "Joe Biden's got to present a Rooseveltian-alternative crisply, effectively, and eloquently, now, and every day between now and the election."

In a wide-ranging interview on The Issue Is, Brown also discussed his new biography, “Man of Tomorrow” by Jim Newton, the lessons he learned from his father, former Governor Pat Brown, and his hopes for the future of California.

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