By Peter Nicholas
It shouldn’t be all that remarkable when two leaders talk in a crisis. On Sunday morning, President Donald Trump got on the phone with Mayor Bill de Blasio to discuss what New York City needs to survive a white-hot outbreak that is only getting worse. De Blasio asked him to send more ventilators and military personnel, warning that in a week’s time, the health-care system could be overwhelmed.
Yet with these particular leaders at this particular point in history, it is remarkable. Until recently, de Blasio told me, none of his calls to the upper reaches of the White House were returned. Two weeks ago, the Democratic mayor said publicly that Trump was “betraying” his native city by not sending more life-saving medical equipment. Ever sensitive to criticism, Trump said, in turn: “I’m not dealing with him.”
Defeating a pandemic is hard enough, but Trump has introduced another layer of complexity: He has personalized the battlefield. He calls COVID-19 “the invisible enemy,” but he also seems fixated on the visible variety—all Democratic leaders, who in his view have been insufficiently grateful for the federal government’s response. A stray complaint about equipment shortages invites a public feud with the man controlling the spigot. “If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” the president said at a news conference last week.