With the legislation passed to respond to the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, like the program created to give forgivable loans to small businesses, President Donald Trump may have “failed” to manage Americans’ expectations, Republican ally Chris Christie said Wednesday.
“Everybody wants two things to happen at the same time that are impossible to happen at the same time. They want us to distribute, you know, as a federal government, $350 billion of money immediately, and they also want it to be done without any mistakes,” said Christie, the former governor of New Jersey and a ABC News contributor, during an interview for the “Powerhouse Politics” podcast. “Well, it’s not going to happen… the fact of the matter is that there’s going to be mistakes that are made.”
Christie said that some of the problems that have plagued the program, such as loans being awarded to large franchises, like Shake Shack, were bound to happen, given how quickly Congress had to act on relief legislation, but the president may not have done enough to manage Americans’ expectations as the federal government tried to respond to the pandemic.
“People have to have realistic expectations — and that may be where the president has failed,” Christie said. “You’ve got to be able to say, ‘We’re going to do this as quickly as we can and we’re going to try to fix mistakes that occur as we find out about them. But you’re not going to be able to do both at the same time.'”
As the governor of New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy, Christie has experience dealing with a crisis, and he recently outlined a five-point plan in a Washington Post op-ed to get the country on a pathway to “begin to restore the American way of life.”
Christie emphasized that he believes this has to be looked at holistically because “if it were up to the medical professionals, they’d have us locked in our homes until we have a vaccine.” It’s going to take leadership to get the country going again, and it won’t happen without accepting some risk.
“Don’t let the extremes govern our response to this… there’s a middle ground here to tread and that’s where we should be,” he told the podcast’s co-hosts, ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein.
One point of his plan is analyzing COVID-19 cases data on a county-by-county level, and allow for businesses to reopen, even in limited capacities, based on what that data is showing. He said that people will have to wear masks, and he thinks that will be “just a reality of American life” until there’s effective treatment or a vaccine for the virus.
Asked about Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to not wear a mask during his visit to the Mayo Clinic Tuesday, Christie said he thinks everybody needs to be wearing one right now.
“I understand it’s uncomfortable. You know, I don’t like wearing them… But you know what? The mask is on so you could protect others. The mask doesn’t protect you. The mask protects others,” he said. “So to me, the most giving thing that anybody can do is to put a mask on because you’re protecting others by putting your mask on.”
Christie also weighed in on the November election, and said that’s it’s impossible to know how the coronavirus pandemic will impact the rest of the campaign.
“This is the most unprecedented thing that’s happened this close to an election in my lifetime, and we don’t know how it’s going to play out,” he said. “I think anybody who tells you they know how this is going to look in September is completely full of it. No one knows how it’s going to look. And we’re just going to have to play this along.”
But he did say he thinks it’s helpful to Democrats that former Vice President Joe Biden, the party’s presumptive nominee, has been essentially forced off the campaign trail.
“I don’t think he’s performed extraordinarily well during all this, and I don’t think there’s really a space for him at the moment,” Christie said. “I think it’s to the Democrat’s advantage to not have Joe Biden out there right now facing scrutiny on a whole bunch of these issues and others.”
It’s good that Trump is regularly participating in the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings, Christie said, but he thinks it would be better for the president if he only spoke for around 15 minutes, took a few questions, and then passed it off to the vice president or other members of the task force to finish the briefing.
Christie added, “I don’t think they want to see him lowering himself to bicker with the press… he’s there as a national leader right now in a national crisis. He shouldn’t be bickering with the press for an hour and a half or two hours every day. And I told him directly that I think it’s a mistake to do that.”