Modern governing has little to do with governance and much to do with cheap magic, expressed in stumbling rhetorical sleights of hand through which an audience, blinded by ideology or something, cannot see — or won’t.
Witness Gov. Jim Justice and those among his constituents determined to follow him to the earth’s ends, even if those lead to intellectual oblivion.
If we are to believe the governor, clerical errors in the calculation of cases of recovery from COVID-19 are damnable offenses blighting, gasp, the public’s trust in him. But outfitting paramedics, firefighters, police and other first responders with what the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has deemed counterfeit respirator masks is a trifling concern.
Buying counterfeit products from China is the sort of thing that can happen when one deals with people indicted on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity.
But why should these things matter when compared to the sin of flawed data entry?
This is how we got here:
On June 21, the Gazette-Mail reported that West Virginia’s purchase of thousands of counterfeit respirator masks — presumably unwittingly — included among an array of players a Houston-based businessman accused in a separate case with two other people of stealing four large trucks and seven containers of plastic resin. Jeff Sandy, secretary of Military Affairs and Public Safety, orchestrated the masks buy. After emergency management officials raised concern about the devices, Sandy issued a report claiming the equipment to be “authentic.”
This is simply untrue. Sandy can’t say the rain is falling and make it so. The masks in question were made with ear loops and marked as approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. But NIOSH does not approve respirator masks with ear loops. So, if masks with ear loops are marked as NIOSH-approved, they are counterfeit, says not us but the CDC. Period.
Don’t be fooled by politicians speaking from both sides of their mouths.
Three days after Joe Severino’s report appeared on the front page of the Gazette-Mail, Justice acted. But his action did nothing to address the problem of the state flushing taxpayer money on bogus respirator masks from China. Instead, he forced Dr. Cathy Slemp, the state’s health officer, to resign. Why? The governor’s answer was typically muddled.
He declared he had “every reason to believe” active COVID-19 cases were being overreported. Trust in his word as governor was potentially undermined by inaccuracies in the state’s online COVID-19 dashboard. “You can trust me when I tell you something, it will be correct,” the governor said Monday when pressed again on the matter.
What the governor tells us about counterfeit masks is not correct. West Virginia cannot trust him on this.
Asked Monday by the Gazette-Mail’s Phil Kabler about the masks, the governor said the description of them as “counterfeit” was “overstated.” This is precisely the opposite of the fact. However politically inconvenient for the governor in an election year, West Virginia got taken, and first responders were left vulnerable as a result.
Trust might follow if the governor admitted the facts on counterfeit masks, ordered an independent investigation into the deal and provided a fuller explanation of Slemp’s ouster.
In lieu of this, the governor expects to be taken at his word. But his mere word is insufficient. His mere word cannot alter the facts, no matter his level of insistence.