At the end of a COVID-19 briefing Monday, Gov. Jim Justice smugly looked at the camera and asked West Virginia, “What have I missed? Tell me one thing I’ve missed.”
This was after Justice, who also still operates his businesses and coaches the high school girls basketball team at Greenbrier East High School, had learned the school district had voted against him being hired as the boys basketball coach, a position he previously held.
Justice was asking the question in an effort to prove he can be the state’s top elected official and do all the other things he wants to do, no problem. And yet, it’s like Oedipus bragging about his keen eyesight.
When he posed the question, Justice had launched into a statement about the 3-2 vote apparently to save the news media the time of having to call him for comment — as if he regularly conducts interviews and answers news media requests. Through his response, Justice unwittingly proved there was a lot he had missed just that day.
He talked about two school board members, whom he said he didn’t know and couldn’t identify if they were put in front of him, spreading ill-talk of the governor. So, he claims he doesn’t know who is on the board that’s voting on the recommendation to hire him. That’s a miss. He doesn’t know anything about these two members, but attacked their character. That’s another miss.
Most glaringly, Justice said the real victims were the kids on the boys basketball team, who would lose out because of the board’s decision. A few minutes earlier, a member of the team, who claimed to be speaking for himself and other players, asked the board not to hire Justice, because the team deserves a full-time coach invested in the players on and off the court (Justice had said he would have assistants run practices and only coach games). Swing and a miss.
Of course, Justice literally missed the meeting where his coaching fate was being decided, because he was in Charleston conducting a COVID-19 briefing (which, as the governor of a state where the pandemic is once again surging, is where he should’ve been). Once he was updated on what had happened in Greenbrier County, the governor’s overblown — if not delusional — confidence, conflated with his complete lack of information or understanding, was on full display. Again.
It was similar to when Justice was AWOL during the 2018 legislative session when teachers at public schools in all 55 counties went on strike. It was days before Justice even got into a room with union leaders, and then he publicly announced that the strike was over. That was news to the teachers, who remained on strike for five more days, until Justice could stay focused long enough to actually address the problem. Miss. A strike happened the following year, and again the governor was late to the table to address it. Miss.
As was mentioned last week, but bears repeating because it involves two of his jobs, Justice was begging West Virginians, especially those ages 12 to 65, to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Several of his players on the Greenbrier East girls basketball team were offered vaccines and declined them, then tested positive for the virus. Justice, who actually took the blame for once, said he had no idea what had happened. The team missed the state tournament as a result. Huge miss on several levels.
Oh, and Justice is being sued for hundreds of millions of dollars over reported loan debts, and his business empire could be in serious trouble.
This is but the tip of the iceberg of things Justice has missed.
He has shown he can barely handle what’s on his plate now, and should be focused solely on governing the state. But Justice’s swagger that seems more and more like a dangerous separation from reality won’t allow him to accept that. At least some, like three members of the Greenbrier County Board of Education, can see it for what it really is.
But what Jim wants, Jim gets. Here’s hoping he doesn’t bully and needle the school board to get his way (as he implied he might) when he should be focusing on a pandemic that is once again spiraling out of control.