Murphy Says He Saw Only a Christie Headline or Two

Murphy and Christie tonight at the Rutgers-Michigan game.

Phil Murphy probably doesn’t want to hear any second guessing from Chris Christie.

But that effectively happened the other day when the former governor talked about more virus-related deaths to come no matter what the country does regarding social distancing and stay-at-home orders. In
other words, if more deaths are going to happen anyway, let’s be a bit quicker to end lockdowns and rev the economy.

In an interview with CNN, Christie suggested that the American people have gone “through significant death before.” He used the first and second World Wars as examples.

“We sent our young men during World War II over to Europe, out to the Pacific, knowing that many of them would not come home alive. And we decided to make that sacrifice because what we were standing up for was the American way of life. In the very same way now, we have to stand up for the American way of life.”

Murphy was asked about these comments at his daily briefing today and said he only saw a “headline” or two and didn’t read the story fully.

Pressed on that, Murphy, who often quotes the New York Times at his briefings, said he simply can’t read everything that’s relevant to the crisis at hand.

The governor’s reading habits aside, it’s clear Murphy sees things differently.

Time and time again, the governor uses his briefings to mourn the loss of life and to highlight some of those who perished. Weeks ago, he ordered flags to be lowered in their memory.

The governor seemed a bit annoyed at the start of today’s briefing. He referenced talk about reopening many businesses by Memorial Day, which is something Senate President Steve Sweeney has said, and allowing now closed non-essential shops to open with curbside pick-up only.

“Three hundred and eighty five people entered the hospital in the past 24 hours with COVID-19,” he said with a strong dose of emotion. And a few second later, he reported the deaths of 334 additional New Jersey residents since Monday’s briefing, raising the total to more than 8,200.

And he bluntly said the status quo is going to remain until his goals are met. That means a decrease in hospitalizations and deaths and an increase in widespread testing.  And he doesn’t care if some people
don’t like it.

While the “curve” has been flattened, Murphy said, “We are still not in the end zone.”

Christie’s take, of course, is part of a larger debate that breaks more or less along political fault lines. In simple terms, Republicans prioritize the economy over public health; Democrats take public health over the economy.

That said, Christie’s world war comparisons are not convincing. The country was very different in 1917 and 1941; people by necessity were more accepting of wars, the draft and casualties. There are few
Americans alive today with first-hand recollections of sacrifices made in World War II, let alone World War I.

When it comes to war, what many in the country remember today is Vietnam and the loss of about 58,000 Americans for a dubious premise.

So if you want to use the war comparison, Vietnam is probably a reason why many who grew up in that era see preventing unnecessary deaths as so important.

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