Gov. Phil Murphy declined to say that confusing messages on how to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic coming out of the White House put a greater burden on him to carry a national message of safety while both praising and bashing President Donald Trump.
“There was some amount of evidence that they knew more than they were letting on, and that sure as heck would have helped us to have that knowledge,” Murphy said on Thursday. “There’s no question about that.”
The governor said he viewed the issue “through opposing dimensions.”
“On the one hand, when our fat was in the fire and we were literally running out of beds and ventilators and PPE, we can bemoan the fact that we had no national stockpile, but the fact is that we found common ground,” said Murphy. “I will forever be grateful to the president and the administration for finding that common ground,” he said.
But Murphy also took a clear shot at Trump.
“We have likewise suffered from the get-go with the absence of a national strategy, a national consistent theme that face masks actually are not political, they save lives,” the governor stated.
Murphy said that the lack of a national testing strategy – he called it a “kind of patchwork quilt” – a failure to make “reliable, verifiable data” available to the public, and a failure to mobilize the Defense Production Act early on, made the governing more difficult.
“All of that would have really helped. It would have helped New Jersey. It would have helped the country,” he said.
After spending the first two years of his governorship relatively unknown, certainly in comparison to his predecessor, Murphy acknowledged that frequent press briefings that have reached a national audience have boosted his name recognition in New Jersey.
“Whether they like it or not, they probably are more familiar with me,” he said.
Murphy said his goal was for his home state and not in pursuit of a national agenda.
“We exist for New Jersey. Our efforts are for New Jersey. Period,” said Murphy. “If there’s some amount of spillage and there’s some amount of good, especially if a life can be saved, based on something that we say or do, we’ll take that, obviously.