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What the Devil won't tell you

Hide or die: Ducey won't face the public as coronavirus eats up Arizona

Gov. Doug Ducey has gone into hiding.

For weeks and weeks, he’s been providing no public-facing leadership on the COVID-19 crisis the way he did over the summer, when deaths and caseloads were peaking well below the summits of daily numbers on December’s fever charts.

New daily diagnoses of coronavirus in July bounced between 2,500 and 4,000. Today, the numbers vibrate on the fever chart between 2,700 and 10,000.

But Ducey hasn’t given a public press conference about the state’s response or numbers since the beginning of the month. In November, as the numbers began to spike, he made himself almost as scarce. This fall, he avoided making public appearances in front of reporters almost totally. Instead of facing questions as he did in the spring and early summer, Ducey instead drops brief, awkward, "especially important" video statements and pops up for brief photo ops.

We reached out to Ducey's new spokesman C.J. Karamargin — a former colleague, drinking buddy and editor — and he won’t even comment about why he’s not commenting about the absence of comments from the governor.

I’m guessing Ducey is hiding until the storm blows over and I’m not talking the coronavirus storm. I’m talking about the orange skies of Hurricane Trump, because of course I am. Because of course we can’t live our lives, face up to this moment of history’s challenge without his big, dumb face in ours and his cult setting fires to everything around us.

We have a problem, Phoenix. Daily case loads are doubling the records set during the summer. Daily death rates are regularly breaking 100, despite increased know how about treating the virus. The hospital system in Tucson is at capacity. There’s an outbreak in the state's prisons that's killing inmates and guards alike.

The state’s color-coded ZIP code map shows the severity of the outbreak in different neighborhoods. The ruby red danger zone is no longer confined to Tucson’s South Side and lower-income parts of Phoenix. It now includes, Douglas, Safford, Winslow, Kingman, Cottonwood, Prescott, Prescott Valley, Sierra Vista and Bullhead City.

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The Navajo Nation is on lockdown, again, because the hospitals have no more room.

COVID-19 testing is showing an 11 percent infection rate across the state.

And Gov. Ducey has exited the stage. 

I can’t help but think Ducey's vanishing act is yet another example of how Arizona has again been T-boned by the crazy from his own party.

So once again and as always, we have to swerve into Crazytown.

Yes, this is really happening. Again. Our capacity to handle the pandemic is caught up in the drama of a party gone mad. Rwanda is a country increasingly dominated by evangelical, gay-bashing Christians and even they are using science to deliver a coranavirus response that makes Arizona's seem Third World. Senegal is shaming us with the professional efficiency of the fact-based world.

Off the rails

The split in the GOP is no longer moderate versus conservative. It’s the governing wing versus the conspiracy wing. Ducey – love him or hate him – has erred on the side of governing. So maybe he doesn’t spend all his time in a safe room mapping out imaginary plots on a wall with crayons and string.

The ultra-right base of the GOP is mad at Ducey’s face because he certified Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona and his top aide called U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs “nuts.”

Biggs posted a tweet asking about the necessity of getting a COVID vaccine, as it dripped with conspiratorial innuendo:

Like all freedom-loving Arizonans,

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I have to stop him right there. By freedom he means his freedom to absolute power over everyone else. We all want freedom from the virus but Biggs won't help provide it so he can do whatever he wants. 

Continue, congressman ...

Like all freedom-loving Arizonans, I am left wondering if the Governor intends to coerce vaccinations, and whether the State Legislature will let him.

To which Daniel Scarpinato replied:

"We always knew you were nuts, but you've now officially confirmed it for the whole world to see. Congratulations. Enjoy your time as a permanent resident of Crazytown.

The response from the MAGAverse was swift and judgment immediate and the tinfoil flew.

Rep. Paul Gosar began to start circulating a recall petition that Democrats had launched against Ducey. Right. We’re supposed to believe that Gosar is mad at Ducey for failing to enact science-based public safety measures. Oh yeah, right. That’s what the Freedom Caucus has been bitching about: Not enough science.

I’ve been wondering how Republicans would deal with the vaccine. The smart play would be to take full credit for the mass immunization, claiming Trump did it with Operation Warp Speed.

On the other hand, a vaccine is just too fertile for the conspiracy wing of the GOP to pass up. We’re talking about the government filling hundreds of millions of syringes and distributing them around the country to inject in hundreds of millions of arms.

That’s like putting a plate of crab leg in front of me. How am I supposed to not?

Making matters worse for Ducey, he signed off on Joe Biden’s win in Arizona because the law required it. Scarpinato called U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs crazy because Biggs has the cognitive processes of a rabid woodchuck.

I’m sorry. Is that ad hominem? Biggs told constituents masks don’t work. He twice called for Dr. Anthony Fauci to be fired for putting science over talking points. He is an eight-figure lottery winner who voted against COVID relief twice now. And he opposed back pay for government workers furloughed during a government shutdown, arguing that savaging public employees' finances is the only way to get things done in Washington. Is there a part of School House Rock that we don’t know about? That’s not how a bill becomes a law.

Can't argue with that

In short, neither Ducey nor his team are signing off on Team Trump’s conspiracy fantasies.

Arguing with them is impossible.

Mount up evidence against their suppositions and that just proves how deep the plot really goes. The lack of evidence for their fantasies just reveals how everyone is in on it.

Try it. They’ll throw a side-eyed smile and say “oh really?" as they nod slowly and ask: "You believe that, do you?”

Please wake me when this is over, Jesus H. Murphy ...

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Your fantasy is not my profession

The governor’s COVID response also seems to be bullied because cameras caught him muting and ignoring a call from the White House as he did while he certified Biden’s win.

RWNJ Twitter, again, went bat-guano crazy that Trump wasn’t certified the winner even after coming in second.

Even Scott Baio got mad and if you are pissing off Chachi, the whole rest of the tribe is coming.

I’ve been accused of hating the MAGAs. I don’t. I’ve just had it up to here with them making things up and demanding the rest of us prove them wrong. I'm also frustrated at watching the media elsewhere try so hard to win their love.

If they insist on living in a fiction, it’s not the job of the press to illustrate it so they can live their happy thoughts.

MAGAs, it’s not our job to say you live in Westeros, and have a shot at the Iron Throne. No, you can trade some dragonglass for Sansa Stark.

It’s not our obligation to agree that you are a Jedi with the power of mind control and call Alexandria Ocasio Cortez for comment about why she stole your light saber.

You aren’t the other girl with the dragon tattoo.

You weren’t at the Battle of Helm’s Deep.

You weren’t the eighth friend.

You aren’t the 13th Apostle.

COVID-19 is real.

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Trump lost.

And by the way, I warned the Trumpkins that demonizing early voting rather than engaging in it might cost them election wins. If it cost Trump 1 percent of his vote in Arizona, that was enough to cost him the state.

You lost because you were stupid. If my job is tell you anything, it's that.

You win it. You bought it. Get over it.

But Ducey’s job is to be governor.

No one ordered him to run for governor in 2014. His re-election in 2018 wasn’t a liberal plot against freedom.

Ducey sought this job through his own free will and that job requires being out front during tragedy or crisis. COVID-19 is a year-long mass casualty event. That’s a crisis.

It's no time for Ducey to play "hide or die."

He needs to get out there and lead the state through the pandemic by standing front and center, with his shoulders back and the truth out.

He can govern reality or hide in a fantasy. The MAGAs are mean to everyone. Get over it.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist, who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.


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Michael Chow/Arizona Republic/pool

Gov. Doug Ducey has gone underground as his party turns on him. Arizona needs him front and center doing his job.

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