I wish the president a speedy recovery and pray for his good health. Do I feel like a hypocrite? Karma is a bitch. Is that too harsh? He gets what he deserves. Does that seem callous?
As I watched Trump walk slowly to Marine One last night on his way to Walter Reed Hospital, I was ridded with some of those feelings of comeuppance, and hoped for two things. Perhaps Trump will now understand that the virus is earth-shatteringly real, and that he remains healthy to maintain the strength of America.
Previously, I wrote that bad things come in threes, and suggested maybe the Western fires filled out the trifecta of COVID-19 and racial unrest for the dismal and turbulent year of 2020. But I spoke too soon. COVID-19 is a monster and it has struck a monster, and the collision of Donald Trump and the virus marks that third ominous touchpoint of 2020, and at the most consequential time, a month before the presidential election.
For the last six months, many of us, I am sure, wished silently and even uttered out loud that Trump should test positive. It sounded like the perfect retribution, but until it happens, and you realize this is a serious disease, then perhaps channeling ill-will is not the best course. We can be angry at him for sure. We have many reasons to be, and we’ve seen what happens to leaders of other countries who flout the disease as he did.
Trump’s acolytes around the world, namely British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who like Trump, both spurred safety precautions, caught the virus. Johnson was hospitalized. Now all three share what has stricken over 34 million people around the world and killed over one million. Now, Trump too is hospitalized, with trouble breathing, a fever and fatigue. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to him when you consider all he’s said and not done.
Trump refused to “say more” about the virus, telling Bob Woodward that he wanted to “play it down.” Now, the virus has got him down. I could spend the rest of this column citing all of Trump’s bluster about how negligible the virus is, how we are beating the virus, that it would miraculously go away, turning the corner, that masks were a joke, that all the life-long scientific experts including doctors Fauci, Birx, Hahn, Redfield were always “wrong,” Trump was the go-to expert.
Trump wanted final approval of the vaccine, and by election day. We all know his history with hydroxychloroquine as the magic potion. And then his flirtation with herd immunity, or in his vernacular, herd mentality.
Well, the virus certainly heard Trump. If the virus was a person, it would probably be like Vladimir Putin, laughing about how Trump remained so ignorant with the threat of the disease. Just like he does with Russia’s interference with our election. Both the disease and Russia have been enabled and facilitated by Trump, and both have seeped deep into the veins of our country. It’s ironic that Trump’s two biggest hoaxes are now our nation’s most serious invaders. Who is the bigger threat to our election? Is it Russia? Or is it COVID-19?
We’ve been blindly talking about all the intricacies of the election, electoral college, blue states expanding, red states in danger, racism on the rise, law and order, Trump’s taxes, rigged elections. Then there was Trump’s bungling of COVID-19 and how it sickened Americans, shut down an economy, closed businesses and schools, unemployed millions, and disrupted our way of life.
We somehow missed the fact that the virus, and the virus only, would be the final arbiter in deciding the election, with its insidious inception into the White House. The virus is the “October Surprise” — the news event that alters the election. That’s as it should be.
Its potency was unleashed on October 1, right on schedule, inflicting an obese, hamburger-obsessed, exercise-loathing, 74-year-old man — the ripest target for the roaring COVID-19. How did we think, with all of Trump’s maladies and his ignorance that he would escape its grip, and that it would not ensnare him in the final days before the presidential election?
How were we so heedless to think that Trump would slip through COVID-19’s ugly embrace? The narcissist and contagion-in-chief holding huge rallies, forgoing masks, telling White House staffers that masks weren’t a “good look,” ignoring social distancing with his operatives and toadies, sliming Biden by mocking his mask wearing. It seems that the impetus of the virus may have started with one of Trump’s famous super-spreader events, Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court announcement, held in a packed, maskless White House Rose Garden.
Just look at all the people who have tested positive, the First Lady, Sen. Mike Lee Sen. Thom Tillis, Rep. John Jenkins, and the president of Notre Dame, all who attended the Coney Barrett event. Also infected, some of the shiniest stars in Trump’s constellation, campaign manager Bill Stepien, Kellyanne Conway, and Hope Hicks and former New Jersey Governor and Trump advisor Chris Christie, who is now hospitalized. The list will be sure to grow, probably exponentially in the coming days, and questions will continue to swirl around the details about how it unraveled.
And, how long Trump knew he had COVID. His doctor on Saturday said he was diagnosed 72 hours ago, which does not match the timeline the White House has been suggesting. If Trump knew he had the virus, and carried on with his events, that would be unforgivable, and certainly make him unelectable.
With all of this going on with Trump and Trump personnel, it’s really hard to see how the president can claim victory next month. His effort to forcibly and imaginatively stymie the virus has been torn away. His absence from the campaign trail leaves a huge void of leadership that Joe Biden will fill, if he of course remains healthy.
When the president of the United States is hospitalized, that is a big deal. Not just because it’s rare – the last one was Ronald Reagan almost 40 years ago. It also represents a significant worry around the world, particularly with our allies. If a president is weakened, the perception is that America is too, and that creates an opening for our adversaries, particularly Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, whose leaders have escaped the virus so far. The world needs a strong and healthy U.S. president, and we need one to finally put this virus at bay.
Over 200,000 people have died of this dreaded plague in the U.S., and they have not once been recognized by Trump. Because he’s sick are we obligated to feel bad for him? To wish him well despite having him not wishing the afflicted well? Sympathy for the unsympathetic? Do we turn the other cheek?
Trump has put forth so much pain and division in our country, so it’s not as if we need to feel any sympathy, but rather we need a president to be healthy for the national security of this country. I know that sounds antithetical, but that’s the reality. Win or lose, Trump still has almost four months left in office, and our country’s standing around the world is unfortunately heavily influenced by this health. And the health of this country is also affected by his health.
With all the heartache that COVID-19 has caused, it’s hard for me to say this, but perhaps Trump becoming infected is a blessing in disguise? There will likely be no more debates, no more rallies, no more unsafe Rose Garden or White House briefing room press conferences or East Room medal ceremonies for unprotected war heroes. His toxicity and his forced quarantine will likely spare hundreds, if not thousands, from contracting COVID-19.
Moreover, if he recovers, and we need to hope that he does, will it alter the way he has treated the virus? Will he become more aggressive in trying to stop it during the last four months of his administration? Will having been afflicted mean that Trump has more empathy for those who have been sick as well? Will his followers finally take it seriously? Those questions are as unanswerable as whether Trump will pull out of this.
So, looking at it from this perspective, maybe it’s only fitting that the virus struck Trump so that others would be saved and ultimately more cared for? This reasoning is less about being hypocritical or having to do with karma. It’s more about reality. Maybe as a country we deserve Trump getting a taste of COVID-19. Nothing too serious and nothing life-threatening, so he can survive for America’s sake, and finally understand its devastating and frightening cruelty.
John Casey is a PR professional and an adjunct professor at Wagner College in New York City, and an editor at large for The Advocate. Follow John on Twitter @johntcaseyjr.