By David M. Greenwald
On Facebook yesterday, I saw that a certain elected member of a regional city’s city council posted a meme: “Donald Trump locked in a room with Melania for 14 Days… Trump wins again.”
Some of you know whom I am talking about, but it doesn’t matter that much. I found the meme pretty telling—not just because they deemed being locked in a room with Melania as some great outcome, but also because it is emblematic of the problem.
It’s all a big joke—COVID, that is. The post got lots of likes and a dozen shares. But as the day wore on, the sense of foreboding seemed to overwhelm the frivolity.
They are trying to play down the severity of the situation here. They have described Trump as having a “low-grade fever,” cough and some fatigue.
Some experts have opined that the critical days ahead, from days 5 to 10, are when the severe symptoms normally show.
Lets be honest—I’m not sure you put the president of the United States into the hospital on experimental medications for a situation that is not severe. After all, you can bring medical staff into the White House and give him around-the-clock care.
If this sounds conspiratorial, it is really just healthy skepticism. When Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981, the nation was not informed and did not learn until much later just how grave the condition of the president was. (See: A closer call than we knew).
But the severity of the illness and the level of concern aside… as a morality tale, this would be rather fascinating. As one person put it, this isn’t a morality tale—this is science.
Indeed, but the lesson here is that when you brazenly ignore the best scientific advice and the advice of public health officials, you are playing with fire.
So far five people have tested positive including the President and his wife, Hope Hicks, Kellyanne Conway and Thom Tillis.
Nate Silver in a tweet last night made the interesting observation: “RGB dies 6 weeks before the election and the ceremony at the White House to name her replacement turns into a COVID-19 superspreading event is, on the one hand, a remarkably strange sequence of events, but on the other hand chock-full of foreseeable risks that went unprevented.”
And that’s really the bottom line of this whole thing—foreseeable risk. Maybe worse.
The culture in the White House has been that masks are a sign of weakness. You listen on social media about people refusing to wear masks because they view it as a sign of fear—and they don’t want to live in fear. Even embedded into that notion is the false belief that you wear the mask to protect yourself rather than others.
The problem here is they flaunted this virus from the start. We have the slew of comments that it is going to disappear or that they have it under control or that it is just like the flu—even as Trump told Bob Woodward, he knew darn well in February it was far worse than the flu.
They were reckless—they continued to host events and, contrary to claims at the debate, many of these were inside. The events took a toll, as Tulsa did leading to the death of Herman Cain, for one example.
The photos from the Rose Garden Ceremony show the White House staff sitting together, no social distancing and the word around was that masks were not only not worn, but openly ridiculed.
In a pointed editorial, the LA Times writes: “No matter how you feel about Trump’s performance as president — and we feel pretty strongly that it has been a disaster — this is another crisis for a nation reeling from a year that almost seems apocalyptic: Trump’s impeachment, COVID-19, a popular outcry over racial injustice, the deaths of John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, catastrophic wildfires.
“And now this: A reckless president whose irresponsibility has endangered not only himself and his family but the stability of the country by throwing the executive branch into chaos. Another crisis, this one fully of Trump’s own making.”
Keep in mind as well, Trump is in the high-risk category. He’s 74 and he is considered obese.
One of Trump’s closest aides, Hope Hicks, experienced symptoms and tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday. In fact, she was said to be very ill.
Despite knowing this early in the day, the Times reports, “Astonishingly, Trump went ahead with an indoor fundraiser at his New Jersey golf club.”
This was not a good week for the President. The revelations about his taxes were dwarfed by his performance at the debate, and now this threatens to prevent him from taking to the campaign trail at a time when he has just a month left until the election—and serves as a reminder of his lackadaisical response to the pandemic that has been seen as the chief reason why his support and prospects for re-election have declined over the last six months.
It seems that this was probably inevitable—the timing however, probably couldn’t be worse.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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