What Will He Do When He Gets Back?
Will he be the Promoter-in-Chief of anti-virus precautions or the conquering hero of the maskless?
I’m concerned that when President Trump gets better, his post-recovery rhetoric could make the nation worse.
And he’ll almost certainly recover. If we all had access to the medical resources dedicated to the principal occupant of the White House, the nation would be so healthy that there wouldn’t be enough room on the sidewalks for all the people walking around.
No president has sickened and died in office since Franklin D. Roosevelt 75 years ago, and it’s very unlikely that it will happen to Donald J. Trump, either. The only thing likely to kill him now is that the stubborn foolishness of the man will defeat the best care possible that the medical establishment has made available to him.
After all, Trump on Thursday reportedly got dosed with REGN-COV2 -- an experimental antibody cocktail normally reserved for those COVID-19 patients with one foot in the grave -- a day before you and I even knew he was sick.
His doctors said it made him feel better. You bet he felt better than most people who suspect the virus has taken residence in their lungs. If it happens to you, your doctor will probably tell you to stay home and “Keep me posted.”
It is unlikely that Trump will be out of sight for long. No president, even Roosevelt, has been laid low for an extended period since Woodrow Wilson a century ago.
So when Trump 2.0 hits the street, probably a relatively short time from now, what will that mean?
Reasonable people would hope that he would promote a new seriousness about mask-wearing and physical distancing, born of the knowledge that ignoring it put him in this fix. His recovery will have been physically difficult and mentally worrisome, so one would expect the reaction many of us have felt after a near-death experience: immense gratitude, accompanied by a sudden increase in tenderness toward our fellow human beings.
Genuine gratitude is hard for Trump, and that condition may continue. He has repeatedly exhibited a gymnastically improbable knack for giving insincere pats on the back to deserving heroes while simultaneously giving himself bigger and more heartfelt pats.
Trump has a long way to go for tenderness, too. According to his doctors’ timeline, he appeared, maskless, at events in Minnesota and New Jersey while knowing that he was infected.
It usually seems to be all about him.
If past is prologue, he will not assume the blame for turning the White House into a superspreader site, as it apparently was for the irresponsibly arranged Supreme Court nominee party Sept. 26. He may find someone else to be responsible for his infection -- and those of a GOP Who’s Who of new patients who were in contact with him or at his events.
He might even accuse people of being likely carriers. I would not be surprised if, say, Kellyanne Conway or the Rev. John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, who both attended the soiree for prospective Justice Amy Coney Barrett, found themselves looking up at the bottom of a bus.
It will be very bad for the effort to get everybody protecting everyone else with masks and distancing if the president comes out of this acting like he’s an old, fat Superman. The easy-to-imagine bluster: “If Joe Biden had caught this, he’d still be in the hospital.”
Even if infected recent Trump visitors Conway, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson or former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are to die, that probably won’t matter much to the millions of people who aren’t wearing masks. Sad to say, they don’t identify with them the way they identify with Trump.
It won’t matter that Trump received the kind of care they’d never enjoy. “If Trump can do it, I can recover, too, if I get it. And getting it is so unlikely. Look, he’s still not wearing a mask. Freedom!”
There will be a temptation among nice people to give Trump a break when he gets back in action. But that should only happen if he comes back truly grateful and taking responsibility for the infections of so many of those associated with him -- let alone the rest of the country over the last six months.
He’s got to return as the nation’s biggest cheerleader for precautionary behavior -- as he should have been before.
He’s unwell, but he’s still the Commander in Chief. We can’t afford to let Trump be Trump.
If after all he will have been through he’s still unwilling to put the people of the United States first, he should step aside. At that point, everybody with any courage at all should demand he do so.
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