On the West Coast, wildfires still burn out of control. At last count, over 4 million acres had burned. The coronavirus pandemic is on the rise again, as a contingent of people in this nation have scorned protective measures such as wearing a mask and avoiding crowded places. Despite the fact that two of the senators who sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee have contracted the coronavirus, Mitch McConnell is screeching his demand that the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett proceed post haste. Black Lives Matter is still a movement, albeit one that far too many seem to have shoved to the back burner. And there are many, many more serious issues that ought to be front page news, but once again, Donald Trump seems to be hogging the headlines.
On Sunday, Donald did a very stupid thing (again) and while his supporters are cheering, the rest of the world is horrified, even the doctors at Walter Reed hospital and agents working for the Secret Service. Well, I’ll let Washington Post journalist Greg Sargent tell you the story …
A Walter Reed doctor’s anger exposes Trump at his worst
Oct. 5, 2020 at 10:21 a.m. EDT
After President Trump left his hospital bed to pay a surprise visit to supporters in his armored car on Sunday evening, an attending physician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center vented his anger at what he’d just seen. “Every single person in the vehicle,” tweeted James Phillips, might “get sick” or “die.”
“Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater,” Phillips continued. “This is insanity.”
There’s a reason Phillips’s anger has gone viral, as it were. He captured a larger truth about this moment: Even as Trump himself comes face to face with possible death at the hands of a disease he downplayed for so long, he’s still demonstrating the same depraved dereliction of duty that he has all throughout, helping to kill more than 200,000 Americans.
Trump himself wants us to think this moment has changed him. “I’ve learned a lot about covid,” Trump said in a video he tweeted out just before his surprise visit. “I get it. And I understand it. It’s a very interesting thing. And I’m gonna be letting you know about it.”
Indeed, Trump’s own brush with death has provided just the moment he might have seized upon to show some humility and to demonstrate some kinship on a basic human level with the millions of people whose lives have been damaged or upended — or prematurely ended — by this disease.
But everything he has said and done since testing positive for the novel coronavirus suggests this moment has not changed him in any way.
Ever since it first became evident that the coronavirus posed a serious public health threat nine months ago, Trump has shown several dominant instincts.
He has spoken only to his base’s willingness to be misled about the depths of the crisis, while feeling zero obligation to communicate as president in any serious way with the vast swath of Americans who could not be thusly swayed. He has relentlessly prioritized his perceived immediate political needs over leveling with the country about what we faced.
And he has steadfastly refused to admit to fallibility or responsibility in his handling of what has arguably been the largest U.S. domestic crisis in modern times, even as the devastation and death have mounted.
Every one of these has been on display throughout Trump’s own contracting of the virus, even though he is facing potential death.
First, Trump’s visit to supporters is itself an act of speaking only to the base at a moment of great uncertainty for the country. There is little chance that the mainstream will approve of Trump’s stunt, particularly since it placed people in his immediate circle at needless risk.
Indeed, as The Post reports, Secret Service agents are furious over what just happened, and more broadly, they are increasingly angry about the risks that Trump’s cavalier approach to social distancing has imposed on them.
Second, this again shows Trump prioritizing his perceived political needs over the health of those around him and even the health of the country. The goal of this staged action was reportedly to “show strength” after his chief of staff told the truth about his vulnerable condition, something Trump’s doctors have dissembled throughout the weekend to conceal.
Phillips laid this point bare with great clarity on Monday morning when he expanded on his Twitter anger on NBC News. “It’s the message that’s sent to other people who are sick, that it’s okay to go out,” Phillips said. “This is the wrong message to be sending.”
Phillips also noted that this reflected a larger war between the medical community and the administration in terms of getting “the right message to the citizens of America.”
Finally, and incredibly, Trump and his handlers have seen this episode not as an occasion for a renewed display of basic humanity, but instead as an occasion to reinforce the message that his handling of the virus has been above reproach all along.
When Trump dictated comments over the weekend to lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, he declared that “I am going to beat this,” which will allow us to “show people we can deal with this disease responsibility, but we shouldn’t be afraid of it.”
And Donald Trump Jr. sent out a fundraising solicitation to supporters, declaring that they should prepare for his father’s “EPIC RETURN.”
In short, the story that the president and his propagandists are gearing up to tell is that Trump’s personal vanquishing of the virus — should this happen — has overarching importance in explaining a crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands and has inflicted a horrific toll on millions of others.
This is a standard trope in the genre of authoritarian politics that Trump practices, as scholar Jason Stanley points out. In this telling, Trump’s personal invincibility — his own physical triumph over the virus — becomes a stand-in for the infallibility of his overall performance.
Trump’s desire to “show strength” with his armored car theatrics is the perfect expression of that impulse. And it captures all the broader pathologies we’ve seen throughout: It spoke only to the base. It placed others at grave risk. It sent a dangerous message to the country. And should Trump survive, it will be used to falsify the broader story of this crisis.
As Phillips put it in another viral tweet, “the irresponsibility is astounding.” And, as always, its only real goal was to protect the Cult of Trump.