F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” The entirety of the Trump administration to date has been the unceasing experience of being simultaneously astonished and not at all surprised.
These two phenomena, like twirling planes in the air show of the mind, finally clipped wings in midair early this morning and went pinwheeling to the ground in a ball of fire and dust.
The president of the United States and the First Lady have COVID?! The disease that has infected over 7 million and killed more than 200,000 in the U.S. alone? How completely terrifying!
The guy who went around practically licking doorknobs in defiance of the virus now has it, along with a growing circle of administration officials, 32 days before a crisis election that could very well determine whether he gets prosecuted next year or in five years? Is it possible someone could be so flagrantly cavalier with their own well-being?
Oh, right, yeah. It’s Trump. He has been flagrantly cavalier with the well-being of an entire nation. This is the fellow who just 15 days ago said the disease “affects hardly anyone.” The guy who mocked masks and disdained the severity of the pandemic from the start.
This is the least surprising thing to happen since the sun rose in the east. That, too, is astonishing.
At a minimum, Trump is off the campaign trail for the next two weeks. The base rules of normal political gravity would hold that the absence of the nominee during the last leg of a campaign would be a race-changing calamity… but Trump on the trail is the primary reason why he is currently losing to Joe Biden, who campaigns the way oak trees dance the tarantella. Two weeks of effective Trump surrogates in the absence of Trump himself could prove to be a boon.
Because the truth and Donald Trump have never met, the announcement of his diagnosis was greeted with a chorus of doubt. It’s a sympathy ploy, some alleged, a trick to get out of the remaining debates because he did so grotesquely in the first one.
First of all, I strongly suspect that a vast majority of this exhausted, frightened, overwhelmed nation will, shall we say, struggle to summon much sympathy for a guy who basically made his own COVID bed and then rolled around in it like a muddy dog. His base will swoon when confronted with the fact that their hero has been cut down by something they were trained to believe is a hoax (paging Mr. Fitzgerald again). Finally, Trump thinks he won that debate — ha! — and was looking forward to the remaining two, according to all reports I’ve seen.
No, President Bonehead screwed around and got himself The Rona. Three days ago, he was yelling at Biden on the debate stage from about 10 feet away, which could have led to utter calamity for the country. Fortunately, Biden has tested negative, and is far more respectful of the virus’s power than his opponent. The entire White House staff, thousands of Republican donors and swaths of Congress are in this jackpot if Trump became a super-spreader all by himself. Vice President Mike Pence is reportedly negative, but as with all things these days, that could change overnight.
One thing to prepare for is a scenario in which the luckiest man who has ever lived avoids the COVID ravages common to men of his age and health status. He runs a mild course, comes out intact, and stands Promethean before his people to declare, “I told you this was nothing, everything must open now!”
At bottom, however, this announcement represents a potentially catastrophic blow to Trump’s reelection hopes. The anchor around his neck to date has been his folly-riddled handling of the pandemic, and now that pandemic has physically knocked him on his ass for all the wide world to see. After a point, even a man with his devil’s luck is going to draw the wrong card and watch his chips get swept off the felt. That card may have dropped this morning.
Get well soon, Mr. President. We wouldn’t want you to miss your court dates.