What is Donald Trump’s greatest gift? Some say his finely honed instincts; others, his tabloid genius for publicity. But we all know, really, that it is his ludicrous ability to drive the media into ever greater spams of apoplexy. Just when you think he can’t make journalists go madder, he outdoes himself. It’s like watching Fred Astaire dance, Roger Federer hit a topspin backhand, or Patrick Mahomes glide outside the pocket — you know you are watching a talent that is unique and God-given. It’s art.
Take last night, and Trump’s evacuation from Walter Reed hospital. It was all deeply absurd. After days of confusing messages as to the President’s actual condition, Trump had himself helicoptered back to the White House to recuperate. He stood on the White House balcony, in what soon became dubbed his ‘Covita moment’, took off his mask (gasp!) and gave the cameras two thumbs up. Back inside the White House, possibly amped up on steroids — he has been given dexamethasone — the Commander-in-Chief released an energetic statement:
‘We’re going back to work, we’re going to be out front. As your leader I had to do that. I knew there’s danger to it but I had to do it. I stood out front. I led. Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did. I know there is a risk, there is a danger, but that’s OK. Now I’m better and maybe I’m immune, I don’t know.’
The remarks couldn’t have been better formulated to make his critics’ blood boil. Leadership! You call that leadership! It is madness! CNN called it ‘grotesque theater’. The channel’s leading pundit, Brian Stelter, fulminated, ’This is what strong men do in autocratic regimes…it’s a dear leader sort of approach… Meanwhile, there are big questions about the cover up, you know, why won’t they tell us about his testing history, when he was tested. We’ve moved from this possibly being a cover to actually being a cover up.’
Countless others said Trump’s return from hospital was a stunt worthy of Kim Jong-un. Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post had an overnight meltdown on Twitter and started berating Mike Pence for his ‘spinelessness’ because the Vice President had not attempted a coup while Trump was in hospital.
With all the reality TV melodrama around Trump, all the breathless hysteria against him, it can be hard to take stock of what is actually happening. So let’s get the grown-up, responsible bit out the way: Trump’s team seems to have been a bit cavalier in its safety procedures against a dangerous virus. The President may now be risking his health — and perhaps the health of others — by leaving hospital too soon. He still doesn’t look entirely right and he should probably take it easy, even if he has a country to run and a reelection to fight. It’s arguable that, by not vanishing from the public eye for at least several days, he has also set a bad example to other COVID-infected patients at a time when governments the world over are trying to tame the impossible pandemic. The drive-by past his adoring fans outside the Walter Reed was a vain and irresponsible stunt.
Then again, Trump is not — repeat not — roaming around infecting the country willy-nilly, as the media howlers would have you believe. The Lincoln Project has released a video claiming (as if fact) that Trump tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday last week. Perhaps they know something we don’t, and the messages from his doctors have been confusing, but all the available evidence suggests Trump had a COVID-positive result from a rapid test on Thursday, which was later confirmed by a more reliable screening test. At 1 a.m. on Friday, he announced that he and Melania had tested positive. Since then, he appears to have been obeying social-distancing rules, although his Secret Service agents have had to be in enclosed spaces (masked) with him coming in and out the hospital.
Trump is promising to go out campaigning soon, but for now he is recuperating at his home, the White House, which doesn’t seem too crazy. To judge from the media’s reaction, however, you’d think he was running around spitting on the elderly. Again on CNN Jim Acosta said, ‘This is not just the President returning to the White House. This may be patient zero. This is the virus coming back to the White House.’
Patient zero? Perhaps, just perhaps, these commentators aren’t really that worried about the virus. Perhaps, just perhaps, they are more concerned that Trump’s infection has not finally killed off his reelection hopes. That raises another question: who is really insane?
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