Now that Trump and the first lady have tested positive for coronavirus, this formulation provides some guidance once again, albeit with a little twist.
Let’s wish the president and his family a speedy recovery, and hope fervently that those around him don’t get sick. And then let’s treat this outcome as just another reason atop a very large pile to keep working for his defeat, since it, too, reflects terribly on his handling of the worst domestic crisis we’ve faced in modern times, in all kinds of ways.
There’s no reason to hit the pause button in any way. The presidential campaign must continue. Joe Biden shouldn’t suspend his political activities. Journalists should not hesitate to press forward with the hardest and most impertinent questions about this, and by all indications, they are not.
The emerging facts about the immediate situation are already damning. Most obviously, Trump’s cavalier attitude toward the virus led him to minimize precautions to protect himself and others. Trump mocked Biden for wearing a mask just this week at the debate. On Monday, he declared that “we’re rounding the corner.”
And in addition to Trump’s constantly shunning masks himself, the New York Times notes that his own aides “generally do not wear masks in deference to the president’s disdain for them.” The result? It’s still unclear “how far the infection may have spread among senior White House officials.”
After White House officials learned of Hicks’s symptoms, Trump and his entourage flew Thursday to New Jersey, where he attended a fundraiser at his golf club in Bedminster and delivered a speech. Trump was in close contact with dozens of other people, including campaign supporters, at a roundtable event.
The president did not wear a mask Thursday, including at the events at his golf course and on the plane, officials said.
Trump knew a close aide was infected, but interacted closely with dozens of people without a mask, anyway. Trump first tested positive on Thursday, but it’s not clear exactly when, and he seems to have known he’d likely been exposed before going forward with that schedule.
So it’s fair to ask whether Trump and his advisers had hoped he wouldn’t develop symptoms, in which case they might not disclose his condition, which was thwarted by the Hicks news. With aggressive reporting, we’ll see more of the timeline get filled in, showing that our accountability institutions are not letting up, as they should not.
But really, all this is just one more mark on the ledger of a much broader indictment, in which Trump has just never felt any obligation to treat the virus as something worth caring all that much about, no matter how many people got sick and died of it.
Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus defines his presidency. He downplayed the severity of the disease, misled the country repeatedly about it, tried to pin the blame on local governments, did not “take responsibility at all” for the anemic American response, held massive rallies against scientific advice, hammered on states to reopen before it was safe, rejected easy safety measures, and undermined trust in our public-health institutions. Trump was never going to protect the country from the virus. But ultimately he could not even protect himself.
Yet the point here is not that it’s “poetic justice” that Trump himself has now become infected. Rather, it’s that the very occurrence of this episode, and the handling of it, reflect a much broader series of failings that may be a bit more glaring today, but were in full existence yesterday.
The virus exposed deep injustices
This news also should remind us of the very profound systemic injustices this pandemic has exposed in our health system and economy. Trump benefited from daily testing, while telling the country that testing was “overrated” to mask his failures to make it more available.
Yet Trump abused this special access to testing by relying on it to stage numerous events without masks and social distancing, rather than setting an example for the country, because those things would send a message that undermined his reelection hopes.
On this, his luck has now run out. But this only further dramatizes the risks of refusing to take masks and social distancing seriously, risks he refused to convey to the rest of the country.
Trump also enjoys top-notch health care. Yet even as he will benefit from this during his own convalescence, he and Republicans continue to support a lawsuit that would wipe away protections for tens of millions.
And as this terrific Post piece documents, the recession unleashed by the pandemic is the most unequal in history, one that is hitting “poorer households harder,” at a “scale that is the worst in generations.” Yet Trump and Republicans still continue to resist a very generous economic rescue package.
We will now see if Trump will seize this moment to convey a new message to supporters about the severity of the virus and the need to take precautions, let alone to apologize to the country for having treated it so cavalierly for so long, with such great consequences. We will now see whether there will be a rethink on health care or a new openness to a more generous relief bill. There are no grounds for optimism here.
But all this is just as true today as it was yesterday, though it is perhaps dramatized a bit more vividly. And so, while we should wish Trump a speedy recovery, and assume he will recover, in so many other ways it’s just another day ending in Y. As such, it constitutes more grounds to keep working fervently for his removal.