Behold, the deadly incompetence of the president.
Feast your eyes on his lethal ignorance, his fatal self-absorption, his terminal dishonesty, his life-threatening hunger for adoration.
There it was, in a victorious tweet Monday afternoon, claiming COVID is no big deal.
There it was, all of it, in that armored Chevy Suburban rolling by mostly unmasked MAGA cultists outside Walter Reed Medical Center on Sunday evening. In the back, strung out and in desperate need of a hit from his rabid fans to feel whole, was a president more sick than he would admit, with a disease he is loath to admit exists.
There he was masked, and unmasked, a living testament to his own lies, but pretending still: “Pay no attention to the oxygen treatments and steroids behind the curtain. See how strong I am, even now?”
In the car with him were Secret Service agents who, like so many Americans, had no choice but to be exposed to the coronavirus the president now carries. It’s their job to take a bullet for him. Must they also risk their lives when he’s the one who puts them in danger? Yes, comes the president’s reply: Their lives, like those of the nobodies and the “disgusting” supporters whose hands he doesn’t like to shake, are nothing to him.
Why should he care about the Secret Service when he views Americans who died in war as suckers and losers? They knew what they were getting into when they joined up, even though there’s no profit in it for them, a fact that mystifies him. Why, for that matter, should he care about deep pocketed New Jersey donors, or the advisers and politicians who debase themselves for him daily? His life is the only one that matters, his needs the only ones that count. If he wants to rake in money from supporters desperate to be near him at his golf course, he’ll fly to Bedminster and be as close to them as he pleases. If he wants everybody in his White House crowded together and maskless in small meeting rooms and Rose Garden events, he’ll bully and mock until that happens.
And if the president wants a parade, he gets one.
Who can stop him? Not his doctors, that’s for sure.
At Walter Reed, the president has been receiving care befitting his lofty station — care most Americans can only dream of. An army of doctors have ministered to him, with experimental treatments and constant monitoring. It is expensive, state of the art health care — paid for by the taxes the wealthy president himself avoids — even as he sets about destroying access to affordable health care for tens of millions of Americans.
The doctors are the experts, but even they bend to the president’s will, misleading the American people so as not to anger him. His physician Sean Conley publicly downplayed the seriousness of Trump’s case at a Saturday press conference, refusing to disclose that he had required supplemental oxygen. We know this because the deception was too grave even for Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, to let stand, and he corrected the record, to Trump’s chagrin. Coming clean and shredding what was left of his credibility on Sunday, Conley said he had been “trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, over his course of illness, has had.”
And if, unlike the 210,000 Americans who have died on his watch, Trump recovers from the disease, he will not credit those doctors, but himself. This experience will not be humbling, for this president is incapable of humility. It will not force him to rethink his anti-science positions on the disease, to issue mea culpas on his opposition to the distancing, mask-wearing, and partial shutdowns that would have saved some of those Americans' lives.
Contracting the potentially life-threatening virus after refusing to take it seriously would be a clear and humiliating rebuke for any other human being, or at least one possessed of an atom of introspection. But Trump is already deploying his illness to Orwellian effect, distorting it so that it becomes yet another measure of his infallibility.
And as it does whenever plain facts puncture Trump’s flagrant fictions, Fox News is reverse-engineering reality, just like those editors who manipulated footage to make Trump’s irrational decisions look wise on “The Apprentice.”
His spokeswoman Erin Perrine told the network Monday that Trump was battling coronavirus “head-on, as toughly as only President Trump can.” Yes, if only those 210,000 lost Americans — including those who died waiting for care — had been able to fight as toughly as the president, they might be alive today.
"President Trump won’t have to recover from COVID, " tweeted Florida congressman and sycophant Matt Gaetz. “COVID will have to recover from President Trump. #MAGA”
Already, the campaign that continues to mock Democrat Joe Biden for being too devoted to masks and other COVID safety precautions is attempting to use the fact that Biden hasn’t contracted the disease as a strike against him.
“Listen,” Perrine said, “he has experience as commander-in-chief, he has experience as a businessman, he has experience, now, fighting the coronavirus as an individual. Those firsthand experiences: Joe Biden, he doesn’t have those.”
Even as the consequences of his ignorance grow clearer, the cluster of COVID cases in and around Trump’s White House widening with every day, the president clearly considers himself more of an expert on the disease than ever.
“I learned a lot about COVID,” he said in a video posted just before his Potemkin parade on Sunday. “I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn’t the let’s-read-the-books school. And I get it. And I understand it … and I’m going to be letting you know about it.”
What has he learned? The only lesson possible for a man who has spent a lifetime mistaking his own good fortune for genius: That, given his experience, COVID is even less of a threat than he thought.
In that tweet on Monday afternoon, the president receiving the best medical care on the planet claimed he feels better than he did 20 years ago.
“Don’t be afraid of Covid,” wrote the man to whom other people’s lives are worthless. If he can beat it, you can too.
It might be his most dangerous lie ever.