Commentary, COVID-19

First takes on Trump’s COVID infection start to roll in

We’re only a few hours into the latest disturbing chapter into the dark saga of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump administration’s botched response to it, but a couple of preliminary assessments from important media voices have already made some good points.

As The Guardian reports, Trump’s positive test is “a surprise that many saw coming”:

It is likely to go down as the biggest “October surprise” in the history of US presidential elections. Yet anyone who was paying attention could have seen it coming.

Donald Trump tested positive for the coronavirus after claiming “it will disappear”, telling the journalist Bob Woodward he was downplaying it deliberately, failing to develop a national testing strategy, refusing to wear a face mask for months, floating the idea of injecting patients with bleach, insisting to one of his many crowded campaign rallies that “it affects virtually nobody” and, at Tuesday’s debate, mocking his rival Joe Biden: “He could be speaking 200 feet away and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

It suggested a sense of invincibility even as more than 200,000 Americans died. But now the chickens have come home to roost, just as they did for the similarly cavalier British prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro. Covid-19, described as the “invisible enemy” by Trump, has penetrated the Oval Office.

As the story goes on to note, however, the issue is full of potential “tripwires” as it plays out in the days ahead — depending, among other things, upon how Trump fares and whether — God forbid — he infected Joe Biden during the debate.

Meanwhile, columnist Frank Bruni of the New York Times explores the initial reactions that inevitably occurred to many Trump critics (i.e. “he’s faking it” or “it’s karma”) and then got down to the ultimate message that this news ought to convey to all Americans:

It is time, at long last, to learn. To be smarter. To be safer. To be more responsible, to others as well as to ourselves. We cannot erase the mistakes made in America’s response to the coronavirus but we can vow not to continue making them. The way to treat President Trump’s diagnosis is as a turning point and a new start. This is when we woke up.

The presidency and the president are always national mirrors, in many different ways at once, and that’s another moral. Trump has shown America its resentments. He has modeled its rage. Now he personifies its recklessness. How extraordinary and helpful it would be if, when he talks to the country about this, whether on television or in tweets, he reflects on that in a civic-minded way.

I’m certainly not counting on that: He may wind up having a mild, largely asymptomatic experience with the coronavirus and feeling somehow vindicated. But I’m rooting for a more mature tack.

Because I don’t want us to be cynical, no matter how much cause we’ve been given. I want us to be better.

The bottom line at this point: From the beginning, President Trump has shown us how NOT to respond to a health pandemic – both from a personal and governance perspective. Today’s news seems like the ultimate confirmation of this tragic state of affairs. One can only hope it spurs an awakening and a better national response going forward.


  1. Wanda Hunt

    October 2, 2020 at 2:19 pm

    No one is commenting on how the P was hand grasping the podium during the debate. The podium was shaking. When the First Lady rushed to the stage after the debate he immediately grasped her hand with his right hand. In the photo for PEOPLE his right hand is holding left, palm to palm. What gives? Did anyone else notice this. As an ordained minister and a clinical pastoral care Chaplain we are trained to do effective listening and observance. I hope I am wrong about my observance and his wellness.

  2. Robert Reeber, PhD

    October 16, 2020 at 11:46 pm

    As a cancer survivor who had many infusions that included strong steroids it was obvious that Trump was on a steroid high when he first spoke to reporters and others after his release from the hospital. The steroids give a sense of euphoria and well being that becomes a downer when they are stopped. I wonder if he is still taking them?

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