The startling revelation that President Trump and his wife have contracted COVID-19 not only contributes another imponderable complexity to this torrid election campaign, it brings forth—amid a general tide of goodwill in favor of the president and his wife—the worst traits of the Trump-haters. The media response ranged from Joy Reid’s piercing aperçu that he was faking the illness to attract sympathy, to the Lemon-Tapper school of Trump-hate at CNN, which saw it as a direct consequence of the president supposedly taking the virus lightly, leading the resistance to it incompetently, and pretending that it was a fiction, “a hoax.” The large number of comments on social media, including from a former director of publicity for the Hillary Clinton campaign of 2016, expressing hopefulness that the president and his wife would die from the illness, shows how far the Trump-haters have decamped from America’s preferred self-image confected by Norman Rockwell, Walt Disney, and Grandma Moses.
Whether the president and Mrs. Trump recover quickly and fully from their affliction or it lingers and is a serious or even life-threatening problem for President Trump, the speed and tawdriness with which the Trump-hating media, which is chiefly conducting the Democratic campaign, turned this event into yet another excuse for battering the Trump piñata, may by its vicious hostility finally shock many American voters who have not warmed to the president. In a civilized society, where the identity of high officeholders is established by elections, it is inexcusable for partisan comments to plumb this depth of depravity and poor taste. The Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and former president Obama all issued gracious statements of goodwill and wished the Trumps good luck. The unrelenting hatred of most of the national political media will surely, finally, this time be perceived by a great many Americans as a disgrace and as convincing evidence of the maladjustment of most political reporting from Washington.
If COVID proves to be a threat to the president’s ability to resume his office, this will shortly cause profound disconcertion in Democratic ranks. They have no campaign except Trump-hate and spurious claims that he has misjudged the public health crisis. If at the last minute he had to hand over his position as nominee to Vice President Mike Pence, there would be, at last, a heavy wave of sympathy, and there is almost no hostility to the vice president in the country. He is well enough known to gain the public’s trust and he would win an overwhelming electoral victory. So even though many of the more fervent Democrats wish the president and even his wife a very nasty or even fatal encounter with the Coronavirus, in monitoring the president’s condition, the Democrats are staring at the prospects of their own campaign.
The much more likely scenario and surely the outcome favored by the overwhelming majority of Americans of all political persuasions is the rapid recovery of the president. Though he is taxed with being slightly overweight, he is a human tornado of stamina and is very active physically. He should be, as appears from the early stages of the illness, a prime candidate for a full and swift recovery. As 94.6 percent of Americans above the age of 60 who have been attacked by the coronavirus survived it, and President Trump from his prodigious vigor and determined character, unless there is some unsuspected vulnerability, should be a prime candidate for the upper percentiles of those people at his age group able to resist this affliction. If that is the case, he will return imminently to the White House, make it clear each day that he is still working and on-the-job, and he will emerge next week with his reputation fortified not just by his ruggedness but by his stature as the nation’s leader against this pandemic who he himself has met and conquered.
He will have vastly increased credibility as a leader in this battle not only from the evidence of his own successful resistance to it, but in support of his view that hysteria over the Coronavirus has been exaggerated. Anyone who has witnessed the last six months impartially is aware that from the first appearance of COVID-19 as a serious threat, the Democrats and their media allies have made unheard-of efforts to frighten the country, provoke a profound economic shutdown, and blame every death on the president personally. It has been one of the most cynical political operations in American history.
It must also be said that it has been more successful than it deserved to be; the president has paid dearly for his casual comments about the Coronavirus when it was first mentioned, and while he recouped by shutting down direct flights from China promptly at the end of January and from Europe two weeks later, he made a serious tactical error shouldering the vice president aside as chairman of the committee that he struck to deal with the public health crisis, and allowing the almost daily press briefings to degenerate into a lamentable state of indignity by replying to provocations hurled at him by a few Trump hating jackals in the White House press corps.
A quick recovery from the illness—as seemed on Monday afternoon to be likely—will enable the president to address this issue with much enhanced credibility and to enjoy the popularity of those who lead in conflict and share the burdens of the common soldiers: George Washington at Valley Forge, and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth after Buckingham Palace was bombed in 1941. The president could even gain from a dashing but not cavalier treatment of the ailment, somewhat as President Reagan did with the wit and sangfroid he showed after the attempt on his life in 1981. Coming quickly through the ailment would also strongly reinforce the administration’s COVID policy preference of protecting the vulnerable more thoroughly but reopening all the rest of commerce and society as quickly as possible for the 80 percent of Americans beneath the age of 60, whose chances of dying from it are three thousandths of 1 percent.
All decent people wish the president and Mrs. Trump the swift and complete recovery they seem to be enjoying. If it happens, as a bonus, his prospects of reelection will be substantially enhanced. Financial markets will be reassured, though they are no longer as impressionable as they were when the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose sharply on the announcement following President Dwight Eisenhower’s heart attack in 1955, by his doctor, Paul Dudley White, that “The president’s stools are firm.”
This president has had a successful term and the only real argument for Biden against Trump is Trump’s public personality, which annoys many people. If he carries off the role of doughty COVID-sufferer with his customary panache, that factor will be reduced. This campaign, as it enters its last month, continues to be a bouncing football. This campaign, and this president, are like no other.