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Why I feel solidarity with Donald Trump (It’s not what you think)

The president and I, despite our great disagreements, belong to an unofficial club of obese men over 70. I wouldn’t wish COVID on anybody in that club.

President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up from a White House balcony after returning from the hospital on Monday.
AP Photos

I don’t agree with Donald Trump on politics and a lot of things. But, these past few days, I’ve been feeling a kinship with the president since he announced that he has Covid-19.

He’s only three years older than I am, and his Body Mass Index is just about the same as mine — we’re both obese. We’re both men. Those three facts put us in the danger zone among the American population.

For the past seven months, I’ve successfully dodged Covid, essentially by hiding out and hunkering down. Of course, I don’t have a nation that’s dependent on me.

From what I’ve heard, the president has been protected in myriad ways from coming into contact with anyone with the disease, such as heavy-duty testing of those around him. Still, he got it.

OK, yeah, I know he got it because he ignored the precautions and didn’t wear a mask. I know his rallies put many of his supporters in danger of contracting the disease. I know that he’s foolishly saying right now that COVID-19 is no big deal.

But my purpose isn’t to wag a finger at him.

The fact is that I feel bad for him. He’s a human being like me, and this is a challenge he can’t just bluff his way through. One of the many disagreements I have with him is his irresponsibility and refusal to think of consequences. That’s who he is. I play it safe, and that’s helped me avoid COVID. (I also know that, for all my precautions, I can get this illness, too.)

It seems to me that Trump is approaching this diagnosis as I would. He’s taking the drugs and the treatments that his doctors order, but he’s chomping at the bit to bounce back to normal. His return to the White House on Monday was, I suspect, an example of that.

I’m certain that’s how I’d be tempted to act if I got COVID. I’ve had two knee replacements, and, each time, I pushed myself to get out of bed and walk down the corridor as requested by hospital staff. I pushed myself to do the needed exercises and take the needed physical therapy. I wanted to get back to normal as fast as possible, regardless of the pain I was feeling from the healing of the wound.

I’m pretty sure that’s what the president is feeling. And it’s not just a question of getting back to normal. It’s also about getting back on the campaign trail for an election that is less than a month away.

Yes, you can argue that he’s being reckless. But I know that, if I were in Trump’s place, I’d be trying to get better by an act of will. And I’m sure I’d try to overdo things. I wouldn’t take the rest I’d need, and I’d stretch my strength way too far. I’d end up, I’m afraid, with a relapse, maybe sicker than I’d been the first time around.

Of course, unlike the president, I don’t have battalions of doctors and advisers to point out to me the right course of recovery to follow. But, even if I had everyone telling me what I needed to do, I’d be tempted to go my own way. (Just ask my wife.)

The president and I — despite our great and wide disagreements — belong to an unofficial club of obese men over 70. I wouldn’t wish COVID on anybody in that club.

But there are guys, like Trump, who have gotten it. Some have died.

I want him to get better. I am hoping for a healthy, rested president to get back into the campaign soon — but not sooner than is prudent.

My point is that I’d like to see a healthy, rested president lose this election. But not his health or his life.

Patrick T. Reardon is the author of nine books, including ‘The Loop: The “L” Tracks That Shaped and Saved Chicago,’ coming in November from Southern Illinois University Press.

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