It’s terrible to be sick.
Even when you have good health insurance and the best medical care. Even when you’re the president of the United States. Even when contracting this particular illness reeks of karma, of payback, of divine justice, the way it does for President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, who announced early Friday they have tested positive for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has killed a million people worldwide, including 206,000 Americans.
There will no doubt be a certain amount of gloating, of snide “thoughts and prayers” chortling. Guess that hydroxychloroquine didn’t do the trick after all, huh?
I can see why. Only Tuesday Trump was in full bore bullying mode at the first presidential debate in Cleveland, speaking over his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, insulting him and the rest of us.
“We’ve done a great job,” Trump said of his delayed, botched reaction to the pandemic, which he initially trivialized and ignored. The one thing Trump did do — haphazardly restrict travel with China — was again held up as if it had been adequate. He again pretended he was the one on top of the situation while his opponents dithered, Trump’s trademark move of blaming others for his own deficiencies.
“It’s China’s fault!” he complained, as if that matters. As if America’s response to the virus didn’t at least match their blundering, if not surpass it.
But the quality that ties one hand behind the back of Democrats in this fight is our ability to empathize with other people, even bad people. And in truth I have always felt sorry for Trump, clearly a broken man, his ego so damaged it must be constantly stroked. Living proof that you can be rich, famous, powerful and still a pathetic excuse for a human being who just can’t stop talking, mostly about himself.
“They give you good press,” he sniveled to Biden Tuesday. “They give me bad press.”
So no, I don’t want him to die, not when he can be booted from office by an indignant American public exactly one month from today. Yes, he is trying to undercut that defeat, by his constant, baseless barrage of untrue claims about the election process. He would destroy the public’s faith in the most important cornerstone of American democracy to keep himself in office. He’s a terrible human being.
But I’m not. So I hope Trump’s symptoms remain mild, as the White House reported they were Friday. Even though that means he will then use his good luck to denounce, again, COVID-19 as a hoax, like a man who hears a bullet whistle past his head, blinks, and then shouts out that all bullets are harmless.
If I could wish anything, I would wish that the irony would dawn on him, that COVID-19 is real just as science is real. And I wish he would realize, as a grateful man would, that he is fortunate to have health insurance and good doctors around him, and maybe he should work so that all Americans can say the same.
Biden pointed out Tuesday that Trump has never delivered on the replacement for Obamacare he keeps promising.
“The president has no plan,” Biden said.
“Yes I have. Of course I have,” Trump lied, or perhaps said truthfully about a plan only in his head.
He also said in that plan insulin is “so cheap, it’s like water.” Or maybe he thinks it is already.
Trump mocked Biden for wearing a mask, casting steps states are taking to reduce the spread of the virus as a scheme against him.
“They wanna keep it shut down until after the election,” he said Tuesday, also claiming his medical experts believe that “masks are not good.”
If you don’t wear them, they’re certainly not.
So now the president and his wife have COVID-19. I wouldn’t dare to predict how this will affect our disturbing roller coaster of a presidential race. He’ll probably miss the second debate, which definitely is a kindness to the citizenry. Maybe the illness will drive home, for the public if not for him, the gravity of this pandemic.
Or maybe it will merely spur a sympathy vote, the sickness becoming a shirt Trump waves over his head: “Look what the Democrats did to me and my wife.” Unfortunately, that sounds about right.