Only Boss Trump could turn even the COVID-19 plague into a farce.
His triumphal return to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center — nicely timed for the evening TV news cycle — was like a stunt his pal Kim Jong Un would pull in Pyongyang: pure strongman street theater.
The big man stood glassy-eyed but indomitable on a balcony: shoulder pads and a half-pound of orange stage makeup accentuating his extreme virility. All the scene lacked was a laugh track, although in the kinds of dictatorships Trump most admires, it is forbidden to smile.
Big, strong me, puny little you. That was the message.
It was four years almost to the day since Trump mimicked Hillary Clinton stumbling at a campaign appearance after being diagnosed with pneumonia. “She’s supposed to fight all these different things, and she can’t make it 15 feet to her car,” he sneered.
So after they carried him to the hospital in a helicopter, the White House sent out a photo of Trump supposedly hard at work. “Nothing can stop him from working for the American people,” daughter Ivanka tweeted. “RELENTLESS!” Alas, a closeup showed Trump relentlessly signing what appeared to be a blank sheet of paper.
They do these things better in North Korea.
Back when I raised cattle, it was axiomatic: Never let a sick cow die without trying dexamethasone, the powerful steroid that persuaded Trump he was 10 feet tall and bulletproof. I’ve seen it bring animals too weak to stand back to their feet, although not for long, unless the underlying infection had been suppressed. It’s a stimulant, not a cure.
In humans, dexamethasone also has psychiatric side effects. (In cows, you can’t tell. Possibly Layla the abandoned twin calf imagined herself tyrant queen of the herd before disease carried her away. It’s impossible to know.) The most common problems in human subjects are irritability, aggression and what the drug label calls “psychotic manifestations.”
And wouldn’t that be wonderful?
That’s just one of the reasons nobody but Trump would have been released from the hospital before his treatment regimen was finished. If he weren’t going to a fully equipped White House medical clinic, that phalanx of white-jacketed physicians who staged press conferences outside Walter Reed would have been flirting with malpractice to let him check out.
An NPR reporter noticed that all of Dr. Sean Conley’s written press releases were preceded by a disclaimer saying, in effect, “Donald J. Trump has approved this message.”
People saw right through it, too. A CNN poll found that “69% of Americans said they trusted little of what they heard from the White House about the president’s health, with only 12% saying they trusted almost all of it.”
Besides, he wasn’t really going “home,” merely to a smaller hospital where he can be monitored and treated.
What’s more, Trump’s euphoria was not only chemically induced, but it’s also unlikely to last. Repeated doses of dexamethasone can be quite dangerous. It’s administered only in serious circumstances, signifying to physicians who don’t work for the White House that Trump was a whole lot sicker when he went to Walter Reed than anybody wanted to let on.
Then where was the hydroxychloroquine, inquiring minds want to know?
So yes, there’s every chance that even Boss Trump, the political superhero with “the body that men fear and women adore” (in the words of 1950s professional wrestling champ Dr. Jerry Graham, who was bashing rivals with balsa wood chairs at Sunnyside Gardens in Queens, New York, back when Trump was an impressionable lad), will get sicker before he gets better.
(Graham also carried a formidable swag belly, and pretty much invented the elaborate blond pompadour wrestling villains featured back then. Trump basically stole his whole act.)
But I digress. The point is that anybody tempted to heed Boss Trump’s advice — “Don’t be afraid of COVID. Don’t let it dominate your life” — would be well-advised to wait a few weeks before venturing maskless to one of his campaign rallies. We don’t know, in Conley’s words, that he’s out of the woods yet. But we do know that he’s actively contagious.
We also know that Trump cares not at all which Secret Service agents and White House flunkies get infected. Not to mention those anonymous hordes in their MAGA hats and T-shirts.
Meanwhile, Trump acolyte Rudy Giuliani, himself memorably described by Jimmy Breslin as “a small man in search of a balcony,” went on Fox News to mock Joe Biden for wearing a face mask. Not manly, he said between bouts of heavy coughing. Fox Newsblonde Martha MacCallum said she hoped “that cough is not anything bad.”
So have I no humane feelings for Boss Trump, his attendant courtiers and poltroons? I’d answer that I have exactly the same degree of empathy and concern he’d have for me and my loved ones.
I leave it to readers to decide what that might be.
Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.