A rule of thumb: If you have to say that you’re a tough guy, you’re not, and you’re certainly not “invincible” either. But that’s the fantasy President Donald Trump has been peddling. He dodged the coronavirus for months, even though he was endangering himself with his risky behavior, as well as endangering the American people -- certainly the 7 million who have been afflicted and the 210,000 who have died in this pandemic.
One would think that catching the infection himself would have put an end to his minimizing the danger. But nooooo. After all, he had a treatment regimen that no other person would get, administered by as many medical practitioners as he needed. Some of them, including the head of his team, top White House physician Dr. Sean Conley, were willing to present misleading reports on his condition ... then and now.
It meant that the Trumpster could order his team to selectively release information and prop him up so he could even take a spin in his armored SUV, putting his Secret Service protectors in jeopardy for his joy ride in a hermetically sealed vehicle.
And then to agree to release him from Walter Reed Hospital so he could crow about how he had conquered the coronavirus, even though he had not. He told his gullible followers, “Don’t be afraid of COVID,” as he was whisked away by helicopters to return to the White House. There he would take his mask off and preen for the cameras just like the “Superman” he pretends to be. Then he mingled with his staff, who were probably thinking in horror, “Who is that Unmasked Man”? (Sorry, that’s a mixed superhero metaphor.) As the planning discussion was going on, I would have loved being a fly on the wall.
That’s a segue, folks, a particularly shameless one, to pirouette to the vice presidential debate a few days later. The highlight was when that fly landed on Mike Pence’s lacquered hair. He was there for two minutes and three seconds, until he decided the repartee was too boring and took wing into history.
Meanwhile, Trump was even more inconsistent than usual back at Casa Blanca. (The president really doesn’t like it when people speak Spanish in his presence. He much prefers Russian.) On Twitter he veered from suddenly calling off the painstaking pandemic financial rescue negotiations with Democrats, causing the stocks to tank, to resurrecting the possibility that the search for a deal could continue, causing the markets to rebound. That raises so many possibilities. Among them that it was nothing but a cheap shot, time-worn bargaining trick to pretend to walk away from the table, which old pros in Washington could roll their eyes at and scornfully ignore.
In keeping with Trump’s thinking that he’s not going to allow some teeny virus to push him around, he has sent the entire remaining debate schedule into his normal chaos. Faster than a speeding bullet, he wants to immediately return, in person, to the campaign trail, thereby spreading around his lethal contamination to all the supporters he can who are willing to risk their lives in support of the Super Trumpster.
He may fancy himself invulnerable, but lesser human beings might call him irresponsible. By the way, no comment so far from the fly.
Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.