On Friday evening, president Donald Trump was admitted to Walter Reed Medical Centre for a higher level of care after reportedly suffering from cough, congestion, and fatigue. This is a deeply uncertain moment for the American people that has garnered a wide range of reactions.
This is the most severe medical emergency for a sitting president since president Reagan was shot in 1981. At the time, there was a rally around the flag moment. As The Los Angeles Times pointed out in a profound headline, the situation with president Trump is different: “When Reagan was shot, country rallied around, but he hadn’t spent months downplaying assassins.”
Of course, we all wish president Trump and the First Lady a speedy recovery. Wishing illness on anyone is not the behaviour of any decent human being. I want to make a point of saying that upfront. While many on the right have tried to claim otherwise, pointing out the context of how we got here is not the same as wishing ill on the president.
President Trump has finally met a challenge he can’t lie away. He tried to do it while coronavirus was infecting millions of others, then reality hit him personally in a very unfortunate way. Trump is learning the hard way that the only solution to the pandemic is to combat the virus directly.
As news of president Trump’s diagnosis spread, a lot of Americans were quick to point the carelessness that allowed coronavirus to spread throughout the country and subsequently the White House. A Politico/Morning Consult flash poll found 60 per cent of Americans believe president Trump did not take proper precautions to protect himself from the infection. As CNN’s Jake Tapper said, president Trump “has become a symbol of his own failures”.
Flashbacks to president Trump calling Democratic fears of Covid-19 a hoax, his botched pandemic response, and lying about the virus all year came to mind. Trump's push for forced reopenings and indifference to the more than 200,000 Americans who have died, in part, due to his negligence came to mind. Trump’s mocking of Hillary Clinton when she had pneumonia came to mind. Just days ago, at Tuesday’s debate, Trump mocked Biden for wearing a mask.
Given this crisis of credibility, there were other reactions from people who were simply in disbelief of anything the White House has to say. Some immediately speculated that Trump was somehow faking it, but that reaction doesn't make much sense. Why would Trump want to bring Covid-19 into focus? Trump polls the lowest on the issue of coronavirus. He wants nothing more than to pretend it doesn’t exist.
Although the conspiracy theory is false, the overall skepticism is warranted. Just look at the way the White House handled White House advisor Hope Hicks’s Wednesday Covid-19 diagnosis. Chief of staff Mark Meadows said the White House learned of her diagnosis just as Marine One was taking off on Wednesday. That means president Trump still attended a fundraiser knowing that he had been exposed to the virus and still engaged with 100 people.
Since then, the list of those in Trump’s orbit infected with coronavirus continues to increase. While we don’t know when Trump himself got it, it was likely between Saturday and Wednesday, given last Saturday’s Amy Coney Barrett maskless nomination function appears to have been a superspreader event. It’s beginning to look like the GOP’s hypocritical effort to force another confirmation of a conservative Justice got them all Covid-19.
On Saturday morning, Trump’s doctors raised even more questions. They would not clearly answer whether Trump has ever been on oxygen. Multiple reporters subsequently reported they believed he had been on Friday. One of the doctors, Dr Conley, said we are 72 hours into Trump's diagnosis, even though we first learned only 36 hours ago. Dr Conley later tried to walk this back, stating that Trump's diagnosis came on Thursday evening. Dr Conley's statements about Trump doing well were also contradicted by the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who told reporters that Trump went through a "very concerning" past 24 hours. This is when we need absolute transparency and honesty from the White House most, and we’re not getting it.
Many questions remain. When did he first get the virus? Will president Trump’s condition worsen or improve? What will all this mean for the debates and the election? Will the 25th Amendment, removal of the president, have to be invoked and will Trump hand presidential duties over to vice president Mike Pence? We do know that speaker Nancy Pelosi was not immediately alerted about Trump heading to Walter Reed, meaning there has been a stunning lack of communication in the continuity of government planning.
It’s important to remember that Covid-19 does a lot of damage to the body that creates lasting health problems, long after people have symptoms and are carriers of the disease. No matter what happens, president Trump’s health is now a central issue of his presidency and this campaign. Trump now has a pre-existing condition.
In any case, the overall sentiment among the American people is that we hope Trump recovers fully. Then, as polling indicates, we hope to beat him fair and square at the ballot box in November. That goal has not changed.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies