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Sat Oct 3, 2020, 10:21 AM

David Remnick, New Yorker: The Coronavirus and the Threat Within the White House


From the start of his Presidency, Donald Trump has threatened the health and the security of the United States. It has now been made clear that Trump’s incompetence, cynicism, and recklessness have threatened his own welfare. Even the best security system and the most solicitous medical officers in the world could not protect him from a danger that he insisted on belittling and ignoring. On Friday, at 12:54 a.m., Trump announced by Twitter that he and the First Lady had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. By the end of the evening, “out of an abundance of caution,” the President had gone to Walter Reed hospital to spend “the next few days. ” The Trumps join the more than seven million other Americans who have contracted the virus. More than two hundred thousand have died from covid-19, the disease it causes. Most of them were older than sixty-five. Trump is seventy-four.

The contrast between Trump’s airy dismissals of the pandemic’s severity and the profound pain and anxiety endured by so many Americans has helped define the era in which we live. Hours before he announced the diagnosis, Trump claimed, in a speech recorded for the annual Al Smith Dinner for Catholic charities, that “the end of the pandemic is in sight, and next year will be one of the greatest years in the history of our country.”


It is difficult to overstate the psychological overload that the drama of the Trump Presidency presents to anyone who has been following the narrative. Take a week in the life: One day we learn that Trump, who is alleged to be the wealthiest President in U.S. history, paid just seven hundred and fifty dollars in federal income tax during his first year in office. Then comes a debate performance in which he tries to baselessly undermine mail-in voting and asks the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, to “stand back and stand by”—presumably, to be mobilized should he lose. He made it plain, as he has in his public speeches, that he is not so much running for reëlection as running against the election itself, hoping to invalidate its results preëmptively with threats and conspiracy theories. Then, at an ugly, mask-free rally in Minnesota on Wednesday, Trump riled the crowd, declaring that a Biden Presidency would “inundate your state with a historic flood of refugees.” Misinformation and violence, too, are contagions, and Trump, who sees only political advantage in fomenting schism and mistrust, has long been a superspreader.

There is no way of knowing how the President’s illness will shape the coming weeks. The polls suggest a motivation for the desperation of his rhetoric and his tactics: the last time there was a polling deficit like the one we’re now seeing at this point in a national election was in 1996, when Bob Dole trailed Bill Clinton all the way to Election Day. The President is obsessed with menaces—posed by shadowy members of a “deep state,” by “the radical left,” by foreigners of all sorts. But the gravest menace to public health and public order has come from within the White House. So long as Trump holds office, no manner of quarantine will suffice to contain it.

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Reply David Remnick, New Yorker: The Coronavirus and the Threat Within the White House (Original post)
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Sat Oct 3, 2020, 10:34 AM

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