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Politics

We Got So Close…

Trump nearly died of COVID-19—and it didn't matter one bit.

donald trump taking off covid mask
Donald Trump removes his mask after returning from a hospital stay at Walter Reed.
Reuters

Although we have a new president now, backed by the Democrats in enacting a bold, courageous agenda day by day and saying a lot of things that make sense, I can’t help but frequently think of the old guy. And thanks to an excerpt from a new book about Donald Trump’s administration published today in the Washington Post, we now know how just how close we came to getting a brand-new president months ahead of schedule.

The story, adapted from Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History, is a tick-tock retelling of how a select group of Trump administration members dealt with the secret truth that Trump’s condition after testing positive for COVID-19 was much worse than what was conveyed to the public. Here’s the most staggering paragraph (emphasis mine throughout):

At least two of those who were briefed on Trump’s medical condition that weekend said he was gravely ill and feared that he wouldn’t make it out of Walter Reed. People close to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said he was consumed with fear that Trump might die.

The story also recounts how Trump made it an unofficial White House rule NOT to wear masks and hosted a big indoor shindig for his new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. This also happened:

The day after the Supreme Court celebration, Trump had also hosted military families at the White House. At Trump’s insistence, few were wearing masks, but they were packed in a little too tight for his comfort. He wasn’t worried about others getting sick, but he did fret about his own vulnerability and complained to his staff afterward. Why were they letting people get so close to him? Meeting with the Gold Star families was sad and moving, he said, but added, “If these guys had covid, I’m going to get it because they were all over me.” He told his staff that they needed to do a better job of protecting him.

I am really having a hard time imagining that Trump even CONSIDERED the prospect of anyone else getting sick because that would require some basic human empathy. (Or, for the record, that Trump found meeting the Gold Star families “moving.” Remember Khizr Khan?)

It’s also darkly comedic how, as you might assume, the president suddenly was made to care a great deal about the virus and experts that he’d publicly discredited and mocked for months:

Throughout Trump’s time in the hospital, his doctors consulted with the medical experts on the White House coronavirus task force whom the president had long ago discarded. They talked to Hahn, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony S. Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, seeking input about his treatment.

And although experts literally prayed, according to the story, that a brush with death would make Trump finally—after seven months of quarantines and more than 200,000 Americans dead—take COVID seriously, perhaps by doing something as minimal as encouraging Americans to wear masks. But, of course, it didn’t matter in the slightest:

If they couldn’t keep him in the hospital, the advisers hoped that Trump would at least emerge from Walter Reed a changed man. Some even began mentally preparing to finally speak their minds. It would surely be the inflection point, they all thought. There’s nothing like a near-death experience to serve as a wake-up call. It was, at the end of the day, a national security failure. The president had not been protected. If this fiasco wasn’t the turning point, what would be?

But Trump didn’t waver. Facing the cameras from the balcony, he used his right hand to unhook the mask loop from his right ear, then raised his left hand to pull the mask off his face. He was heavily made up, his face more orange tinted than in the photos from the hospital. The helicopter’s rotors were still spinning. He put the mask into his right pocket, as if he was discarding it once and for all, then raised both hands in a thumbs-up. He was still probably contagious, standing there for all the world to see. He made a military salute as the helicopter departed the South Lawn, and then strode into the White House, passing staffers on his way and failing to protect them from the virus particles emitted from his nose and mouth.

[…] Trump showed in that moment that he hadn’t changed at all. The pandemic response wasn’t going to change, either.

Imagine all that could’ve been avoided had that hospitalization ended differently or even as some suspected it would! WE CAME SO CLOSE to an event that would’ve changed the course of our history—and saved lives.

As of today, more than 600,000 Americans have died from COVID. The fact that life is mostly returning to some kind of normalcy is a testament to the development of a vaccine against the virus Trump called the “China virus,” the virus he urged people to treat with fish tank cleaner, the virus he never stopped downplaying. You can be that stupid if you’re alone in your house, away from the world, without the world’s biggest megaphone. Instead, we had Trump, who was briefed about the possibility of COVID becoming a global pandemic as early as January 2020, nearly died of the disease himself, and, afterward, changed his handling of the biggest national crisis in modern history not one iota. And for that, he’ll have the blood of 600,000 Americans on his hands until he finally does croak.