Get Well, Mr. President?

Oct 18, 2020

There are many who were being a touch hypocritical when they sent get well messages to Donald Trump. Like St. Augustine, who prayed “Oh Lord, make me chaste, but not yet,” they would prefer that he recovered but only after losing the election.

“Get Well, Mr. President” was the headline of the main New York Times editorial when it was learned that Donald Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus. Mmmm. I detected a touch of hypocrisy.

Both in its opinion columns and in its presentation of the news, The New York Times has exhibited a growing hysteria in recent weeks at the possibility that, against all odds, Trump could win the presidential election on November 3 and stay four more years in the White House. Hysteria also, if not terror, at the other possibility: that the numbers say that he lost but does not accept the result, inflaming his unyielding followers and unleashing a wave of violence throughout the United States.

And they are right. The president of the hyperpower is a hypercretin. And a madman, dangerous for his country and for the world. In case anyone hadn’t been paying attention, the debate with his Democratic rival Joseph Biden on Tuesday made that clear. It was, as Biden himself put it the next day, “a national disgrace.” The United States has put itself up to the greatest ridicule that the world has seen since the time of Richard Nixon, or perhaps since George Washington.

A former boss of mine published a column in a conservative London newspaper the day after the debate, expressing gratitude for being British. I imagine that similar columns will have been written all over the world this week, substituting the word “British” for “French”, “Italian”, “Thai”, or “Tanzanian”. Even (if there is someone out there who knows how to moderate the national appetite for self-flagellation) for “Argentinian.”

There is little need to remember the spectacle this week put on by a nation that until recently saw itself as “the last and best hope for humanity.” We are talking about an old democracy whose president declared that he did not trust the legitimacy of his own electoral process, that he refused to condemn the small neo-Nazis that venerate him; of an individual who throughout the 90 minutes of the debate treated his rival, “Gentleman Joe Biden”, as an abusive husband during an episode of domestic violence.

Two days later he is diagnosed with the virus. Three days later he was hospitalized. According to official statements, his symptoms are mild. Trump and his people may not be being economical with the truth this time. But even if it is true, we all know that Covid is a bug whose evolution within the human body is unpredictable, especially if the patient is 74 years old and borders on obesity. We will see.

But a question: is The New York Times serious when it prays that the president gets better? Won’t it convey the thinking of the majority of Americans who share its belief that Trump is an abomination? Won’t it convey the wishes of the millions and millions of us in the rest of the world who every day wake up, and we do not quite believe that such a clown occupies the most powerful position on planet Earth?

No. Don’t be alarmed. I’m not going to join those who beg on social media for him to die. It is hard to believe but it is possible that if he dies, there will be a loved one who mourns his loss. I hope that he recovers, and that he returns to enjoying what he considers a normal life. But wait a minute. I don’t think it is good for the United States or for the world or for him that, in time for the elections in a month, he regains the energy that he displayed in the debate against Biden.

Let me explain. As soon as the news came out on that he had tested positive, voices began to be heard proposing that it was a lie. Of the multiplicity of conspiracy theories emanating from the United States it is one of the dumbest I’ve ever heard. Even if Trump had thought of it, it would have been impossible to keep the secret given the number of people around him in the White House and, now, in the Walter Reed military hospital. More interesting is wondering why the theory arose. The answer is that it could have been a good electoral move, the desperate last card left to Trump in the face of the growing certainty, after Tuesday’s debacle and the numbers that all the polls give, that Biden was going to win the election comfortably .

A possible good move for two reasons. One, that the image of the brave commander in chief in combat with the virus awakens the compassion of the undecided, and they vote for him. Two, that when Biden wins, Trump has an honourable exit. Trump can’t stand the thought of losing. He has spent his life despising “the losers”, and the humiliation of being defeated by what he considers one of them, Joseph Biden, would represent a trauma from which he would hardly recover.

But, but … if he is presented with the last minute option to withdraw from the race because of his health, or he has the alibi that he lost due not to his innumerable flaws but to the bad luck of having been weakened by the virus, it presents the possibility of protecting his porcelain ego and spending his remaining days in more or less bovine peace.

Such a scenario would bring the additional benefit that a sick Trump, fearing for his life, would lack both the will and the credibility necessary to incite his faithful to rebel against the electoral result.

In any case, even if Trump emerges recovered from his quarantine, he will not win the election. His only argument against Biden is that Biden is too old and frail to be president. Now Trump, who is only three years younger than his rival, is the one who looks like a frail old man. No. He cannot win. Well … Maybe yes … You never know. Saint Augustine, who sometimes doubted his faith, comes to mind. The saint’s most famous quote is, “Make me chaste, Lord, but not yet.” That. I hope Trump doesn’t die. I hope he gets better. But not yet.

John Carlin

John Carlin writes regular columns for La Vanguardia (Spain) and Clarín, (Argentina). This column appeared in Clarín on 4 October 2020, and is translated by Kieran Tapsell.

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