By Alan Resnick
It’s been only two weeks since President Trump announced that he and Melania, had been diagnosed with COVID-19, but, boy, it sure seems like much longer. We’ve gone from seeing him being airlifted from the White House to Walter Reed Medical Center on October 2nd, to returning to the White House on October 5th, to beginning his “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” tour, which kicked off in Sanford, Fla. on October 12th.
In two weeks, we’ve gone from learning that President Trump was taking eight medications and supplements (Regeneron's antibody cocktail, famotidine, remdesivir, dexamethasone, zinc, vitamin D, melatonin and a daily aspirin) to treat his illness, to hearing him proclaim that he is now completely immune. In fact, he went so far on Monday night as to make the following threat: “I feel so powerful I’ll walk into that audience. I’ll walk in there, I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women and the — I’ll just give you a big fat kiss.” I’m curious how those women at the rally that Trump did not deem 10’s are feeling about being excluded from his magnanimous proposal.
Just a dozen days ago, Trump was gasping for air on the Truman Balcony. He is now being described by members of his staff as the James Brown of politics, the hardest working President our country has ever seen. On Tuesday night, in Johnstown, Pa., he was tossing out face masks on the airport tarmac as if they were the paper towels he had insultingly lobbed at a crowd in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.
The coronavirus is no longer is something to be feared and avoided; we should embrace it, because Trump has not felt this good in 20 years and we will too. In fact, it now seems as if the Administration is again tiptoeing towards proposing that the controversial theory of herd immunity, letting the pandemic run its course until people are either vaccinated or develop anitbodies after infection, become our nation’s primary strategy for addressing the pandemic. Never mind that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, stated this week that relying on herd immunity would lead to: “an enormous, totally unacceptable number of deaths. Apparently they are just collateral damage for Donald Trump.
These past two weeks of insanity have led to a myriad of questions and speculations. Some in the media have wondered why a 74-year-old man recovering from a serious illness would go barnstorming around the country rather than relying on a Rose Garden strategy, as previous presidents seeking a second term have done. Why not use the power and prestige of the White House as a stage for signing bills and holding media events? The setting conveys presidential power and stability. Wouldn’t it be better and safer for Trump if he just stayed home?
The answer seems pretty obvious. Donald Trump enjoys being president, but he doesn’t have much appetite or talent for actually performing the job. Signing legislation and meeting with Boy Scout troops and Rotary groups for photo ops can’t possibly compete with crowds chanting his name and cheering his incendiary comments.
Others asked if contracting the coronavirus would result in a teachable moment for Trump. Perhaps the illness would lead to a period of reflection and greater empathy for those who had contracted the illness or lost loved ones to COVID-19? Some Republican strategists even argued that Trump might receive a bump in the polls due to a sympathy vote. Well, that conjecture stopped in about a day, as soon as Trump decided to jump in a hermetically sealed SUV and wave to fans outside the hospital, thereby putting the Secret Service members forced to ride with him in jeopardy of illness.
Given the events of the last four years, who in their right mind would believe that Trump would learn from his own illness or from that of the ever-increasing numbers of his staff who have contracted the coronavirus? You tell me which of the following sounds more Trumpian: “I’ve developed a new-found respect and appreciation for what so many of you have and continue to go through,” or “I kicked the Chinese Virus’ ass?”
And why hasn’t the President changed his strategy on the campaign trail? Why does he continue to rant about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, even though neither is his opponent? Why does he continue to claim that we have turned the corner in our fight against COVID-19, even though a new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that over the last five months, per capita deaths in the U.S., both from COVID-19 and other causes, have been far greater than in 18 other high-income countries? Why didn’t he express outrage over the thwarted kidnap attempt on Governor Gretchen Whitmer rather than chastising her lack of gratitude for what his FBI had done? Why does he continue to stoke fear and hatred, rather than attempt to unify the country?
Once again, the answer is pretty simple: it’s worked before. In many ways, what he is doing now is logical, something that most of us do when faced with a new or challenging situation. We simply go back to those actions that have brought us success in the past. Trump has bullied, blustered and bullshitted his way through life since he was in military school, and it got him to the White House.
But what does one do when what’s worked before isn’t working anymore? Some people recognize that they have to change their behavior in order to be successful; others, like Trump, double down rather than change their behavior. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
The election is less than three weeks away. As Trump is fond of saying: “We’ll see what happens.”
Alan Resnick is an industrial psychologist with over 40 years of professional experience. He and his wife are sheltering at home in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He is passing the time by cooking, exercising, catching up on friends’ recommendations of must-see TV and writing.