Donald Trump bizarrely and unexpectedly made an announcement Monday that he was taking hydroxychloroquine. He didn’t specify the dosage or how often he takes it, and those details are up in the air, as are the details of just who the front-liners are that Trump claims won’t leave home without taking it, in essence. As strange as it was, it was also strangely familiar, because it echoes how Trump has dealt with the entire pandemic episode so far — and episode is an accurate word to use here. Everything to Trump is reality TV and the coronavirus pandemic is just one more dramatic development. He’s too self-absorbed to deal with it on any other level. The Atlantic:
It’s easy to make jokes—Donald Trump is finally getting a taste of his own medicine—but the president’s bizarre announcement yesterday that he’s been taking hydroxychloroquine is an excellent microcosm of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump ignores doctors and scientists. He grabs onto quackish ideas he hears on TV and won’t let go of them. He emphasizes grand symbolic gestures, while declining to take less splashy ones that could be more effective. His statements are a Rorschach test: Some people believe him instantly; others are sure he’s lying. The main question is whether his medication regimen will prove as disastrous as his national coronavirus approach has been. […]
For anyone who treats medical evidence seriously, assesses risk, and acts prudently, Trump’s decision to take a potentially hazardous drug prophylactically is crazy. But it fits with the conservative-media ecosystem that launched Trump’s political career, and in which he continues to marinate, preferring it to hard data and unpleasant truths. Right-wing outlets are full of advertising in which program hosts tout the benefits of this or that snake-oil supplement: mysterious pills with magical oils, or supercharged-vitamin regimes. Trump, who contemplated launching a talk-radio show this spring, is emulating this. He has often treated the presidency as more like a media platform than a leadership position, and now he has the dubious product endorsements to match. (Last week, the FDA also issued a warning about an instant COVID-19 test that Trump has energetically touted.) […]
The tragedy about this entire farce of a pandemic response is that it is geared into dramatic presentation and symbolism, rather than presenting and explaining the virus in real time for what it is — a global tragedy and a national health crisis of proportions rarely seen, at least not in the past 100 years. This is why we find ourselves hearing on the news every night what the latest death count is, but there is no evidence anywhere of a nation in mourning or any kind of emphaetic or decent response from the White House, and that is precisely because the man in the Oval Office himself is devoid of emphathy and decency. He’s just trying to field this unweildy public relations problem he finds himself stuck with — and that’s really his take on this, to all appearances — so that he can get onto the important business of the day, which is reelection. And in the meantime, he’s only concerned with what looks good, and so we continue to watch the Apprentice: White House Editiion, Season 3: Coronavirus plot line.
… Trump reportedly believes that wearing a mask is a sign of weakness and is unpresidential; Trump allies such as the writer R. R. Reno have been more explicit in claiming that it is unmasculine and cowardly. Wearing a mask is certainly passive, and Trump likes to be seen as active and bold, even if that means taking an unproven putative miracle drug.
This echoes the broader government response to the coronavirus, in which Trump has emphasized gestures and symbolic steps—from immigration decrees to displays of equipment at the White House—while eschewing or downplaying less splashy but more effective tools. He was slow to call for social distancing and quick to call for states to open back up. He undermined mask guidance. And while he demonstrated his ability to twist his doctor’s arm into prescribing hydroxychloroquine, he has largely opted against flexing the federal government’s real and immense powers to fight the pandemic.
Although Trump’s choice to take the medicine, however foolhardy, is completely in keeping with everything we know about his character and handling of the pandemic, his claim was immediately met with skepticism. Truthers argued that Trump wasn’t really taking the drug and was just talking nonsense, even after the White House physician’s statement. Some assume that, given that Trump seldom does anything that won’t make him a buck, he must have some financial ulterior motive; others took it as evidence that Trump has actually tested positive for the coronavirus, though the White House says he has not.
The bottom line is that once more, another day has gone by and rather than having an active dialogue among sober adults about COVID-19 and how to beat it, we deal with the tragi-farce of Donald Trump and his carnival act, as Amerians lie dying and the economy continues to list before it capsizes altogether. The House just sent another rescue bill to the Senate and so the real work of government goes on without or without a leader to define the moment or articulate the state of our union.
As Nancy Pelosi said after the actual State of the Union address, after she shredded the copy of Trump’s script, “You’re supposed to talk about the state of the country, not the state of your alleged mind.” Trump can’t do that. It’s all about him and as previously stated, the offce of president is his media platform, above all else. Trump is not a leader, he’s only the simulacrum of one. Television is all he knows and all he will ever be able to do. Enjoy the show, because this is it. This is all there is. Hopefully enough people have already woken up to that fact, and more will wake up between now and November. We can’t survive with a play actor, and a bad one at that, steering the ship of state. We need leadership.