Donald Trump has confronted a long list of adversaries and weathered an even longer list of scandals in his nearly four years as President of the United States.
In 2017, there was FBI director James Comey, special counsel Robert Mueller, and the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville. In 2018, there was the felony convictions of Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, and his long-time fixer Michael Cohen — the latter for arranging hush money payments to a porn star on behalf of Trump. In 2019 and the beginning of 2020, impeachment dominated Trump’s state of mind. He would go on to survive all of them.
This year’s Covid-19 crisis, however, has proven to be his strongest opponent yet. As of now, Trump has yet to find an antidote for it. And now the enemy has struck close to home, with the President himself stricken by a virus that has already claimed the lives of over 208,000 Americans.
As of late Friday, Trump was at the Walter Reed medical center outside Washington DC being monitored by his physicians. The President, normally combative, energetic and unsympathetic, was experiencing a cough and a minor fever. His age (74 years old) and weight mean he is especially vulnerable to the disease. His wife, Melania Trump, has also contracted Covid-19, as have a number of younger White House aides such as Trump favourite Hope Hicks. One White House official described the atmosphere in the West Wing as ‘hair on fire’.
While the entire White House complex is not exactly in lockdown, the men and women on the grounds are either petrified that the virus has spread uncontrollably or angry that the administration can’t even take care of their own people.
It turns out that assembling hundreds of mask-less people in the Rose Garden in tight quarters wasn’t the smartest decision the administration has made. Those in attendance are now wondering if they, too, were infected; on Friday night, one of those attendees — former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway — announced they tested positive as well. Conway stood next to Attorney General Bill Barr during the event, who is now likely receiving additional testing of his own. Only this White House would be foolish enough to manufacture its own super-spreader event.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who was abused by Trump for 90 minutes last Tuesday during the first presidential debate, wished the President and his family a speedy recovery. Being a career politician, the former vice president has no intention of stopping his campaign activities (even if he did pull some negative attack ads at the end of the week). With Trump ensconced at Walter Reed and prohibited from doing the thousands-strong campaign rallies he loves so much, Biden is like the sole driver on the open road. He can speed in pretty much any direction without worrying about incoming traffic.
For the Trump campaign, the news of the boss’s positive Covid-19 test is a big punch in the windpipe. It’s too dramatic to call it debilitating, but if Trump is off the trail for the next 14 days, there isn’t much the Trump campaign can do other than saturate the airways with anti-Biden ads and perhaps broadcast a few remote speeches from the President himself. This is literally the October surprise Trump’s political operatives went to bed worrying about. Yes, the Access Hollywood tape four years ago was a terrible blow, but at least Trump could still travel the country, give fiery rants to tens of thousands of people, and heckle his opponent on the debate stage. Now, we can’t even be certain the second presidential debate later this month will be held on schedule.
Trump, aka ‘Teflon Don’, has survived every single attack thrown his way. The question people are asking this weekend is whether the President will be able to withstand a virus he once mocked as ‘the sniffles’ and proclaimed would disappear ‘like a miracle’. Physically, one hopes so. Politically, it could be a different story.
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