Sick, spaced out, or just shameless?

21. He’s been getting weirder

Since contracting the coronavirus, DT has shifted his grandstanding into overdrive. Not content to kick back and focus on recovery, while basking in the bipartisan well wishes that only an ill president can amass, he has made a spectacle of himself both outside the hospital and back at the White House, endangering many other people in the process. Now he’s on the campaign trail again, putting countless others at risk.

He claims to be cured. Possibly he is, but there is no way he can know for sure; many Covid-19 patients relapse after seeming to recover, and others develop symptoms that linger. These symptoms frequently include what has come to be known as “brain fog,” a neuropsychiatric malady featuring difficulty concentrating and deficits in memory and cognition. This brain fog can last for months. Actually, it’s too early to know if it will ever go away completely. If he winds up showing signs of such a problem, will he be prepared to step aside? It seems unlikely. Will his Cabinet members be prepared to declare him unfit for office? That seems unlikely, too. For 45 months, amid a dizzying array of bad policy decisions, he has managed to refrain from launching a nuclear strike. If he decides to do something impulsive in that regard one day while suffering from brain fog, will anyone be able to stop him? He’s got three months to go in this term. We can cross our fingers for three months. Add another four years? No one can cross their fingers for that long.

While actively under treatment for the virus, he received several medications including a powerful steroid that is known to cause mania and delusional thinking. The potential side effects from such a drug could well explain the grandstanding that even by his standards has been over the top. Suppose he has a relapse and needs more of this drug? Again, we’re talking about someone with access to the nuclear codes. He also has a vast military and federal police officers at his disposal. If he wants to do something so vile that even his fellow Republicans wouldn’t approve of it, would they stand in his way? The nation has the right not to be pondering such questions for the next four years.

It hardly needs to be said that his thinking was already noticeably disordered and his behavior often borderline manic before he caught the coronavirus or took any drugs for it. It may be that he has been making a particular spectacle of himself lately simply because he is moved to do so, either from some hidden inner need or from a belief that doing so will gain him votes. News flash: the chances are vanishingly small that he will become calm and measured and sensible when he no longer has to worry about votes. He is someone who is accustomed to being the center of attention. His proclivity for outrageousness has served him well, and he will not abandon it after the election. If he gets another four years in the brightest spotlight on the planet, he is likely to up the ante. Never mind nuclear missiles and troops; we’re talking about somebody who can spark utter havoc with one tweet, and he’s got a large collection of delusional followers, many of them angry and well armed.

So what’s the deal—is DT sick, spaced out, or merely shameless? Perhaps he is all of the above. In the end, it does’t matter. Whatever the problem is, we cannot risk its manifesting itself until January 2025.

Immunity

In addition to claiming to be cured, DT also claims to be immune. This is bullshit. While the jury is still out on the frequency of contracting Covid-19 multiple times, enough patients have been reinfected to date that we know it is possible. Sometimes the second infection is much worse than the first. Anyone undecided voter who dislikes the idea of President Pence would do well to keep that in mind.

Speaking of becoming immune…as much as I’d like to see DT prosecuted when he leaves office this winter, I’d happily see him granted total immunity—even including civil cases—if he’d just resign, retire, and withdraw from public life entirely. His presence has a toxic effect on the nation, and what we need foremost is to heal.

Normality destroyer

25. He’s making a return to ordinary life impossible

Remember when life was bearable? It’s not that things were perfect before the pandemic. Each of us had our problems and dilemmas, and sometimes just getting through the day was hard, but usually there was a predictable character to our daily existence. We went out to eat in restaurants, shopped in stores, attended meetings, had routine checkups at the doctor and dentist, got haircuts, went to the movies and to concerts, plays, poetry readings, ballgames—all without worrying that a dangerous pathogen was entering our bodies, endangering our lives and the lives of the people around us. Maybe our routines were boring, but they gave structure to our lives, afforded us modest pleasures, and provided a steady platform from which we could lean out and pursue our dreams. Now all of that is gone and it is unclear when—or even if—the ways of life we took for granted will ever be available to us again.

It would be unreasonable to suggest that if someone other than DT had presided over the pandemic response in the U.S., everything would be wonderful now. There can be no doubt, however, that his response has been an abject failure. All of the positive developments that have taken place since March (and there are a few) have happened not because of him but in spite of him. Most of the developments haven’t been positive, though: by the time Election Day comes, a quarter of a million Americans will have died and countless more sickened, some with lingering disabilities that may never go away. One in six small businesses has closed, various industries are teetering on the brink of complete failure, the education system is upended, and a crisis of homelessness and unemployment is sweeping the land.

There is a chance of resuming relatively normal lives, perhaps in as little as year, if we effect regime change in Washington this fall. DT has no plan to make America normal again. The only thing he’s saying that’s even remotely plausible is that there will be a vaccine soon. Beyond that, his intentions are to continue to second-guess the experts and insist on prematurely reopening the whole country, while continuing to promote reckless behavior. This would cause cases to spike again, leading to more unnecessary cases, more deaths, and more forced lockdowns. Rinse and repeat: this could happen several times over the course of years, until herd immunity is reached. There would be no economy left at that point, no possibility of going back to normal; the country would have slid into a miasma of despair, anarchy, and violence.

With Biden and Harris at the helm, a massive deployment of resources will enable, at long last, sufficient testing and effective contact tracing. Any vaccine proven safe and effective will be made available to the entire population in an organized and timely way, accompanied by a major public education campaign. Production of protective gear will finally be ramped up so that healthcare providers will have an adequate supply and consumers will have access to better equipment. The U.S. will rejoin the World Health Organization and help coordinate a global effort to stamp out the virus. And the White House will stop politicizing the Centers for Disease Control, instead allowing the experts there to do their job—including advising the public—without hindrance. All of those tactics, plus a serious effort to coordinate the response of state and local governments to reflect scientific reality, will make possible the reopening of the economy, not in fits and starts with frequent reversals but for real. Then we’ll be able once again to simply live our lives. The pandemic will have changed us, but we will have gotten past it.

One pill makes you loonier?

Since he was diagnosed with Covid-19, DT has been taking several drugs, at least one of which is known to cause mania and psychosis in a significant proportion of patients. Is it possible that the drugs are affecting his behavior? It’s hard to say. DT has shown signs of a seriously warped mind for years. His delusions of grandeur are frequent, his grasp of logic is tenuous, and his need for acclamation is constant—and all this was the case long before the coronavirus arrived.

One thing seems certain: neither Mike Pence nor any member of DT’s cabinet is likely to question the man’s behavior. If he starts messing with the nuclear launch codes, perhaps someone will risk intervening, but other than that they’ll just do whatever he says:

“Mike, you’re dripping on my starburst carpet.”

“Sorry, Mr. President.”

“A vice president shouldn’t be wet. It’s nasty, like that woman.”

“What woman?”

“All of them. Except Ivanka. But why are you all wet?”

“Mr. President, you told me to jump in the Tidal Basis.”

“Not you, stupid. I was talking to Pompeo. The other Mike.”