When news broke that President Donald Trump had been infected with COVID-19, Twitter announced it would be suspending anyone who tweeted that they hoped Trump would die from the disease. A few hours later, apparently realizing it would have to suspend half its user base, Twitter clarified that death-wishing tweets wouldn’t, in most cases, be punished by suspension after all.
One of the worst aspects of Trump has been his ability to corrupt our national life. Not only does he suck the integrity from his supporters, he encourages those who oppose him to live down to their worst instincts. We all know that it’s wrong, even shameful, to hope someone dies from a horrible disease. The decent thing to do is what both former President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden have done, recognize our shared humanity and express hope for the president’s recovery.
It’s wrong to hope Trump dies
Twitter is right. It’s wrong for us to hope that Trump dies from the coronavirus. But this isn’t for Trump’s benefit — he’d be unlikely to return the favor — it’s for ours. As any “Star Wars” fan can tell you, we damage ourselves when we give in to the Dark Side. The essence of civilization is that we master our strongest urges and do what we know is right instead.
But foreswearing our worst impulses doesn’t mean we can’t luxuriate in the irony. Nor does it mean we can’t recognize that Trump has done this to himself.
First, the irony. It is now fairly clear that the superspreader event — that has infected the president, the first lady, at least three Republican senators, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who helped prepare Trump for the presidential debate, former White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager and multiple members of Trump’s staff — was the Sept. 26 spike-the-ball event in the Rose Garden launching Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court bid and inside events related to the Rose Garden ceremony.
Had Republicans stood by their own “Garland rule” and decided not to try to force through a Supreme Court nomination a few weeks before the election, none of this would have happened.
What’s left of Trump’s campaign is now in tatters with the next debate likely to be canceled, the president unable to campaign and his campaign itself decapitated. Depending on how many Republican senators get sick and how badly, Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination may even end up on hold. This accelerated karma is about as close as you can come to irrefutable proof that God exists and that he has an excellent, if slightly dark, sense of humor.
It is also correct for us to take note of the facts that brought us here. Acknowledging those facts and learning from them is the way we give meaning to tragedy. Feeling sympathy for someone who is suffering doesn’t preclude us from recognizing that he brought it on himself. This fiasco wasn’t “bad luck.” It was bad judgment, even foolishness, on a grand scale.
Our View: On President Donald Trump and COVID-19, just tell the truth to the American people
Images of the Rose Garden superspreader event reveal no masks and no social distancing. But that has been par for the course with Trump.
He has repeatedly mocked mask wearing, even taunting Biden about it at Tuesday’s debate and claiming that there had never been any adverse consequences from his flaunting the coronavirus rules laid down by his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the debate in Cleveland, the first family refused to wear masks even though the audience was required to do so. To her undying shame, Melania Trump was very likely infectious at that point. “National embarrassment” doesn’t begin to cover it.
Protect Vice President Pence
On top of that, we’ve avoided a constitutional crisis by an accident in the seating arrangement. Pictures from the Rose Garden event show Vice President Mike Pence sitting directly across the central aisle from the first lady with Conway immediately behind her. Had Pence been seated in a slightly different place, he might now be infected.
And yet, Trump and his advisers have learned absolutely nothing. When the president is known to be at risk, America must protect the vice president’s health and safety at all costs. To do otherwise risks an unprecedented disaster. Pence should be in a bunker at an undisclosed location. Instead, he’s scheduled to hold a live, no doubt crowded and maskless, rally in Arizona on Thursday. Allowing Pence to campaign with a pandemic raging and an infected president in the hospital is an act of sabotage against both the American government and the Constitution. This isn’t just bad judgment. It’s completely reckless. Who cares about safeguarding America’s chain of command when you’ve got an election to win?
Trump: Presidential illness is a recurring concern in American politics
If we need further evidence of Trump’s invincible ignorance, there’s his Sunday joyride accompanied by Secret Service agents. No photo op can possibly justify putting people sworn to protect you at risk of catching a deadly disease, regardless of what protective gear they’re wearing. At a minimum, they’re now facing quarantine. Whether this is catastrophically poor judgment or a complete disregard for the men and women who serve under him hardly matters.
President Donald Trump in a motorcade outside the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on Oct. 4, 2020.
Policies are important, up to a point. When that 3 a.m. call comes, you want someone with intelligence and good judgment picking up the phone, regardless of his opinion on Obamacare. Donald Trump — and events — have demonstrated that Donald Trump has neither.
This Thanksgiving, there could well be over a quarter of a million empty seats at family tables all across America. Some of those might now be in Trump’s own inner circle. Every one of them deserved better. Sympathy is not absolution. Hold President Trump in your thoughts and prayers as he recovers from the coronavirus. Hold him accountable on Nov. 3.
Republican Chris Truax, an appellate lawyer in San Diego and CEO of CertifiedVoter.com, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.
You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to [email protected]
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump and COVID-19: How he corrupts us all