Some thoughts on Trump’s personal battle

Trump’s history of miserable pronouncements connected with the pandemic speaks for itself.

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump speaks from his hospital room on Saturday.  (photo credit: WHITE HOUSE VIDEO SCREENSHOT/REUTERS)
US PRESIDENT Donald Trump speaks from his hospital room on Saturday.
I am sure I am not the only one to have blurted out when first hearing that President Donald Trump contracted the coronavirus that it was a case of poetic justice. I do not mean to say he is an evil person and therefore deserves to be infected (although he is certainly no saint), but rather that since he acted irresponsibly in regard to COVID-19 and encouraged others to do the same, thus being indirectly responsible for the illness and deaths of many, he should suffer the consequences, at least on the personal level. If it will also affect the result of the approaching presidential election, so be it.
Trump’s history of miserable pronouncements connected with the pandemic speaks for itself. Those who listened to the Trump-Biden debate on September 30 could not help taking note of the tasteless slights Trump hurled at Biden concerning the former vice president’s wearing of a protective mask when in public. I also recall Trump’s press conference in the White House on September 7, when he insisted that Reuters reporter Jeff Mason remove his mask while posing a question because he sounded “muffled.” Mason stood his ground and simply raised his voice, but Trump, who finally gave in, proceeded to mock him for allegedly wanting to be “politically correct” rather than commend him for acting responsibly and in accordance with the best medical and scientific advice, which he has consistently refused to accept as justification for wearing a mask.
Will Trump’s current experience change his mind? If it transpires that he will go through his current personal corona experience without serious consequences to himself, probably not. But perhaps if his personal experience will prove to be medically challenging, a bit of humility will penetrate his thick narcissistic skin.
Trump reportedly insisted that the ceremonies in which Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed normalization agreements on the South Lawn of White House on September 15 should take place without the participants wearing masks, or the audience present taking other basic health precautions (apparently in order not to mar the photographic recording of the event). In Israel it was also hinted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s team had tried to resist these directives, unsuccessfully, and we saw the Netanyahus, like everyone else present (except for the journalists), mask-less and refraining from keeping distance from the other participants (including from Trump himself).
The following week, on September 26, during the ceremony at which Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee for the US Supreme Court, once again the participants did not wear masks or keep social distancing. That is believed to have been the occasion on which numerous participants both outdoor and in were infected by the coronavirus. Netanyahu can bless his lucky stars that the signing ceremony had taken place the previous week.
The question that Mason of Reuters asked Trump without removing his mask concerned Trump’s repeated contemptuous remarks about active servicemen, and those who had the misfortune of falling prisoner, or being killed in action.
Trump refused to accept the late Republican Senator John McCain as a war hero because he had fallen prisoner in the Vietnam War in 1967, after his plane was shot down. McCain was seriously injured, subsequently suffering torture at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors before being released in 1973. Trump was reported as having referred to McCain in private circles as a “loser” and of having used the same term in reference to WWI fallen American soldiers buried in Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris, which he avoided visiting for a memorial service during his 2018 visit to France. Trump was also reported as having said that the more than 1,800 American marines who had lost their lives at Belleau Wood in the same war were “suckers” for having got themselves killed.
HOW DOES Netanyahu contend with all of this, given his loss of his own brother Yoni during the Entebbe Operation in 1976? It should be recalled that Netanyahu views his brother, who lost his life in defense of the nation, as a hero, and referred to him at the signing ceremony in Washington three weeks ago. Has he ever mentioned Yoni to Trump? Has he ever sought to dispute Trump’s attitude toward fallen servicemen?
And what about Trump’s refusal during the debate with Biden to condemn the white supremacists, and his call to the “Proud Boys” hate group “to stand back and stand by?” This is, after all, an extremist, violent, right-wing, all-male hate group that (in its own words) spreads “anti-political correctness,” “anti-white guilt” and “Western chauvinism,” together with hatred of Muslims, while being associated with various antisemitic groups. Was it a call to intimidate certain communities from voting on November 3, as some perceived it? Whatever it was – together with the refusal to condemn white supremacists – it didn’t smell good.
One does not expect Netanyahu to publicly chastise Trump for his scandalous comments and irresponsible conduct, but one cannot help but wonder how he perceives of this conduct deep in his heart. Is he at all critical of “Israel’s best friend ever?” Is he ever embarrassed by him? Does he realize that his exceptionally close association with Trump, who is held in contempt in most democratic states, causes immeasurable damage to Israel’s image in the world?
A basic humanistic and “politically correct” approach dictates that one should wish the president a speedy and full recovery. However, this should not blind us to the fact that in less than a month, voting in the presidential, congressional and some state elections will be held, and that what is at stake is not the health of the current president, but the future of the United States, its economy, its health system, and of the world order to which that country was the main, if not sole, architect some 75 years ago. How the president’s current personal battle against the coronavirus will affect the outcome of the election is difficult to predict.
The election is also critical for Israel in many respects, though we are divided on this question as we are on many others. Some believe that Donald Trump and his administration are a miracle that can help realize all the dreams and ambitions of the Israeli neo-liberal and religious Right. Others believe the Trump presidency is a major danger to liberal democracy, not only in the US, but indirectly in Israel. Many feel that Netanyahu’s choice of placing all of Israel’s political eggs in Trump’s basket is largely responsible for the growing rift between Israel and the majority of American Jews.
Just over a year ago Trump made it quite clear what he thinks of the majority of American Jews who traditionally vote for Democratic candidates, and who will certainly do so again in the current elections. “I think if you vote for a Democrat, you are very, very disloyal to Israel, and to the Jewish people,” he said.