While we all wish US President Donald Trump a full recovery from COVID-19, he has set a poor example for others by his recent conduct. And that is putting it mildly.
All leaders – and especially the leader of the free world – should know that people look up to them and follow their lead. When they fail to set a good example, they don’t just fail themselves; they fail their nations.
Despite his having contracted the virus, Trump exhibits no humility or remorse for his past denial of its impact, and pays no respect to the 211,000 Americans who have died and over 7.5 million in the US who have been infected by this highly contagious disease.
After being hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for three days, Trump took a royal joyride with members of his Secret Service detail on Sunday, endangering those with him.
As Dr. James Phillips, a professor and physician associated with Walter Reed, put it in a tweet, “Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’... has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.”
In what can only be described as reckless, when he returned to the White House on Monday, Trump removed his mask to pose for photographs.
“It’s unexplainable that the president of the United States is actively shedding the virus in millions of particles [and] would walk into the building with an enormous number of staff unmasked,” CNN analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner commented. “It’s really hard to understand that no one told him not to do that.”
Such actions indicate not only that the administration – headed by the president himself – is still not taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously, but that the president himself is directly putting people’s lives at risk. These are the Secret Service agents whose job is to protect him and the staff in the White House whose jobs are to serve his administration.
At least 14 White House officials have tested positive for the virus, turning what is supposed to be one of the most secure facilities in the world into an infectious hot zone.
By downplaying the severity of the virus, Trump is putting people’s lives in danger. His followers will continue listening to him. They will not be afraid of the virus and will not feel intimidated – as he told them when returning to the White House on Monday. Instead, they will contract the virus. Many will suffer a painful illness and some will die.
These lives could have been saved. The president could have returned from the hospital and not taken off his mask. He could have told the American people that he now understands what this virus is about and how people need to be careful, take precautions, social distance and wear masks.
Instead, Trump continued on Wednesday to double down. A post he published on Facebook claiming that coronavirus is “less lethal” than the flu and that the US has “learned to live with” flu season, “just like we are learning to live with COVID, in most populations far less lethal!!!” was removed by the social media giant.
Twitter kept up his tweet but placed it behind a warning about “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information.”
In Israel, we have had our own fair share of politicians and their families violating the lockdown. Two recent examples are Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel traveling from her home in Tel Aviv to spend Yom Kippur in Tiberias with her husband’s family, and Sara Netanyahu ordering a hairdresser to cut her hair at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.
Calling out such violations by the media underscores the need for all public figures – and indeed all of us – to adhere to the lockdown rules to halt the ongoing spike in infections.
It is tragic that political leaders continue to flaunt the rules and play down the suffering caused by the virus in the US or anywhere around the world.
We urge President Trump to recant, to raise the bar and set a new tone for the global battle against the pandemic which he should be spearheading. That would be true leadership.