A perfect illustration of what I said in the last post about his two big mistakes in handling the pandemic. One: He’s willing to sacrifice safety for a return to normalcy, or at least the perception that normalcy is returning. That’s what he did by pushing states early to reopen for business, that’s what he’s doing now with his own treatment.
Two: He’s tailoring his message to people who already support him, not the people he needs to win over. A third of the country will read the tweet below and think, “Yes! He’s a warrior!” The other two-thirds will read it and think, “Reckless. Don’t leave until you’re out of the woods.”
I do kind of believe him when he says he feels better than he did 20 years ago, though. He’s on a powerful steroid right now. It has real psychological side effects.
I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2020
There’s nothing worth saying about the lines, “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” You’re either in the group that thinks that’s defiant and inspiring or you’re in the group that thinks it’s callous in light of the death toll and easy to say for someone who has his own fleet of doctors to tend to him and a dedicated suite for his use at a nearby hospital. A disease that twice caused your blood oxygen saturation to drop to worrisome levels; that affected your lungs enough to require supplemental oxygen and a steroid; and that spread sufficiently rapidly to warrant an antiviral and an *experimental* antibody cocktail is a disease you probably should be afraid of.
Especially since a quarter million people will have died of it within a month or two, you know.
In spite of all the elite doctors tending to him and all the medication he’s received, Trump’s doctor felt obliged to note at today’s briefing about him being released that he’s still not out of the woods.
“He may not be entirely out of the woods yet” pic.twitter.com/Mm4ieQRzRh
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) October 5, 2020
He *did* meet the criteria for discharge, Conley went on to say, but whether you trust Conley after he’s deceived Americans once before to make Trump’s condition seem less worrisome is up to you. He still won’t give a straight answer to the question of when Trump last tested negative for the disease, in fact. *If* the president were being tested every day, as he ought to be, the answer to that logically should be “Wednesday.” Trump got his first positive test on Thursday evening so his last negative should have come the day before.
The fact that Conley won’t clearly say that almost certainly means that the last negative didn’t come on Wednesday, Which means Trump probably wasn’t being tested every day. Why not?
Conley also wouldn’t say what was on Trump’s lung scans, as Trump didn’t authorize him to do so under HIPAA laws. If those scans were clean I’m sure the president himself would be crowing about it; since he isn’t, it probably means that he recently had — or has — pneumonia. Does that sound like someone who’s fit to go home?
Outside doctors were shocked yesterday when one of Trump’s Walter Reed physicians suggested that he might be released today. Even allowing for the fact that the White House has medical facilities on site, someone in his condition should be hospitalized:
Robert Wachter, chairman of the University of California at San Francisco’s department of medicine, said any patient of his with Trump’s symptoms and treatment who wanted to be discharged from the hospital three days after their admission would need to sign out against doctors’ orders because it would be so ill-advised.
“For someone sick enough to have required remdesivir and dexamethasone, I can’t think of a situation in which a patient would be okay to leave on day three, even with the White House’s medical capacity,” Wachter said.
“Absolutely not,” William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University’s medical school, said of the idea of sending Trump back to the White House on Monday.
“I will bet dollars to doughnuts it’s the president and his political aides who are talking about discharge, not his doctors,” Schaffner added.
Some are worried that releasing him now flies in the face of COVID basics, namely that patients who aren’t out of the proverbial woods can take a turn and deteriorate quickly. Others fear that because Trump received Regeneron’s experimental antibody drug, there’s no way to know what side effects he might develop — especially if the drugs turns out to mix badly with dexamethasone or some of his therapeutics. One obvious response to that is, “Well, most patients don’t have their own helicopters to ferry them to the hospital at a moment’s notice.” True enough, but that’s where the politics of this get dicey. Trump going to the hospital once because he needed more aggressive treatment is perfectly understandable and sympathetic. Trump having to go to the hospital a second time would make him or his doctors, or both, seem egregiously reckless for checking him out the first time at a moment when people like Wachter and Schaffner were warning that he’s in no condition to be discharged. Phil Klein is right:
Two immediate thoughts on Trump leaving hospital:
1) Let’s hope this means doctors are highly confident worst is over. Bc readmission at this point would be a severely bad sign.
2) Let’s hope WH has a plan to isolate Trump and keep staff safe https://t.co/ASm4JBb5oU
— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) October 5, 2020
Ari Fleischer echoed the point about Trump isolating himself:
If he does return to the WH, he will be tempted to go to the Oval. He can’t do that. He can’t break quarantine, or do things that the rest of us aren’t supposed to do if we get COVID. How he handles himself is a metaphor for how he handles the nation. The WH must realize that.
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) October 5, 2020
It would be the prudent thing to do, which is why he won’t do it. Once again the public wants to see a “safety first” message from him and once again he’s going to take risks instead because he thinks there are more people who’ll admire him than resent him for doing so. For Trump, in fact, I bet the whole point of checking out of the hospital early is so that he *doesn’t* need to stay isolated:
A source familiar with POTUS phone calls from the hospital today tells me he said “I need to get out of here.” He’s being warned that if he rushes to leave the hospital and has a setback it would be bad for not just his health, but his re-election campaign.
— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) October 5, 2020
Last night the Times reported that “Mr. Trump, who historically hates hospitals and anything related to illness, has been hankering to get released, according to two people close to him, and some aides expressed fear that he would pressure Dr. Conley into releasing him by claiming to feel better than he actually does.” Is that what the bit in the tweet about feeling younger than he has in 20 years is aimed at — giving Conley some cover to discharge him even though Trump shouldn’t be leaving? Or did Trump simply tell Conley, “I’m leaving whether you like it or not,” to which Conley replied, “sir, yes, sir”? The same Times story quotes a doctor who said this of Trump’s ill-advised SUV ride yesterday, “At what point does the physician-patient relationship end, and does the commander in chief and subordinate relationship begin, and were those doctors ordered to allow this to happen?” Maybe Trump’s calling all of the shots here, right down to a demand for the experimental Regeneron treatment, and Conley feels obliged to just go along.
Here’s a sneak preview of what I think is going to be the message once he returns to the trail. Not only has he demonstrated “strength” by fighting it off — the 200,000 people who died were “weak,” implicitly — but he’s now gained firsthand experience on what it’s like to have the virus. He made that point in a video he posted from the hospital last night too, insisting that he’d “learned a lot” about COVID from enduring his illness. I think that talking point could work for him if he turned it into a very belated way of signaling that he feels Americans’ pain. “I’ve been there, I know the suffering, I’m with you,” etc. But instead, in light of the new tweet up top, it sounds like he’s going to do the opposite. “I’ve been there, I know the suffering … and I’m telling you to man up and stop complaining about your dead grandma. Don’t let this virus that caused me to be urgently hospitalized and treated with experimental drugs dominate your life. Reopen everything!” We’ll see how it works out for him.
The Trump campaign is now attacking Biden for…not contracting coronavirus.
“He has experience — now — fighting the coronavirus as an individual. Those firsthand experiences, Joe Biden, he doesn’t have those.” pic.twitter.com/Qk0Qc8l6q9
— Tim Hogan (@timjhogan) October 5, 2020
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