It was not unforeseeable that US President Donald Trump might contract COVID-19. He has, after all, made a habit of talking down the seriousness of the illness and demonstrated a degree of disregard for protective measures that help to limit its spread.
Donald Trump removes his mask at the White House after returning from hospital.Credit:Getty Images
Mr Trump has, on occasion, publicly denigrated those who choose to wear masks to protect themselves and others. And he has held major political rallies and mixed socially at indoor events, despite warnings that such actions would put him and others at risk.
When the President and his wife, Melania, were diagnosed, a little over a week ago, they joined the ever-lengthening list of more than 7.6 million Americans who have tested positive this year. About 212,000 of them have tragically died.
Mr Trump appears to be recovering from his illness and that is a good thing. But one might have hoped that in the process, having been laid low by the virus that has brought his country to its knees, he would have had an epiphany of sorts and gained enough wisdom to finally grasp how devastating this pandemic has been.
He did say, after all, that he had "learnt so much" from the experience and "gone to school" on COVID-19. "I get it," the President said.
But recent events give us reason to doubt Mr Trump really does "get it". If he went to school on COVID, it seems he learnt the wrong lessons. Instead of insights and empathy, Mr Trump has reverted to spin and politically expedient language.
"Don't let it dominate you. Don't be afraid of it," he said, as if the virus could be wished away.
There is a world of difference between Mr Trump's treatment while stricken with COVID-19 and that of millions of other Americans. Within 24 hours, he was whisked from the White House by helicopter, flown to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in Maryland, where his private medical team took charge.
He received medical care the likes of which few can afford. He was given experimental drugs, which he incautiously deemed a "cure".
Meanwhile, the public garnered only contradictory morsels of information about his condition. Mr Trump's treating physicians deliberately obfuscated over whether he had received oxygen. The doctors said they wanted to project an "upbeat" stance.
It's an oddly familiar strategy. When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was seriously ill and hospitalised in April, his advisers initially sought to downplay it. In July, Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsinaro, tested positive and was hospitalised but continued to scoff at the disease's virulence.
Through the long months of this pandemic, Mr Trump has been reluctant to acknowledge reality or science. He has chosen instead to regularly talk down the severity of the virus.
Certainly, there is benefit to be gained from a leader projecting calm and not unnecessarily scaring his people. But Mr Trump has also played down the virus in a bid to bolster his political chances.
The dramatic scenes broadcast live on television as Mr Trump returned to the White House, his grand salute to the helicopter, his wrenching away of the face mask as he stood on the balcony – all this was designed to show strength, to portray an image of a strongman leader who would not, and could not, be beaten.
That is the aura Mr Trump wants to project to voters – especially now as he trails presidential rival Joe Biden just weeks before the US elections. It is a cynical strategy.
That Mr Trump ultimately contracted the virus has nothing to do with his weakness or strength . But it does remind us just how cavalier and haphazard his administration's management of this pandemic has been. It is a pity he has not taken the opportunity to reset this approach.
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