Proper Responses to Trump’s Illness

Proper Responses to Trump’s Illness October 5, 2020

By Linda LaScola, Editor

Since President Trump tested positive for COVID-19, newspaper columnists who are usually very critical of Trump seem to be bending over backwards to wish him well.

For example, Nicholas Kristoff of the NY Times said,

The first thing to say is simple: Best wishes to President Trump and the first lady for a speedy recovery from Covid-19.

After the announcement that they had tested positive for the coronavirus, I tweeted that I hope we can all remain civil, avoid snark, seek lessons and wish the Trumps a swift recovery. The result was an outpouring of gloating and snark — one person responded, “my thoughts and prayers go out to the virus.”

Ross Douthat, a conservative Catholic, also writing in the NY Times, said:

For all of our president’s conspicuous failures in combating the virus that he is now battling — God willing, successfully — himself, it’s not at all obvious that a different president, one who just listened to the science and followed the experts, would have taken the strong early steps that might have actually suppressed the virus and prevented it from becoming endemic on our shores.

Sure sounds like Douthat, in addition to evoking God on behalf of Trump, is also suggesting that a different president would not have done a better job containing the virus.

Meanwhile, in the Washington Post, moderate Republican (and non-Trump supporter) columnist Kathleen Parker writes:

It should go without saying that we wish the president and Melania a speedy recovery.

Then goes on to say:

In recent weeks and days, the White House has seemed like the viral equivalent of a fly-catcher, with one after another staffer testing positive — most recently senior adviser Hope Hicks, who traveled with the president on Tuesday and Wednesday and tested positive on Thursday. Despite knowing [about] her case, Trump still traveled to a fundraiser at his golf club in New Jersey that same day.

Unlike Douthat, Parker doesn’t make excuses for Trump after wishing him well. Instead, she points out his further dastardly deeds. It looks like Trump knowingly, and without concern about infecting his own wealthy supporters, attended another event.  Could he have thought he wouldn’t spread the virus?  It’s more likely that he didn’t consider them and figured he wouldn’t get sicker himself.

The title of the ultra liberal, constant Trump disparager Dana Milbank’s Washington Post column on the subject of Trump’s illness is:

Let’s wish Trump good health — and a healthy realization that his actions have consequences

The rest of Milbank’s column is quite negative, saying things like this:

He skipped Vietnam while “suckers” and “losers” died there, then joked that avoiding STDs was his “personal Vietnam.”

He had numerous business failures but was often bailed out, by his father or by creditors.

He engaged in adulterous behavior but paid for women’s silence.

Sure, it’s a social convention to be kind when someone is suffering, and these are journalists, writing under their own names, with reputations to protect. They are not about to dive into complaining about a poor, sick person. This type of perfunctory kindness is probably quite common, and used for anyone short of a mass murderer or evil dictator.

I invite readers to share the kindest things you could say, along with what you’re really thinking about Trump having COVID 19. If you’re a current or former religious leader, please use religious language that you would use in a religious setting to express some of your thoughts.

Here are my thoughts:

It goes without saying that I wish Trump and his family well, Well, that’s an overstatement, sort of like saying “Nice meeting you” to a lout whom you really think is a huge waste of time. I’ve done it and will probably do it again.  It’s easy; it’s the polite thing to do.  But this is different.  It’s being pleasant to someone who, in Trump’s case, has actively discouraged people from wearing masks – a simple public health measure,  available to everyone that can actually help people avoid the deadly disease that we’re all facing. What a lout and sorry excuse for a public servant he is.


**Editor’s Question** What would you say?  Think it terms of being both as kind and as straightforward as you can be.


Bio: Linda LaScola is co-author, with Daniel C. Dennett, of Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind (2015) and “Preachers who are not Believers”(2010). They are also co-producers of a play in development, “Adam Mann – Not his Real Name” written by Marin Gazzaniga, that is based on their research.  Linda lives in Washington, D.C and holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the Catholic University of America.  She is a co-founder of The Clergy Project and Editor of the Rational Doubt blog.

>>>>photo credits: By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H1216-0500-002 / CC-BY-SA, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, ; By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America – Donald Trump, CC BY-SA 2.0, ; By FFRF 2016

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