• Ajinkya Satish Dharane

"Trump" Card

Friday, October 2 marked one of the most significant days since the world learned the concept of pandemic. As if the fear, uncertainty, and chaos were not enough, the world woke up to news of POTUS and FLOTUS being tested positive with COVID-19. The messages with mixed reactions from over the world started pouring in.

Best wishes, prayers for quick recovery came from allies like NATO countries, India. In comparison, some top-level officials from countries like Iran and China mocked Trump’s handling of the pandemic and repeatedly called it a hoax and a Chinese virus. 

Since then, a lot has happened, and it feels like the most excitingly anxious part of the pandemic occurred in the last three days as if the previous six months were just a trailer to the real movie, and it is justified. With only over thirty days to the election, the incumbent president seeking a second term hospitalized with the deadliest virus in the living memory. I mean, can it get more dramatic for the election that has the world on its toes. For some world leaders like Iran’s President Hasan Rouhani, it is a game-changing event due to MO’s striking difference between two presidential candidates – Biden and Trump.

I must give it to Donald Trump. He is by far the most intelligent politician I have come across, or he is surrounded by some super smart people (I suspect Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior advisor, to be the one). After fighting multiple controversies like Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections to a scandalous phone call with Ukraine’s prime minister, which got him impeached in house, 45th POTUS seemed to have won it all. But he has been losing the election gradually since the start of the pandemic, where he HAD to shut down the country. The protests around the country for anti-racism added more gasoline to the fire, and there is an actual wildfire in California that seems determined to wipe out a beautiful wild west. The California fires burnt Donald Trump across the country as media was quick to blame him for pulling out of the 2015 Paris deal and damaging our environment. The killing of various people of colour by police and protests against racism and law resulted from Trump’s predecessors (read article). However, the coronavirus was new, its effects unknown, and its spread unprecedented. Trump had a golden opportunity to manage the pandemic and win over the public in May-June of this year and wipe out any Democratic candidate’s chance before he or she was even nominated. Unfortunately, Trump did what he does best – calling out the media, calling out health officials, lie to everyone, lie about everything. Voters have lost confidence, and Biden seemed to finally get his shot at the top post for which he has been working on for the last forty-seven years. 

After the first presidential debate on Tuesday, September 29, Trump was again crucified in media for unethical behaviour and lack of morality. But two days later, it was all good wishes and sympathy for the most powerful man in the free world. 

Now, I am not implying that Trump’s illness is fake or not severe. And I feel the same way I feel for millions of other people who have been infected or lost their lives or lost their loved ones. 

What I adore (and hate at the same time) in this case is the Trump campaign’s use of this illness to almost win back the brownie points they have lost in the last few months. As the news of Trump’s diagnosis came in the late hours of Thursday, the first thing his campaign and team of doctors did was to create confusion over his health conditions. They used the oldest trick in the book of Trump management – hide the truth and let the media speculate, so all the speculation can be played down later and come out on top as the only trustworthy source. 

1. Trump moves from the White House to Walter Reed.

Friday morning saw a little slump in the stock markets, with some pessimistic traders selling quickly. The DOW Jones fell 0.5%, S&P 500 fell almost 1%, and NASDAQ, whose crown listings are giant tech corporations, fell nearly 2.2%. The confusion created by the Trump campaign helped in avoiding these markets to sink lower (and maybe some help from Nancy Pelosi’s announcement on new stimuli package.)

Trump smartly waited for markets to close on Friday before deciding to move to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He walked without support, which was a significant boost to the voters and traders (though they would not be able to do anything over the weekend) about his health condition. Trump, wearing a mask, sharply dressed in a blue suit, walking from White House to Marine One, gave the American people a huge boost in confidence about their leader. 

The move from the world-class medical facility at the White House to a military hospital, which had treated President Ronald Reagan (Trump’s hero president) in 1985, was announced as “abundance of caution.” We, the sane people, must see this move as a vehicle to gain more brownie points and gain voters’ confidence. 

Win- Trump

2. Trump’s video release just before the move

Trump released an eighteen-second video on twitter (his official communication channel, ha-ha!) just before he walked out of the White House. In video, he thanked the supporters worldwide and reassured the American people that he and FLOTUS were doing well. A responsible but expected move of any leader. This was like – if you want a brownie, you must switch on the baking oven. 

No Points — Trump

3. Biden removes all negative ads from air

Biden campaign removed all the negative ads, attacking Trump from the air. The campaign announced that they made the decision as soon as Trump’s diagnosis was made public. This move certainly was the sanest and humane thing we witnessed in this election. Reading a little bit about Biden’s political career, where he has been continuously accused of not being aggressive enough, this show of less aggression worked in his favour for sure. It is a move that shows some hope for America.

Win — Biden

4. Trump’s video from Walter Reed

Trump released over a four-minute video from the hospital on Saturday, talking about his conditions. He started with a short explanation that he moved to Walter Reed as he was not feeling well (Ya! that is obvious). Then the real manipulator hidden inside Trump peeked out, and he said – “this is something that happened, and it has happened to millions of people around the world, and I am fighting for them. We are going to beat this coronavirus, and we are going to beat it soundly.” 

Boom! This was a home run. In his all narcissistic acts, Trump had outdone himself when he claimed to be fighting for the world, not just America, not only his health but for the whole world. 

Win- Trump

In this video, he also claims that his medical advisors had advised him to stay in the White House’s medical wing, isolate, do not talk to anyone, and just sit this out. But of course, Trump would have never done that. He goes on to say, “As a leader, we have to confront problems. There has never been a great leader…(pause), who would have done that.” I can bet huge that he thought of saying, “there has never been a great leader than me,” but maybe thought against it (come on, he is not dumb!)

His campaign continuously downplayed invoking the 25th Amendment clause of Acting President. This would have gone entirely against their motive of showing Trump as a fighter who is the only right leader for America to get out this hole. 

Win- Trump

5. Trump’s second video from Walter Reed

In his second video from the hospital, Trump tickled his ego when he mentioned the supporter outside Walter Reed, waving Trump and MAGA flags. Incidentally, these supporters gathered were violating every possible cautionary measure suggested to support their president, who was suffering from the disease they had been warned against. Too many ironies, but that is America these days. 

In the video, Trump claims that he has learned more about coronavirus by really going to school. He analogized his experience to reading books in school. In this simple, straightforward sentence, Trump positioned himself above his health department, who were still shouting that we do not know much about this virus. He now has the right to say – I know about it, I have experienced it, I fought it, so I can guide you to fight it, so vote me!

Win- Trump

6. Trump’s motor ride outside Walter Reed

I think when you are Trump, you just cannot resist being out of the spotlight. For the outgoing person, who lived on the front foot, sitting back in the hospital and interacting with his followers only through small videos on twitter did not suit well. Trump, breaking all conventions, all expectations, did a drive-by outside the hospital to greet his supporters. There was no notice given to anyone about this Trump’s little adventure trip, and the media freaked out. 

This was by far the stupidest thing Trump had done till now. For a few seconds of the spotlight, he created a doubt about the seriousness of his illness. He was already blamed for not taking the virus seriously, but when he was diagnosed, the complete narrative was, he is fighting it from within. There was an expectation that Trump will now stop downplaying the severity. But it is useless to feed a snake because it will still bite you at the first opportunity. 

When the media crucified Trump on this public visit, he called out the media in a tweet. 

I went through some of the replies, and unsurprisingly there is still many supports for Trump. I say unsurprisingly because all Trump has done since the start of his first term is to discredit media and establish himself as the sole conveyor of truth and facts. 

But I still think Trump lost this point as the majority of the voter base thinks this was an unnecessary act putting a number of secret service agents in danger. I remember the movie dictator when Tamir (Ben Kingsley) tells dictator Aladin (Cohen) that the only duty his body double has is to take a bullet in his head. It was funny to hear that in a movie, your protectors are not expendable in real life. 

Lose - Trump

7. Trump comes back to the White House

With no clear update on his health, his physician Dr. Conley giving inconsistent news, Trump announced that he is leaving Walter Reed on Monday evening to the White House. And as planned, Marine One flew him to the White House and guess what, Trump walked into the White House without a mask. Remember – he is still infected with COVID. And when photographers did not get a good picture, he walked back out and re-shot the entry into the White House. 

It is beyond imagination that taking a good photo is more important than protecting yourself and everyone around you from the virus that has killed millions. 

Lose - Trump

8. Trump is back to propaganda

Trump released a video from the White House, where his energy is evidently high and his message – same old. He praised first responders, doctors, Walter Reed but went right into saying that do not let COVID dominate you. Even though Dr. Conley has stated publicly that Trump is “not out of the woods yet,” Trump declared that he had beaten the virus and now suddenly is the only expert who can guide America out of danger. He claimed to feel like he did twenty years ago and said maybe he was immune now. 

I left out deliberately until now what treatment Trump was receiving while at Walter Reed – some therapeutic treatment with antibodies, NOT approved by the FDA. He received an experimental treatment. Wow! The most powerful man in the free world being treated by an experimental treatment seems like a twisted plot of some terrorist group in a Hollywood movie. Throughout the pandemic, Trump has endorsed these kinds of treatments and unproven medicines. Now with him back at the White House and claiming to overcome the virus with the use of these treatments, he just wiped out any doubters. 

Win - Trump

Remember, the election is less than a month away. The pandemic has hurt Trump’s chances more than his Russian scandal, his impeachment or any other crazy the world has seen in the last four years. Trump has mismanaged the worst-hit country through these challenging times. Yes – India, Brazil, and some other countries are equally blown, but they are not facing voters in the face. 

I am not sure if Trump has won over undecided voters (…yet), but he indeed has managed to undo any damage that was done due to his handling of the pandemic. 

Like Miranda Devine of New York Post said, “If the President bounces back onto the campaign trail, he will be an invincible hero, who not only survived every dirty trick the Democrats threw at him but the Chinese virus as well.”

She is a Trump supporter, but she makes an excellent point. I am not saying the whole diagnosis is fake, but it is overblown for the theatrics. Trump might be experiencing mild symptoms, but his move to Walter Reed, his videos, his messages calling himself a fighter, his move back to the WH all was an act. 

During a war, the president, a commander-in-chief, is said to be leading from the front. Now Trump can call himself a wartime president (yes, I agree that this has been a war of kind) who fought on front lines and returned as a winner. 

Note: Trump is a lot faster to do crazy stuff than my writing. So, this article might be incomplete. I will try and update this or write a new piece as the next part, because we will not lack content until the election results are out, even maybe after that.)

Follow me at @ajinkyadharane

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