After six months in which the government he leads has failed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to an extent that has no parallel in any other wealthy nation, Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 Friday and has been hospitalized.
Trump’s wife, Melania, has also tested positive for the disease, as has his close adviser Hope Hicks, his former counselor Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager Bill Stepien, the chairwoman of his party (Ronna McDaniel), and two of the senators from his party who are supposed to be preparing to confirm a new Supreme Court justice (Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina).
A number of these individuals attended outdoor and indoor events at the White House last Saturday that were related to the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Attendees at the events did not follow the basic social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines that are recommended by health authorities all over the world. Nor did Trump or the members of his inner circle follow those guidelines during his subsequent trip to Ohio to debate Joe Biden, or at an indoor event in New Jersey he attended Thursday despite exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and having already been told Hicks had tested positive. Biden has since tested negative but could still develop the disease in coming days.
Trump , in sum, has not only failed in the practical execution of his duty to administer the government, and has not only failed to set an example for the country in his personal behavior, but has done all this in a way that now threatens to incapacitate his political party, the executive and legislative branches of government, and the man who is currently likely to be the next president as the country attempts to hold an election while managing multiple crises.
There have been failures and breaches of the public trust by American presidents that were so severe the leaders in question resigned or chose not to stand for reelection. Were any of them more senseless than what Donald Trump is putting the country through now?
This piece has been updated to clarify Kellyanne Conway’s relationship to the president.