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There was a debate this week.
That is insane.
I am still trying to wrap my head around this weekend. Calling it a “blur” is almost too on-point, because it really felt like it whizzed by us and we were unable to see it. Part of that might be because of the steady stream of lies we were fed by President Trump’s team, but then also everything from the pre-recorded videos to the truly bizarre motorcade made it feel more surreal.
Let’s start with a quick note about the debate. The overwhelming consensus is that Trump did really poorly. That was reflected in the early polling results, and it now seems to be reflected in the general polls, as Biden has opened up a 14-point lead against Trump, improving from his previous 9-point lead in the same poll. I know I said a while back I wouldn’t do any updates about the polls because the race was really stable. But the race has changed: Biden has improved his numbers against Trump. FiveThirtyEight gives him an 81% chance to win; the Economist gives him an 89% chance of winning; and Decision Desk gives him an 80% chance of winning. It’s still early, and we will not see the effects of Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis for a few days, but right now Biden is the heavy favorite to beat Trump. Add this into the mix: The debates were one of Trump’s only chances to gain on Biden, and now it looks like we may have watched our last presidential debate this past Tuesday. Time is running out.
So, how sick is Trump? The reality is that we really don’t know. The White House’s social media accounts and Trump’s doctors are painting a rosy picture, but there is some truth in between the lines and it’s not good. I think there are a few things to note:
Trump was given Dexamethasone. That is a medication that is only effective when a patient is experiencing severe symptoms of COVID. It is not administered to patients who are experiencing mild or “moderate” symptoms, because in those situations the drug is so strong that it could do more harm than good.
Trump’s doctor, Sean Conley, D.O., gave some hints in his press conference on Sunday about Trump’s problematic oxygen levels. If you are a masochist and were following along with each press conference over the weekend, Conley’s statements on Saturday sent the press into a frenzy. He initially stated that Trump was not given supplemental oxygen on Saturday, but then waffled a little bit when asked if Trump had been given oxygen at all. On Sunday, he clarified and said that Trump had been given oxygen, and that his levels had dropped twice.
The long and short of it is that Trump is not doing as well as some in the Administration would like the public to think. It is notable that after Dr. Conley spoke on Saturday, Mark Meadows took the time to brief reporters off the record and conveyed the actual truth: The next 48 hours are crucial and there was no clear path to recovery yet. That window is about to close, so we will know more by the end of the day on Monday.
I want to talk about Donald Trump, the truth, and the presidency. There is a great book by Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey called Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump’s War on the Most Powerful Office. They touch on how Trump’s lies have affected his ability to govern, and they specifically cite an example related to Trump’s health:
The White House physician Ronny Jackson - a man who previously enjoyed a strong reputation - also raised eyebrows with his unusually rosy account of Trump’s health while in office, proclaiming that the president had great genetics and that “if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old.” The following year, questions arose about whether a new White House physician had actually authored a memo bearing his signature that offered a glowing assessment of Trump’s health and predicted he would remain healthy “for the duration of his Presidency, and beyond.” Trump’s lies about his health may seem inconsequential or even comical, but they offer a road map to understanding how his dishonesty interacts with traditional expectations of the office. Trump doesn’t just lie about his physical fitness; he co-opts mechanisms designed to bolster public confidence to further his lie. The penchant for dishonesty he displayed as a candidate…is as present in the Oval Office. Rather than Trump’s questionable credibility being reinforced by the government processes intended to do just that, his dishonesty instead degrades public faith in the integrity of the government process used to validate him (my emphasis).
The fundamental problem here is that physicians who are close to the President can lie about the President’s health because the well-being of the most powerful person on the planet is a national security issue. The problem though is that there must be some level of built-up trust with the American people. In this instance, we simply cannot believe a single word coming from anyone associated with the Administration. We are not at this point because we have behaved poorly as citizens of the United States; we are at this point because Donald Trump is a frequent and cavalier liar that cannot be trusted to tell the truth even when doing so would benefit him.
The motorcade ride is still blowing my mind. Wrap your head around this: Trump had COVID and knowingly exposed his Secret Service agents to the disease just so he could drive by and wave to his supporters. This was an ego-feeding trip at its core, something that temporarily replaced the rallies Trump will no longer be able to hold.
The Secret Service agents he exposed to COVID will now have to go into quarantine for 14 days. The car that he traveled in for his ego-binge is hermetically sealed, meaning it is a perfect environment for the disease to circulate. A tweet to sum it up:
So, when did Trump test positive? Was it Wednesday, like Dr. Conley said? Was it early Thursday, as the Wall Street Journal has now reported (meaning Trump lied on Sean Hannity’s show)? Is it possible Trump was positive at the debate?
His team has lied repeatedly about this entire affair and, it’s worth noting: The Administration never disclosed any of this and were not forthcoming. This story was broken open by Jennifer Jacobs at Bloomberg, who uncovered Hope Hicks’s positive COVID test, which the Administration had originally planned to keep a secret. To be clear, Trump knew he was infected with COVID by at least Thursday, and the Biden Campaign had to learn about their potential exposure to the disease from the media.
This episode perfectly encapsulates Trump’s entire response to the crisis. He and his team are reckless, they have never taken the virus seriously, and they have simply wished that it would go away without having to do any of the hard work that other countries have done.
If Trump loses next month, his response to COVID will solidify him as one of the worst presidents in American history, one that was presented with the greatest possible challenge and whose ego and narcissism made him incapable of rising to the challenge.
It is October, so I drinking pumpkin beer. I also went full basic and did a cinnamon sugar rim. Trader Joe’s sells a cinnamon sugar grinder, which is great and way better than putting dusty cinnamon on the rim of your glass.
Somebody who had a good week: Kimberly Guilfoyle. Donald Trump, Jr.,’s girlfriend (partner? wife? I have no idea) got a write-up in the New Yorker which is totally fascinating, but it obviously got tossed into the waste basket given the other big news this week.
Elisabeth and I put together our patio furniture on Sunday and we are excited to use it for the next 3 weeks. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ But I’m posting the picture because you can just start to see the leaves changing in Denver. And let us all take the time to agree with each other that patio furniture is a racket.
Have a great week my beautiful babies.