Donald Trump's conduct in a week when Wednesday's record number of coronavirus deaths doubled next day to a new record of 4,591 can only be understood if you realize that the president is not a 73-year-old man with the experience and maturity that suggests. Trump is actually a 10-year-old having aged in reverse dog years. He has the crimped emotions and empathy of a deluded superhero ("only I can fix it"), the limitations of a C-student, and the work ethic of a pre-teen who resents any challenge to his fragile ego and responds positively only to praise. All he does now is try to make to reality disappear.
Seeing Trump as a captive of his immaturity is a way to anticipate and perhaps defend against his dangerous behavior that is getting worse as the stakes get higher. A know-it-all, he's opening the country's parks, gyms, and restaurants not just against the advice of experts and the views of 80% of the country, but of usual sycophants like Sen. Lindsey Graham and a long list of CEOs, who constituted "the highest IQ on a call ever" but who for all their smarts, found their names read off without their permission. If you took a drink every time Trump called them and red state governors "people who love our country" as opposed to Democrats, whom he calls half-wits and whiners, you'd be intoxicated by 7 p.m.
To advance his plan, Trump cited "large areas where the virus has been totally eradicated" to justify premature emancipation. Is the large area he's referring to called Mars? Or is it South Dakota, one of those 29 states ready to open any moment, yet with a spot so hot the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls had to close after 777 workers tested positive?
That's tragic for those who consider bacon one of the four major food groups, and for Trump's argument. If a part of the country isn't infected, just give it a few days without social distancing and it will be. If an area is opened before it should be, wait a few days, and it will be reinfected. If Trump did his homework, he'd know that after the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who acted to stop Democrats from "harming" the president's economy, called students back to Liberty University, he saw the town hit by 78 new cases.
Parental guidance is advised. Trump requires close supervision, strict limits on his screen time, and guidance on how to tell real doctors from single-named celebrity ones like Dr. Oz, who told Trump's good buddy Sean Hannity that a mortality rate of 2% to 3% is an "appetizing" trade-off for jump-starting the economy. He needs a constant reminder that car accidents and smoking aren't contagious.
And how about getting Trump to put in a day's work on a matter of life and death? Until D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's mid-March stay-at-home directive confined him to the White House, Trump spent much of the crisis at rallies and golfing. He's home (mostly alone) now but still needs to spend less time in front of the TV, which only generates ill-advised tweet storms, and attends a meeting or two of his task force in the Situation Room, where the seating chart changes daily depending on who's up and who's down in the president's clique.
If Trump had anyone on staff not afraid of his cruel temper, he might have fixed his testing problem before the press noticed that his Power-Point presentation passing as a plan did nothing to increase that essential step in the process. While he's taken credit for tests that are the envy of the world and sniffed that he's president, not a guy clutching swabs in a parking lot 2,000 miles away, he's still stuck on his March 6 lie that anybody who wants to get a test can get a test and that Barack Obama didn't leave him one when the virus didn't exist back then.
At a rate of 3 million tests in three months, a majority of the country would be tested in six years. Cornered, Trump turned to Dr. Deborah Birx. After a word salad she's as famous for as for her scarves didn't fool anyone, Trump took his ball and left, clocking his shortest briefing ever on Thursday.
That didn't end the criticism. The next morning he was assailed by his arch-nemesis Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who's held his fire the last couple of weeks to move from the ungrateful ledger to the grateful one to wheedle ventilators out of the national stockpile Jared Kusher thought was his. Cuomo pleaded that a national problem required a national strategy and federal funds. "Why don't you show as much consideration to your states as you did to your big businesses and your airlines?" he asked. "What am I supposed to do, send a bouquet of flowers?"
Trump still has a childlike belief he can spin the virus, putting 60,000 deaths on the house, having chosen a model that predicted 2.2 million fatalities if he did nothing and by that faulty reasoning, congratulating himself for a job so well done no one can believe it.
What no one can believe, except the hardest core of his base, is that a con man in a gimme cap and a superhero cape clings to the notion he alone can fix everything, including a broken Dow Jones, and get us all to Splash Mountain at Disneyland without testing Mickey. He's right about one thing: We can't believe the job he's done. On top of all the deaths that wouldn't have happened if there'd been an adult in the White House, it's too much to take in.
Margaret Carlson is a columnist for the Daily Beast. She was formerly the first woman columnist at Time magazine, a columnist at Bloomberg View, a weekly panelist on CNN's "Capital Gang" and managing editor at the New Republic. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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