EDITORIAL: Will virus alter Trump actions?

York Dispatch Editorial Board
FILE - In this Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump steps down from Marine One as he arrives at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., after he tested positive for COVID-19. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is in the background. The president’s coronavirus infection, as well as the illnesses of several aides and allies, has imperiled the highest levels of the U.S. government. The White House’s efforts Saturday to project calm backfired in stunning fashion, resulting in a blizzard of confusing and contradictory information about the health and well-being of the commander in chief. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

First things first: All right-thinking Americans should be sending their best wishes, thoughts, energy and prayers, if they are of faith, to President Donald Trump in hopes of a full and swift recovery from the coronavirus.

As divided as the nation has become politically, we must not descend to the point where we wish harmful outcomes on those with whom we disagree.

What we as a nation should wish is that a recovered president bring a new understanding of the global pandemic back to the White House. That he:

  • Replace the disparagement of those who have followed his own administration’s public-health guidelines with example-setting behavior.
  • Deep-six the dismissiveness that has been the hallmark of his words, actions and recent rallies with a seriousness of purpose.
  • Retire the magical thinking he used to excuse himself from addressing the issue and instead do the real work necessary to lead a science-based, comprehensive national response.

Is Trump capable of such a transformation? True, one needs to go back to the last pages of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to find a change in character of this level but, recall, Scrooge, too, was shaken by a confrontation with his own mortality.

More:Doctors: Trump improving, had high fever, low oxygen before going to hospital

More:What happens if a candidate for president dies?

More:Analysis: Trump faces credibility crisis over health scare

In this image released by the White House, President Donald Trump works in his conference room at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, after testing positive for COVID-19. (Joyce N. Boghosian/The White House via AP)

In perhaps reconsidering his coronavirus response, the president has some company. Also testing positive for the virus in recent days: first lady Melania Trump; presidential adviser Hope Hicks; former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway; former New Jersey governor and Trump adviser Chris Christie; Republican Sens. Mike Lee, Utah, Ron Johnson, Wisconsin, and Thom Tillis, North Carolina; Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel; Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien; presidential assistant Nicholas Luna; and a handful of White House reporters.

Many from that list, as well as Notre Dame President John Jenkins, attended a Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony held to formally announce the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. 

That nomination is now imperiled by the trio of quarantining GOP senators. Again, without wishing personal ill on anyone, it would be just desserts if efforts to bum-rush Barrett onto the bench were derailed by the eagerness with which the party scrambled in defiance of the deathbed wishes of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who asked that a nominee to fill her vacancy be named by the winner of next month’s election.

Also — and potentially more seriously — imperiled are the many people the growing list of ailing Republicans may have had contact with since that Rose Garden ceremony, including Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who stood just 12 feet from Trump during last Tuesday’s first debate (Biden has repeatedly tested negative for the virus in recent days).

President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Harrisburg International Airport, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Middletown, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The list also includes Reps. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, and Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, who attended a rally with Trump at Harrisburg International Airport on the evening of Sept. 26. In fact, the state Department of Health issued guidance for anyone attending the rally (which attracted thousands).

Little help has come from the White House, which has been characteristically confounding. Administration officials were slow to alert those in recent contact with Trump about his diagnosis (Christie says he was never notified at all), have raised more questions than answers during periodic updates on the president’s health and haven’t even gotten around to contact tracing among White House staff.

Also yet to be resolved: How the election itself may be affected. Trump was already doing his best to sow uncertainty into the process of voting and ballot-counting. That artificial uncertainty has now been eclipsed by the real thing.

One thing is for certain as the nation awaits the president’s outcome: He is in excellent hands at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. It would take yet another Scrooge-like change of heart, but how wonderful if the experience prompted him to pull the plug on his ill-advised effort to have the Supreme Court overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Trump is receiving excellent medical care; so, too, should all Americans diagnosed with the coronavirus.