When news broke that President Trump had been infected with COVID-19, Twitter announced they’d be suspending anyone who tweeted that they hoped Trump would die from the disease. A few hours later, apparently realizing they’d have to suspend half their user base, they clarified that “death wishing” tweets wouldn’t, in most cases, be punished by suspension after all.
One of the worst aspects of Donald Trump has been his ability to corrupt our national life. Not only does he suck the integrity from his supporters, he encourages those who oppose him to live down to their worst instincts. We all know that it’s wrong, even shameful, to hope someone dies from a horrible disease. The decent thing to do is what both Barack Obama and Joe Biden have done, recognize our shared humanity and express hope for the president’s recovery.
It’s wrong to hope Trump dies from COVID
So Twitter is right. It’s wrong for us to hope that Trump dies from the coronavirus. But this isn’t for Trump’s benefit — he’d be unlikely to return the favor — it’s for ours. As any Star Wars fan can tell you, we damage ourselves when we give in to the Dark Side. The essence of civilization is that we master our strongest urges and do what we know is right instead.
But foreswearing our worst impulses doesn’t mean we can’t luxuriate in the irony. Nor does it mean we can’t recognize that Trump has done this to himself.
First, the irony. It is now fairly clear that the “super spreader” event that has, so far, infected President Trump, the First Lady, at least three Republican senators, Chris Christie, Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, and multiple members of Trump’s staff, was the September 26 spike-the-ball event in the Rose Garden launching Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court bid or inside events related to the Rose Garden ceremony. Had Republicans stood by their own “Garland Rule” and decided not to try and force through a Supreme Court nomination a few weeks before the election, none of this would have happened.
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett and President Donald Trump on Sept.26, 2020, in the Rose Garden of the White House.
What’s left of Trump’s campaign is now in tatters with the next debate likely to be cancelled, the president unable to campaign, and his campaign itself decapitated. Depending on how many Republican senators get sick and how badly, Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination may even end up on hold. This accelerated karma is about as close as you can come to irrefutable proof that God exists and that he has an excellent, if slightly dark, sense of humor.
It is also correct for us to take note of the facts that brought us here. Acknowledging those facts and learning from them is the way we give meaning to tragedy. Feeling sympathy for someone who is suffering doesn’t preclude us from recognizing that they brought it on themselves. This fiasco wasn’t “bad luck.” It was bad judgement, even foolishness, on a grand scale.
Trump’s case of COVID-19: On President Donald Trump and COVID-19, just tell the truth to the American people
Images of the Rose Garden super-spreader event reveal no masks and no social distancing. But that has been par for the course with Donald Trump. Trump has repeatedly mocked mask-wearing, even taunting Joe Biden about it at Tuesday’s debate and claiming that there had never been any adverse consequences from his flaunting the coronavirus rules laid down by his own CDC. At the debate itself, the First Family refused to wear masks even though they were required to do so. To her undying shame, Melania Trump was very likely infectious at that point. “National embarrassment” doesn’t begin to cover it.
Pence should be protected to avoid constitutional crisis
On top of that, we’ve avoided a constitutional crisis by an accident in the seating arrangement. Pictures from the Rose Garden event show Vice-President Pence sitting directly across the central aisle from Melania Trump with KellyAnne Conway immediately behind her. Had Pence been seated in a slightly different place, he might now be infected. There is no formal mechanism for replacing an incapacitated vice-president. If both Trump and Pence become severely ill, literally no-one will be in charge.
And yet, the president and his advisors have learned absolutely nothing. When the president is known to be at risk, America must protect the vice-president’s health and safety at all costs. To do otherwise risks an unprecedented disaster. Pence should be in a bunker at an undisclosed location. Instead, he’s scheduled to hold a live, no doubt crowded and maskless, rally in Arizona on Oct. 8. Allowing Pence to campaign with a pandemic raging and an infected president in the hospital is an act of sabotage against both the American government and the Constitution. This isn’t just bad judgement. It’s completely reckless. Who cares about safeguarding America’s chain-of-command when you’ve got an election to win?
Trump contracts COVID-19: Presidential illness is a recurring concern in American politics
Policies are important, up to a point. When that 3 a.m. call comes, you want someone with intelligence and good judgement picking up the phone, regardless of their opinion on Obamacare. Donald Trump — and events — have demonstrated that Donald Trump has neither.
This Thanksgiving, there could well be over a quarter of a million empty seats at family tables all across America. Some of those may now be in Trump’s own inner circle. Every one of them deserved better. Sympathy is not absolution. Hold President Trump in your thoughts and prayers as he recovers from the coronavirus. Hold him accountable on Nov. 3.
Chris Truax, an appellate lawyer in San Diego and CEO of CertifiedVoter.com, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.
You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump and COVID-19: How he corrupts us all