The Cuckoo’s Nest

Photograph Source: Fibonacci Blue – CC BY 2.0

The state of the union is sick.

We have a president who is literally ill with COVID-19 but apparently thinks he conquered it, whose medication may saddle him and us with unknown after-effects and who cruelly and unreasonably canceled talks for another virus rescue package.

Donald Trump’s apparent spontaneous, heartless decision to end the discussions between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has left millions of people wondering and worried about who will help them financially, with their jobs, with possible eviction and with their own and their family’s futures.

COVID hasn’t cured Trump of his meanness or taught him compassion or anything human. He could care less about others.

The virus captured Trump even though he said about the late Sen. John McCain, “I like people that weren’t captured.”

Confusion Friday and Saturday about when Donald Trump tested positive for COVID and subsequent disarray over how ill he was and seemingly still is occurred because it was he who directed the response to the public about the extent of his illness. Bottom line: he has to appear tough.

Isaac Chotiner of The New Yorker asked Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent of The New York Times, in an interview whether she’s certain Trump gave orders about what will be released publicly while in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“A hundred percent,” she replied. “He is very, very reluctant to have information about his health out there. He always has been. And anything that makes him seem weak. This is his worst nightmare. Not just getting sick with this, but any scenario where he is out of sight and being tended to and Joe Biden is out there campaigning.”

Talk about insecurity.

Trump’s time in the hospital was a comedy of errors that confused the country about the extent of his illness, typical of this president’s chaotic me-me behavior. But no one was laughing. His breakaway from his hospital room on Sunday for a brief drive by of his fans was childish, foolish, dangerous and disrespectful of the Secret Service agents who rode with him. He risked their infection.

He returned home Monday evening, making a big splash for the cameras on the White House balcony by taking off his white disposable mask, putting two thumbs up and saluting. A real John Wayne, eh, Pilgrim.

“Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of COVID,” he tweeted irresponsibly Monday. “Don’t let it dominate your life.”

Easy for a sociopath to say, treated like a king both in the hospital and out. Or as some of his cult worshipers might say, like a god.

“The message is clear: he has it and he’s fine, so why should the rest of us worry?” wrote Nathan Robinson, a columnist for The Guardian. “Trump’s illness ought to have been a sobering moment that made him reevaluate his irresponsibility and carelessness. But this is Trump, so of course the message is “actually, COVID isn’t that serious.”

Trump was back to himself Tuesday, tweeting the order a halt the relief package negotiations between Mnuchin and Pelosi “until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill . . .”

Premature call, considering he’s trailing Biden in the polls by a widening gap, including in top battleground states Trump won in 2016. If the former vice president wins and pulls the House and Senate with him in a Democratic trifecta, a second stimulus bill is a forgone conclusion.

Pelosi had been pushing for a $2.2 trillion package and Mnuchin was holding at $1.6 trillion.

Trump’s reasoning, if you can call it that, for forgoing relief, he tweeted, is that “our economy is doing very well. The stock market is at record levels. JOBS and unemployment . . . also coming back in record numbers.”

All lies, as usual. He’s created a cuckoo’s nest in the White House and no one there has flown over it.

“Clearly, the White House is in disarray,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Over time, household insolvencies and business bankruptcies will rise, harming the productive capacity of the economy and holding back wage growth.”

It means no relief since $4 trillion was adopted in the spring and largely has expired. Big mistake. It means companies probably will furlough or dismiss more workers, it will take longer for jobs to come back and it will be harder for the economy to recuperate from the ramifications of the worst pandemic in 100 years.

“Today, once again, President Trump showed his true colors, putting himself first at the expense of the country, with the full complicity of the GOP Members of Congress,” Pelosi said.

That’s what happens when a would-be dictator sits in the White House.

David Gergen, who served four Democratic and Republican presidents, said on CNN Monday: “I wake up some mornings feeling we are in the grips of a madman.”

We most definitely are.


Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.