In the Grip of a (Wheezing) Madman

Photo by pool. Front art by Seigfried Woldhek

To all those who thought it couldn't possibly get worse, apologies for the bad news. We now have: A declaration from multiple psychologists that "Donald Trump is a psychopath," and getting worse; evidence from multiple sources that Trump is hepped up on powerful steroids, including dexamethasone, which can cause agitation, anxiety, inability to think or speak clearly especially when the patient already couldn't, and "grandiose delusions"; proof of said delusions with an impromptu, ego-boosting, Dr. Strangelove-esque COVID parade, including Secret Service hostages - "A toddler didn’t have the energy to walk so he went for a ride in his stroller" - that some argue will be the high-water mark of an insanity discussed in history books for decades to come; further proof with a manic Monday morning blast of almost 20, all-caps, "roid rage" tweets like  "SPACE FORCE!"; a White House West Wing reportedly in panic and chaos, with COVID infections soaring and expected to continue, though officials obscenely intent on hiding the bodies are both refusing to say how many cases they have - at least 34 - or to contact trace to identify the hundreds or thousands of people exposed at their super-spreader, Handmaid's Tale-themed, Rose Garden Massacre and other events where Trump chose not to disclose the small matter of his diagnosis, like the Minneapolis fundraiser where he possibly infected restaurant workers, because, really, just fuck 'em; and an incorrigible narcissist who, while claiming that now, "I get it," proved he's just the same asshole but with COVID when he left the hospital too soon, after receiving top-dollar, taxpayer-funded care available to almost no one else in the country, and heedlessly proclaimed to an America that has lost 210,000 of its own, "Don’t be afraid of COVID."

So it was that David Gergen, a longtime political adviser to four presidents including Nixon, declared the U.S. "in the grips of a madman." He was seconded by Bob Woodward, who said he's known Gergen 50 years, he's never heard him say anything so extreme, and he agrees on the "government meltdown." They also wondered if any Trump family might be willing to confront the lunatic in chief. Funny they should ask: In a wild story in Vanity Fair, Gabriel Sherman writes that even Don Jr. has grown so alarmed at daddy's antics - "He thinks Trump is acting crazy" - he's said he wants to stage an intervention. But Jared and Ivanka think Trump's doing "great," and little Donnie lacks the backbone to go it alone. Part of the story hinges on the pathology of the Trump family history: Mary Trump has said serious illness was deemed "a display of unforgivable weakness," to be denied at all cost. Thus, Sherman writes, even when Fred Trump had advanced Alzheimer's, he insisted on going to his office, where family members gave him blank papers to sign - a chilling anecdote given photos of Donald "working" at Walter Reed by signing blank pages. Because that denial extends to the consequences of one's actions, there's been no acknowledgement of the impact of Trump's recklessness on roughly 100 White House staff - primarily older, black and Latino housekeepers, butlers, cooks. At least a few housekeepers have been infected, but the White House reportedly told them to "use discretion" when discussing their diagnosis, and likely none will go to Walter Reed in "an abundance of caution" to get "really great drugs." For now, even as the White House brazenly blocks new federal guidelines on the release of a coronavirus vaccine, the carefully staged show goes on. When Trump theatrically arrived back at the White House, he lumbered up the stairs and, visibly struggling to breathe, whipped off his mask. While his distress dimmed the effect a bit - "I don’t think 'wheezing orange mask-less man on a balcony' is quite the propaganda piece they were going for" - he bravely turned to greet his aides inside, maskless.

Still: don’t call him Wussolini. He beat this illness – which he still very much has – like a man. One of the really manly ones, who takes all the best drugs and leaves everyone else exposed and misled and unprotected. - Marina Hyde

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