The President stood triumphant on the White House balcony, having persuaded his doctors to submit to his will. He had spent his days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center pushing them to let him out, medical advice be damned. Donald Trump tore off his mask and seemed to gasp for breath, but he would not be deterred from delivering his message.
“Don’t let it dominate; don’t let it take over your lives,” he said, biting off each word. No one must think the virus had defeated him.
His supporters reveled in his return. A Congressman crowed that Trump had beaten the virus just like he beat the Russia investigation and the Democrats’ impeachment. His press secretary–who announced her own case of COVID-19 earlier that day–hailed his ability to “stand strongly on the balcony!” A Senator tweeted a doctored video showing Trump at a wrestling match, punching a man with a coronavirus sphere for a head. The Republicans understand the way Trump likes to be praised; even facing a crisis with life-or-death stakes, they sensed what he wanted was not words of sympathy or compassion, but to be told he had kicked ass. A $100 “Trump Defeats COVID” souvenir coin was soon available for preorder from an unaffiliated White House gift shop. It wasn’t clear that Trump has weathered the disease as well as he claimed. His doctors have given scant information and sidestepped questions about how long he might have had the virus. Medical experts questioned his hasty discharge, pointing out he’d been administered treatments normally reserved for serious cases. Trump had gone to the hospital grudgingly, then announced on Twitter he would be released in order to force the issue, according to two White House officials. “People look up to the President for answers,” says Chuck Hagel,