The Rose Garden Coronavirus Experiment

Back at the White House, more and more staffers, including some of the below-the-line workers, are testing positive. The Residence has hired a “‘well-being’ consultant,” whom “staff members can speak to anonymously, specifically to focus on mental health concerns.” Line forms to the left.

Throughout his ordeal, the president has been fully transparent. What happened was, he didn’t feel so good. And when it came to going to the hospital, he’d had no choice. He couldn’t just stay in the White House, couldn’t just stay upstairs and not go anywhere—because that’s what they wanted: “Don’t see people. Don’t talk to people.” But that was impossible. He had to be out front. He couldn’t stay locked up in a room, totally safe. Couldn’t just say, “Hey, whatever happens, happens.” This is the most powerful country in the world, and as a leader, you have to confront problems. There’s never been a great leader who would have stayed upstairs! He had to stay out front. And so Trump exchanged his suite of rooms in the White House for the six-room presidential suite at Walter Reed. What happened was, the president could not hide.

Our leader has learned a lot about COVID-19. He’s gone to the “real school,” not the “let’s read a book” school. The upcoming therapeutics are, frankly, miracles. They’re miracles coming down from God. And, by the way, Melania is doing very well. Melania is “handling it statistically, like it’s supposed to be handled.” Because a leader doesn’t stay with the same ball and chain he started out with. A leader gets someone like Melania, who’s just a “tiny bit” younger. (Wink!) Melania has a lot of respect for this country, a lot of love for this country.

The president tweeted, “I feel better than I did 20 years ago!” The president said, “Maybe I’m immune, I don’t know.”

What Trump is selling now is the old lie: What you really need to conquer illness—more than miracle therapeutics, more than dexamethasone, more than anything the Poindexters can provide with their “let’s read a book” school of clinical trials and FDA approvals—is the right attitude. You need to be lionhearted, invincible, stronger than the illness. People say a version of this all the time. Get diagnosed with cancer and half the people who find out will tell you, “It’s all about attitude. You have to have the right attitude.” On the other side of this endless conviction about attitude, about “fighting,” about conquering illness with your thoughts, is the child who loses his mother and works out in his mind that she must not have loved him enough to fight for him, to be courageous. If she had loved him, she would have come choppering home to him, healed and perfect. On the other side of this are the families of 210,000 Americans, some of whom were found dead in their apartments, some of whom died alone in hospitals, some of whom were stacked in refrigerated trucks, and some of whom were the doctors and nurses who cared for the sick and the dying. On the other side are devastated people who don’t need lies from their own government.

Here’s what a doctor—one who went to a “let’s read a book” school of medicine—told me at the beginning of all this: “Be very careful. We don’t know what we’re dealing with yet.”

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Caitlin Flanagan is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She is the author of Girl Land and To Hell With All That.

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