- Medical experts say that Donald Trump falls in the highest risk category for serious complications from COVID-19 as he is 74 years old and obese
- A rally scheduled for October 2 in Florida has been cancelled, raising the question of whether COVID-19 will derail the president’s campaign
- The Democrats have consistently attacked Trump for taking a cavalier approach towards COVID-19
Immediately after the US President announced that he and his wife Melania had tested positive for COVID-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first world leaders to react when he tweeted: “Wishing my friend @POTUS @realDonaldTrump and @FLOTUS a quick recovery and good health”.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan also tweeted: “Wishing President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump speedy recovery from COVID-19”.
The editor-in-chief of China‘s government-backed newspaper, the Global Times, took a less sympathetic line, suggesting that Trump only had himself to blame for contracting the disease. “President Trump and the first lady have paid the price for his gamble to play down the COVID-19,” tweeted Hu Xijin.
As CNN put it, “The diagnosis amounts to the most serious known health threat to a sitting American president in decades”.
Trump is not the first world leader to be infected. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil had both tested positive earlier. However, Trump is older and at higher risk than either of those men.
In fact, medical experts feel that ‘Trump falls into the highest risk category for serious complications from COVID-19 as he is 74 years old and obese’. Coronavirus has killed more than 212,000 Americans and more than 1 million people worldwide.
In the ongoing election scenario, this news is not good at all for Trump and it will negatively affect his re-election prospects. Voters will naturally ask: If the President can’t take care of his own health, how will he take care of us?
On many occasions, President Trump had made statements which showed that he had refused to take COVID-19 seriously. For months, he downplayed its severity, refusing to regularly wear a mask and rejecting the advice of the country’s top medical experts.
During the recent presidential debate on September 29, President Donald Trump’s family members did not wear masks though attendees were told to do so. According to media reports, some members of the Trump administration who were there were also not wearing masks, while people who were there to support Biden wore masks.
During the debate, Trump mocked Joe Biden for frequently wearing masks in public. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from it. And he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen,” he said. Further, he defended his decision to often appear in public without a facial covering, explaining that he wears a mask “when needed.”
The Democrats have consistently attacked Trump for taking a cavalier approach towards COVID-19, and they will naturally say how right they were! Ironically, Trump told a political dinner just hours before he was diagnosed that the end of the pandemic is in sight.
As it is, Trump has been trailing in the opinion polls, and analysts also feel that Biden fared better during the presidential debate. So, at a time when the Trump campaign needed to accelerate, it will actually slow down considerably. This is not good news for Trump and the Republicans. A rally scheduled for October 2 in Florida has been cancelled, raising the question of whether COVID-19 will derail the president’s campaign just 32 days before Election Day on November 3.
However, in an effort to minimize the damage, Trump’s physician Sean Conley has said: “Rest assured I expect the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any future developments”.
The first Presidential debate was held recently on September 29. It was widely criticized not just in the US but also in the international media. In the UK, The Guardian described it as a “national humiliation”, while The Times wrote that the clearest loser from the debate was America.” It further said that the event “was not a debate in any meaningful sense” but rather “an ill-tempered and at times incomprehensible squabble between two angry septuagenarians who palpably loathe each other”.
“Chaotic, childish, grueling” – that’s how French newspaper Libération described the debate, and Le Monde termed it a “terrible storm”, while also saying that the President had sought to “push his opponent off his hinges” with constant interruptions and by mocking his answers. A Russian TV channel described it as a “one and a half-hour exchange of insults”.
The remaining Presidential debates are scheduled to be held on October 15 and 22 October respectively, but it is not clear now whether they will take place at all. Thus, attention in America and elsewhere will focus on the Vice-Presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris on October 7.
Indians will watch it with interest not just because Kamala has a connection to India but also because of her meteoric rise from being the daughter of immigrant parents to a potential Vice President and perhaps even a President in the not so distant a future. As the saying goes, ‘Who knows what the stars foretell’?
(The author is a retired career diplomat. He can be reached at [email protected])