On wishing the delusional raging narcissist-in-chief well

See update for October 16, 2020 at end of post.

To summarize, Donald Trump has downplayed the novel coronavirus, ridiculed mask-wearing, recommended dangerous remedies, and catastrophically mishandled the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] And now he’s in Walter Reed Hospital, with a COVID-19 diagnosis, where care will be available to him, including the yet-to-be-approved remdesivir he has already received on a so-called “compassionate use” exception, at a level unavailable to many taxpayers who are footing the bill. In addition, his attitude, adopted by many in his entourage and who have met with him, may have made the announcement of Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination a “superspreader event.”[2]

Despite all this, we are to wish our delusional raging narcissist a speedy and full recovery, as per:

  • Joe Biden[3]
  • Barack Obama[4]
  • Kamala Harris[5]
  • Xi Jinping[6]
  • Vladimir Putin and the other usual suspects

Many, many people have died, in part due to Trump’s recklessness and due to the recklessness of his followers.

The ethical question here is akin to that of a hypothetical time traveler: Should s/he kill Adolf Hitler at birth to prevent the Holocaust? The reflexive response is an unquestioning yes, of course. In this counterfactual, we assume that preventing Hitler from coming to power would prevent those millions of deaths. Counterfactuals are dubious anyway—there is no plausible way to account for all the factors that lead to certain events—and recent research suggests that indeed, killing Hitler at birth would fail to prevent the Holocaust.[7]

In the matter at hand, however, we are dealing with a situation not retrospectively but of the moment. We are not supposed to wish “our president” ill. But what if a serious illness leads to a change of attitude? What if such a change of attitude were to save hundreds of thousands of lives?

The utilitarian answer is that we should by all means hope for such a change of attitude and for the saving of so many lives, even at the cost of Trump’s suffering. And a deontological answer, suggesting that justice for Trump would not or should not be so served, seems weak at best.

May he suffer horribly. And may that suffering be visible for all to see.


Update, October 16, 2020: Despite receiving an extraordinary level of care and apparently—we can’t be sure—recovering from what seems to have been a serious case of COVID-19,[8] Donald Trump’s rhetoric and practice are largely unchanged[9] and his strategy for dealing with the pandemic is largely nonexistent, condemning millions to death in an alleged push for “herd immunity.” Trump received the best of care; the rest of us should settle for something less.[10]

[T]his campaign push by [Donald] Trump to consign millions to death [with a “herd immunity” strategy] as a means of papering over his failures is coming from a man who caught COVID, and likely only survived it because of the medical knowledge gleaned from those who were killed by his incompetence in those first bleak months of the crisis. “Trump is still breathing because of the medical data gathered from people he allowed to die,” I wrote on Tuesday. I stand by that assessment.

Trump is alive because he got the best treatment science can deliver, buttressed by data gathered from the corpses he has already caused. Upon recovery, he declared his intent to abandon millions more to a choking, solitary death so he can keep his job and salvage his junkyard ego.[11]

  1. [1]Associated Press, “FDA warns against using the drugs that Trump touts for coronavirus,” Los Angeles Times, April 24, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2020-04-24/fda-warns-against-using-trump-touted-drugs-to-treat-coronavirus; David Benfell, “The dangerous and delusional raging narcissist-in-chief,” Not Housebroken, April 25, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/25/the-dangerous-and-delusional-raging-narcissist-in-chief/; Aaron Blake, “The timeline of Trump’s coronavirus response is increasingly damning,” Washington Post, April 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/07/timeline-trumps-coronavirus-response-is-increasingly-damning/; Allyson Chiu, Katie Shepherd, and Brittany Shammas, “Trump comments prompt doctors, and Lysol, to warn against injecting disinfectants,” Washington Post, April 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/04/24/disinfectant-injection-coronavirus-trump/; Helen Davidson, “WHO says it has no evidence to support ‘speculative’ Covid-19 lab theory,” Guardian, May 4, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/05/who-says-it-has-no-evidence-to-support-speculative-covid-19-lab-theory-pushed-by-us; Ed Kilgore, “Could Trump Go the Way of Herbert Hoover?” New York, May 4, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/05/could-herbert-hoovers-fate-be-trumps.html; Joe Lowndes, “The Morbid Ideology Behind the Drive to Reopen America,” New Republic, April 30, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america; Dana Milbank, “For Trump, a reckoning has come,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/trump-reckoning-has-come/; Andrew Restuccia, “Trump and His Aides Have Long Played Down Importance of Face Masks, Distancing,” Wall Street Journal, October 2, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-and-his-aides-have-long-downplayed-importance-of-face-masks-distancing-11601655164; David Roth, “The Enduring Delusion of a Chastened Trump,” New Republic, April 3, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157154/enduring-delusion-chastened-trump; Aaron Rupar, “Trump and Fox News want to send their hydroxychloroquine hype down the memory hole,” Vox, April 22, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/4/22/21230982/hydroxychloroquine-coronavirus-trump-fox-news-hype; Anna Sanders and Chris Sommerfeldt, “A spike in New Yorkers ingesting household cleaners following Trump’s controversial coronavirus comments,” New York Daily News, April 24, 2020, https://www.nydailynews.com/coronavirus/ny-coronavirus-new-yorkers-household-cleaners-trump-20200425-rnaqio5dyfeaxmthxx2vktqa5m-story.html; Adam Serwer, “The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying,” Atlantic, May 9, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/americas-racial-contract-showing/611389/; Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, “Health Dept. Official Says Doubts on Hydroxychloroquine Led to His Ouster,” New York Times, April 22, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/us/politics/rick-bright-trump-hydroxychloroquine.html; Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Eileen Sullivan, “As Trump Pushes to Reopen, Government Sees Virus Toll Nearly Doubling,” New York Times, May 4, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/04/us/politics/trump-coronavirus-death-toll.html; David Von Drehle, “If Trump doesn’t like the coronavirus news now, he’ll hate what comes next,” Washington Post, March 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/if-trump-doesnt-like-the-coronavirus-news-now-hell-hate-what-comes-next/2020/03/10/e478c314-62ea-11ea-acca-80c22bbee96f_story.html; Paul Waldman, “How coronavirus has deeply flummoxed conservative media,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/how-coronavirus-has-deeply-flummuxed-conservative-media/; Paul Waldman, “The real reason Trump is obsessed with hydroxychloroquine,” Washington Post, April 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/07/real-reason-trump-is-obsessed-with-hydroxychloroquine/; David Wallace-Wells, “There Is Still No Plan,” New York, May 7, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/05/white-house-plan-for-ending-coronavirus-stay-at-home-orders.html
  2. [2]Colby Itkowitz et al., “Chief of staff says next 48 hours ‘critical’ as Trump says he’s doing well,” Washington Post, October 4, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/elections/2020/10/03/trump-covid-live-updates/; John Wagner et al., “Trump at hospital after positive coronavirus test; Kellyanne Conway, two senators test positive,” Washington Post, October 4, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/elections/2020/10/02/trump-biden-live-updates/
  3. [3]John Wagner et al., “Trump at hospital after positive coronavirus test; Kellyanne Conway, two senators test positive,” Washington Post, October 4, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/elections/2020/10/02/trump-biden-live-updates/
  4. [4]John Wagner et al., “Trump at hospital after positive coronavirus test; Kellyanne Conway, two senators test positive,” Washington Post, October 4, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/elections/2020/10/02/trump-biden-live-updates/
  5. [5]John Wagner et al., “Trump at hospital after positive coronavirus test; Kellyanne Conway, two senators test positive,” Washington Post, October 4, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/elections/2020/10/02/trump-biden-live-updates/
  6. [6]Colby Itkowitz et al., “Chief of staff says next 48 hours ‘critical’ as Trump says he’s doing well,” Washington Post, October 4, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/elections/2020/10/03/trump-covid-live-updates/
  7. [7]David Nield, “A Physicist Has Come Up With Math That Makes ‘Paradox-Free’ Time Travel Plausible,” Science Alert, September 26, 2020, https://www.sciencealert.com/a-physicist-has-come-up-with-the-maths-to-make-time-travel-plausible
  8. [8]Associated Press, “Trump said to be improving but next 48 hours ‘critical,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 3, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/politics-election/concerning-signs-in-trumps-care-despite-word-hes-doing-ok/; Derek Hawkins et al., “President’s blood oxygen levels dropped twice in recent days, doctors say,” Washington Post, October 4, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/elections/2020/10/04/trump-covid-live-updates/; Melissa Healy, “Trump received dexamethasone for COVID-19. Here’s what that says about his condition,” Los Angeles Times, October 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2020-10-05/trump-dexamethasone-covid-19-condition; Soo Kim, “Donald Trump ‘Gasping for Air’ Video Raises Questions About President’s Health,” Newsweek, October 6, 2020, https://www.newsweek.com/coronavirus-donald-trump-breathing-difficulty-gasping-air-white-house-hospital-discharge-1536598; Laura King and Chris Megerian, “Trump stages drive-by for supporters after doctors disclose more serious symptoms,” Los Angeles Times, October 4, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-10-04/trump-receiving-powerful-lung-drug-doctors-disclose-revealing-more-serious-symptoms; Gina Kolata and Apoorva Mandavilli, “Trump’s Covid Treatments Are Aimed at Preventing Severe Illness,” New York Times, October 3, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/03/health/Covid-trump-treatments.html; Maeve Reston and Gregory Krieg, “White House sows confusion about Trump’s condition as source tells reporters next 48 hours will be critical,” CNN, October 3, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/03/politics/donald-trump-coronavirus-walter-reed/index.html; Felicia Sonmez et al., “Trump returns to White House from hospital; may not be ‘out of the woods,’ doctor says,” Washington Post, October 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/elections/2020/10/05/trump-biden-live-updates/
  9. [9]Laura King and Chris Megerian, “Trump stages drive-by for supporters after doctors disclose more serious symptoms,” Los Angeles Times, October 4, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-10-04/trump-receiving-powerful-lung-drug-doctors-disclose-revealing-more-serious-symptoms; Josh Margolin and Lucien Bruggeman, “34 people connected to White House, more than previously known, infected by coronavirus: Internal FEMA memo,” ABC News, October 7, 2020, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/34-people-connected-white-house-previously-infected-coronavirus/story?id=73487381
  10. [10]William Rivers Pitt, “Trump Got the Best COVID Treatment. For the Rest of Us He Wants ‘Herd Immunity,’” Truthout, October 15, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/trump-got-the-best-covid-treatment-then-declared-intent-to-abandon-millions/
  11. [11]William Rivers Pitt, “Trump Got the Best COVID Treatment. For the Rest of Us He Wants ‘Herd Immunity,’” Truthout, October 15, 2020, https://truthout.org/articles/trump-got-the-best-covid-treatment-then-declared-intent-to-abandon-millions/

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