The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Reality smacks Trumpworld, but the bubble remains

A week after President Trump tapped Amy Coney Barrett as Supreme Court nominee, he and several attendees at the event have tested positive for coronavirus. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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To the annals of footage taken just before disaster — the Hindenburg approaching its docking mast, John F. Kennedy’s motorcade winding through Dealey Plaza — we can now add video of the Rose Garden introduction for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Dignitaries including Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Kellyanne Conway and first lady Melania Trump glad-hand and hug, with smiles all too visible in the absence of masks. A week later, we know that those three, plus several other key White House and campaign officials, reporters and, of course, the president himself have all tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Yet even as the cost of this cavalier attitude toward the virus, health and safety has been made clear, White House and Trump campaign officials still won’t admit their recklessness.

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On ABC’s “This Week,” host George Stephanopoulos confronted Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller with a new Ipsos poll finding that nearly three-quarters of Americans think Trump didn’t take the risk of getting the coronavirus seriously. Miller tried to parry by pointing to Trump’s shutdown of travel from China and Europe earlier this year, ignoring that those orders had little to do with the president’s personal safety. When Stephanopoulos pointed out that the president did not have to mock mask-wearing or hold rallies with few masks and even less social distancing, Miller could only reply that the president “is one of the most tested people in the entire country.”

But as the president’s illness illustrates, frequent testing is all but useless if one flouts health officials’ advice in between those tests — which the president and his team did at the Barrett event and at last week’s debate in Ohio. On “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace pressed campaign adviser Steve Cortes about the fact that Trump family members and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows took off their masks during the presidential debate, in violation of rules set by a co-host, the Cleveland Clinic. Cortes tried to dodge by saying Meadows and the Trump family had been tested ahead of time — an argument severely undermined by the first lady and senior aide Hope Hicks subsequently testing positive. When Wallace pointed out that the rules required masks, regardless of previous test results, Cortes accused Wallace of being “the effective opposition to the president.”

Over on CNN, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) admitted that the White House had not reached out to him to assist with contact tracing and other essential steps to prevent further spread — after Trump and his entourage had arrived too late for the president to be tested before entering the debate hall, staffers had turned down masks and so on. Rather than criticize the president, though, DeWine praised the president for going to the hospital.

Perhaps no interview was more damning than national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien’s appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Asked by host Margaret Brennan “who’s responsible for allowing [Trump] to be in such close proximity and ultimately get infected,” O’Brien did not answer — perhaps because the answer may be no one. Pressed on how the president ended up in such dangerous circumstances, O’Brien touted the testing procedures that have been proven inadequate before pleading, “We did our best.”

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“We did our best.” At first, it sounds like an excuse — who could blame us, when we worked so hard? But in fact, it’s just depressingly true. When you have a president and a party who deny science, who scoff at experts, who mock basic safety protocols, what can even the few rational folks left in the White House do?

“We did our best?” Yes, yes you did — and once again, it wasn’t good enough.

Read more:

Joseph Allen: The White House coronavirus outbreak shows that testing alone is not enough

Patti Davis: Presidents don’t get privacy. My father understood that — even when he was shot.

Leana Wen: Doctors say Trump may go home Monday. Based on what they’ve told us, that’s a bad idea.

John Barry: History tells us what a virus can do to a president

The Post’s View: Frenzied speculation over Trump’s health only feeds the misinformation mess he created