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Opinion Let’s hope Trump recovers — and that the GOP gets what it deserves

A supporter of President Trump holds up an American flag outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda on Monday. (Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)

We should all hope that President Trump, first lady Melania Trump and the others in the White House cluster of covid-19 infections quickly recover. No one deserves to contract a deadly disease. But the Republican Party has earned a humiliating, debilitating fate in the upcoming elections.

Following Trump's example, Republicans have been stunningly irresponsible about the raging pandemic that has sickened almost 7.5 million Americans and killed 210,000 of us. We must never forget that if the nation had mounted a serious, consistent and effective response to the novel coronavirus — as other wealthy countries did — many of those lives could have been saved. We could be returning to something like normal.

 Instead, here we are:

 The president contracted the disease, had to be admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and has been given experimental treatments generally reserved for the most serious covid-19 cases. Trump's campaign manager has tested positive for the virus. At least four of the president's closest advisers have tested positive, including his press secretary. Three Republican senators have tested positive. The chair of the Republican National Committee has tested positive.

The briefings on President Trump's health are a deliberate exercise in obfuscation, says physician and Post contributing columnist Leana S. Wen. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Micheal Reynolds/Bloomberg, Alex Edelman/Getty/The Washington Post)

We may not know the extent of this outbreak for days or even weeks. Some of the Republicans who have been diagnosed in recent days attended a White House event for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett or met with Trump to help him prepare for last week's debate. Hundreds of people who have been physically near Trump in recent days, including campaign donors at a New Jersey fundraiser on Thursday, are scrambling to get tested and anxiously awaiting the results.

The nation should wish all these new covid-19 patients well — and then should vote by a landslide to give control of the White House and Congress to Joe Biden and the Democrats, who pledge to implement sound, science-based measures to try to finally bring the pandemic under control.

 During his weekend in the hospital, Trump continued to model all the wrong behaviors. His joyride on Sunday to wave to supporters needlessly put the Secret Service agents protecting him in jeopardy — and made clear that even as his own immune system battles covid-19, Trump is prioritizing his image over his health.

This is nothing new. From the beginning, Trump has acted as if he believed the pandemic could be willed away. Republican officials unwisely went along with his demands that businesses and schools reopen prematurely, despite infection rates that experts said were far too high. Now Trump himself is ill, and the nation faces a potential second wave of the virus, coinciding with flu season, that could be worse than the first.

This is no moment for schadenfreude. It is, however, a time for consequences.  

On a human level, we have to wish every covid-19 victim a speedy and complete recovery, including the president who claimed that "virtually nobody" was affected by the virus. The fact that covid-19 was able to reach the most powerful man in the country, penetrating all of his layers of security and defying a White House regimen of daily testing, shows how vulnerable all of us remain to this awful scourge.

Still, surrender and wishful thinking weren't our only options. The virus may not succumb to spin, but it can be slowed by the sorts of common-sense health practices the president has transformed into signifiers of Republican tribal identity. At the first debate, Trump tried to mock Biden for wearing "the biggest mask I've ever seen," even though those masks are one of the more effective weapons we have to fight infection. He promoted quack remedies and predicted that the virus would magically disappear.

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Republican officials went along with his nonsense — even as their constituents fell ill and died.

There are just four weeks left before Election Day. Millions of voters have already cast or mailed their ballots. And what the nation decides on Nov. 3 will also chart our course in fighting covid-19. There are many reasons, in my view, to elect Biden and give control of the Senate to the Democratic Party. One of the most important — and most urgent — is the shamefully inadequate and shockingly callous GOP performance on the pandemic. Lives literally depend on who wins this election.

From the confusing and contradictory reports issued by Trump's doctors, we don't really know how ill the president is. I sincerely hope his case is mild and his recovery is swift. I want Trump and all the Republicans in his orbit who have fallen ill to regain their health — in plenty of time for Biden and the Democrats to hand them a crushing defeat at the polls. It may be the only cure for the party, and for the country.

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