Speed Reads

COVID in the White House

Trump's COVID-19 White House balcony scene did not play well in Trump-skeptic conservative media

Presumably, President Trump imagined his return to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center would be viewed as a show of strength, a leader hit by COVID-19 just a few days earlier able to climb some stairs, rip off his mask, and salute a helicopter before filming a video proclaiming his good health, dominance over, and possible immunity from the savage virus. That's not how it was seen in much of America, including the branch of conservative media that isn't all that fond of Trump.

The Lincoln Project used a Duncan Sheik song to make a similar point.

Veteran GOP operative Tim Miller called Trump's 90-second balcony scene "one of the most disturbing, absorbing, foreign images I can recall." Instead of the "übermensch" image Trump is evidently trying to convey by taking off his mask, Miller writes in The Bulwark, "we get a madman, his face pancaked under a 2mm coat of orange powder, jacked up on steroids, straining to breathe — and not caring a whit about those around him. And I've got to hand it to him: Trump nails that image."

Miller narrates the scene, the dramatic tension building to "one mammoth, labored breath" that gave Trump "the stamina to move into a dramatic extended salute lasting 23 interminable seconds":

He salutes with D-list caudillo energy, channeling an aging Pinochet or Trujillo in their last gasps of power. ... The coup de grâce (for whom, we won't know for a couple weeks), is Trump moving into an extremely congested, spittle-filled soliloquy — straight to camera — about how our Dear Leader may well now be "immune" from the deadly virus that has killed 210,000 and which is currently inhabiting his lungs, and his White House. The show must go on. [Tim Miller, The Bulwark]

Some people saw it Trump's way, of course. Here's a pro-Trump conservative calling this Trump's "Mussolini moment," but in a good way. Peter Weber