“We have things happening that look like they’re coming down from God,” said Donald Trump over the weekend, from the hospital he is staying at for treatment of Covid-19. Then, he left the hospital to take a brief joyride to wave to his supporters. The president is no stranger to creating a controversial photo-op event to try to win political points while hundreds of Americans are dying each day to the virus — who could forget when he cleared protesters in DC to pose with a bible outside of a church? — but this was even more concerning in its implications. It was a move that a Walter Reed physician called “insanity.”
Trump has contracted an extremely infectious illness and is hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. His reckless behavior during the pandemic seems to have finally caught up with him. He admitted to Bob Woodward in his book, Rage, that he lied to the American people about the virus. And when he chose to drive around in an enclosed car with others on Sunday, he put those sharing the vehicle with him in danger.
As specialists in psychology and psychiatry, it appears obvious to us now that President Trump is a clear and present danger to us and to himself. Now we learn that Trump continued to surround himself with others even after he knew of his positive test result. He tried to keep his diagnosis secret — until the free press did its job and uncovered his dishonesty. Sources now say that he failed to disclose his positive Covid test on Thursday, and instead waited for a second test to come through to inform people who could have been exposed. His team members are still being diagnosed with coronavirus: Kayleigh McEnany was the latest to be confirmed positive this morning.
Once again, his political calculation was more important to him than protecting the nation. Trump’s lies and denials and refusal to follow the recommendations of public health experts have endangered millions of Americans unnecessarily. 210,000 lives have been lost because of the inaction and unfathomable behavior of this president. His mishandling of the pandemic has been profoundly disturbing. How can he protect the American public when he chose not to do the right things to protect himself? At this point, why should any rational person expect him to? He has undermined the use of masks, social distancing, hand-washing, mass national testing, and now the isolation of infected patients.
To us, that looks like poor decision-making, impaired judgment, and a complete lack of empathy for others.
We hope for Donald Trump’s recovery from Covid-19. But he has been proven to be dishonest and inept at governance. If he wants to change his tune and do something responsible for the country now, he should have the strength of character to pull out of seeking re-election. He could easily and gracefully do so by invoking the 25th Amendment.
We must see this enduring coronavirus pandemic for what it is: a colossal failure by President Trump to protect the American people. Our ultimate public servant has turned out to be a fraud. From the very beginning, he was ill-equipped to manage a once-in-a-century health emergency. His lack of leadership has created a reign of terror. Just ask the families of those 210,000 lost souls.
If he cannot stand aside — and it’s unlikely that he realistically will — Trump’s responsibility now is to assure a peaceful and orderly transition of power on January 20. We need new leadership and a national strategy for defeating this virus for all of us. Trump’s psychopathology has kept him from protecting himself. All of our lives are in great peril under his watch.
Seth D. Norrholm, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan
Alan D. Blotcky, PhD, is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Birmingham, Alabama