Trump fired his most successful chief of staff, John Kelly, for trying to force him to work. Kelly’s successor, Mick Mulvaney, survived by enabling Trump “to act as he chooses—a recognition that trying to control Trump is a futile approach,” as Politico’s Nancy Cook put it. Likewise, Vice President Mike Pence had better be awfully circumspect about filling the role that the Constitution and its Twenty-Fifth Amendment assign him. Trump will be watching. So long as Trump is conscious, he will not allow it; should he lose consciousness, he will retaliate when and if he recovers.
You cannot expect the White House to exhibit any regard for the health of others. The president knowingly exposed his wife, his adult children, his staff, his donors, and his supporters in the Cleveland debate hall. He refused and forbade the most basic safety precautions in the close quarters of the West Wing and on Air Force One, except for testing, which was intended to protect him personally. On Tuesday, Trump was on the debate stage mocking former Vice President Joe Biden for wearing face masks; as the positive tests came in, he did not bother to inform Biden or his team that Trump had exposed him to the coronavirus. Until we know the date of Trump’s last negative COVID-19 test, we can only guess at the number of people he exposed. By sticking to an aggressive travel schedule with in-person gatherings while eschewing even minimal safeguards, Trump has carried the risk of disease across the country.
Read: White House, Petri dish
You cannot expect Trump to gain any wisdom, empathy, or compassion for others. Throughout the pandemic, Trump has disdained the hardships suffered by sick and dying Americans, by their families and neighbors, by those who have lost jobs and homes. When NBC’s Peter Alexander asked Trump on March 20 what the president would say to Americans feeling fear because of the disease, he upbraided Alexander: “I’d say you are a terrible reporter.” When Republican Senator Mitt Romney self-isolated because he had been exposed to COVID-19 by the negligent selfishness of Senator Rand Paul, Trump sarcastically said to reporters, “Oh, that’s too bad.” It’s a consistent pattern for Trump; on October 2, 2016, four years ago to the day of Trump’s COVID-positive acknowledgment, Trump cruelly pantomimed onstage Hillary Clinton’s campaign-season bout of pneumonia.
What you can expect is a lot of victimhood and self-pity. Trump and those around him have always demanded for themselves the decencies that they refuse others. They will get them, too. Trump’s opponents will express concern and good wishes—and if they do not, Trump’s allies will complain that those opponents are allowing politics to overwhelm human feeling. It was only three days ago that Trump on a debate stage dismissed Biden’s dead son, Beau, and falsely claimed that Biden’s surviving son, Hunter, had been dishonorably discharged from the military.* The next day, Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., appeared on Glenn Beck’s show to describe Hunter as a “crackhead.” Now, though, we will hear a lot about how people are not being respectful enough to a president in his time of illness.