Donald Trump’s Mussolini moment

One of the many takeaways from Michael Cohen’s surprisingly entertaining book, “Disloyal,” is that Donald Trump is a quintessential zero sum gamesman. He hates it if anyone in his immediate circle has any success with anything at all. When Cohen bought a new Rolls Royce, for example, it infuriated Trump, and he became even more belittling and impatient with Cohen than normal. It isn’t enough that Trump be the center of attention. Everyone else must also be a loser. There is no win-win in Trump’s universe, only win-lose, with Trump the winner, always.

So when Trump stood on the White House balcony (note: not the Truman Balcony as is sometimes reported elsewhere), Trump was there to remind us of one thing and one thing alone: it’s now Donald Trump one, coronavirus zero. Trump was there to show everyone not only what a winner he is, but what a loser coronavirus is.

It would be funny were it not so lethal. When Trump removed his mask, like some uber-deranged Phantom of the Opera, the White House position was that it didn’t matter because he was alone. Not true. There was also a photographer on the balcony behind him snapping pictures.

So then the White House narrative became (according to Alyssa Farah, White House Communications Director) that the photographer was wearing a mask so it was okay. But masks are principally useful for keeping the mask-wearer from spreading coronavirus, not to prevent their contracting coronavirus in the first place. When everyone wears masks it slows and sometimes prevents the spread of coronavirus, therefore the more people wearing masks the better.

This simple misunderstanding among common folk is understandable. After all, most world governments have let us all down by underemphasizing the true raison d’être of mask-wearing, and hence most people don’t really understand its true purpose. But for the White House Communications Director to be unclear on this subtlety and use that lack of clarity for yet another excuse for Trump’s reckless endangerment of a photographer isn’t just inexcusable, it’s criminally negligent. And there are now 215,822 Americans (as I write this) who would agree with me if they were still alive to register their agreement.

But we’ve been down this road before, which is why it’s becoming so eerily (and wearily) familiar to us. Trump took a spin around the hospital in the hermetically-sealed Beast in order to inflate his ego and satisfy his bottomless need for adulation from his fanbase, and to hell with the hapless Secret Service agents imprisoned with him in an environment recirculating air lousy with SARS-CoV-2. Trump needed a bible as a prop and a church to wave it in front of, and to hell with the peaceful protesters who were tear-gassed and shot with rubber bullets and truncheoned out of the way by brutal, gorilla-faced thugs. So what’s the life of one lousy little photographer?

The message that Trump comes out a winner is more important, in the reality of this White House, than truth. It’s more important because it’s the only truth Trump knows. Everyone at this White House understands this. We know they do because they’re still there. They wouldn’t still be there if they didn’t both understand it and behave accordingly.

Clearly, Trump exited the hospital by way of what’s known as a discharge AMA (Against Medical Advice) in order to stand on a balcony and wave, not a bible this time, but a mask. It’s what dictators do. Dictators like Franco and Hitler and Mussolini each have their own version of the sieg heil salute, removing his mask was Trump’s.

There are a million reasons why Donald Trump is unfit to be president of the United States, this is another one. Be sure to vote. Trump wants low voter turnout because he knows by suppressing the vote his chances of winning are improved. So let’s not just give him a blue wave this time, let’s give him an azure tsunami. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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