Monday, March 09, 2020


This report from Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman doesn't strike me as paradoxical at all:
As Trump pushes a nothing-to-see-here message in public, sources said he’s privately terrified about getting the [Covid-19] virus. “Donald is a famous germaphobe. He hates it if someone is eating nachos and dips a chip back in after taking a bite. He calls them ‘double dippers,’” a prominent Republican said. Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg recalled Trump’s response to the last major outbreak in 2014. “When I worked for Trump, he was obsessed with Ebola,” Nunberg told me. (One Mar-a-Lago guest disputed this and said Trump was handshaking with gusto this past weekend. “He was acting like the opposite of a germaphobe,” the source said.)

... Pressure from the public health community is mounting on Trump to cancel his mass rallies, but Trump is pushing back. “He is going to resist until the very last minute,” a former West Wing official said. “He may take suggestions to stop shaking hands, but in terms of shutting stuff down, his position is: ‘No, I’m not going to do it.’”
Trump fears germs, but he fears not being praised even more. To Trump, Mar-a-Lago guests are good people -- they couldn't possibly give him the coronavirus! The same with attendees at his rallies. They flatter him, and he regards flattery the way he probably regards sex -- as so desirable that his craving for it overrides his fear of contagion.

That fear is quite pronounced, Sherman tells us:
Last week Trump told aides he’s afraid journalists will try to purposefully contract coronavirus to give it to him on Air Force One, a person close to the administration told me. The source also said Trump has asked the Secret Service to set up a screening program and bar anyone who has a cough from the White House grounds.
See? The people Trump regards as his enemies might try to infect him, he believes. And the people who show up every day and try to put in a day's work might kill him by accident if they cough. But flatterers are a different story.

Don't worry, though -- Trump is focused on what really matters. The spread of the virus? Nahhh. He's focused on how he looks and who can be scapegoated when he doesn't look good.
“He’s very frustrated he doesn’t have a good team around him,” a former White House official said. On Friday he forced out acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and replaced him with former House Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows. Trump thought the virus was “getting beyond Mick,” a person briefed on the internal discussions said. Trump has also complained that economic adviser Larry Kudlow is not doing enough to calm jittery markets. Last week Kudlow refused Trump’s request that Kudlow hold an on-camera press briefing, sources said. “Larry didn’t want to have to take questions about coronavirus,” a person close to Kudlow told me. “Larry’s not a doctor. How can he answer questions about something he doesn’t know?”

Trump found a willing surrogate in Kellyanne Conway, but Conway’s dubious claim on Friday that the virus “is being contained” only made the P.R. situation worse.

Trump’s efforts to take control of the story himself have so far failed. A source said Trump was pleased with ratings for the Fox News town hall last Thursday, but he was furious with how he looked on television. “Trump said afterwards that the lighting was bad,” a source briefed on the conversation said. “He said, ‘We need Bill Shine back in here. Bill would never allow this.’”
So Trump will undoubtedly respond to this crisis by firing some of his image-makers, until they all learn to stop doing their jobs and just reflect glory on him full time. Once he finds a team that will do that, I bet he'll willingly shake their hands.

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