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Edelman: Trump’s week: Disruptive debate performance, inevitable diagnosis, obfuscation | COMMENTARY

It can’t get any crazier than last week, can it? Between the debacle of a debate and the incredible morass of misinformation the president’s team put out about his health, the week that was will stand out as one of the oddest in recent political history.

It started a week ago with the shouting match masquerading as a presidential candidates' debate. The president’s strategy was apparent from the start — to insult, to interfere, to disrupt and distract.

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Trump clearly has no desire to discuss his failures dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the weak economy, or the controversies surrounding his attempt to push a last-minute Supreme Court justice nominee through the Senate. So rather than answering the moderator’s questions, he used his time to fire a fusillade of falsehoods at his challenger, Joe Biden. He also tried to use Biden’s time to the same ends. Trump loudly and rudely interrupted Biden to criticize him for wearing a face mask and maintaining social distancing guidelines.

And just to prove his disregard for CDC guidelines and lack of respect for others, he violated the rules that the debate host, the Cleveland Clinic, had established requiring face masks be worn. All of the Biden contingent wore them, none of Trump’s. In a further show of contempt for the rules designed to protect him and others, the presidential party arrived at the debate too late for Trump to be tested for the coronavirus.

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Later in the week, that omission turned out to be a serious problem. Early Friday morning, the president tweeted that he and his wife had tested positive for COVID-19. That afternoon, he was transferred by helicopter to Walter Reed medical center, where he received the best care anyone could hope for.

On Saturday, the White House physician, Dr. Sean Conley, held a news conference that raised much concern and many questions than it answered about Trump’s condition. As nearly as can be determined from the messy event, Trump became symptomatic, perhaps as early as Wednesday. It didn’t stop the president from attending mask-free fundraisers with COVID-positive staff on Thursday, the day before the public learned he was ill. Conley needed to issue corrections on the timelines for the onset of Trump’s illness. As of this writing, we are still unsure about the president’s condition or when he started showing symptoms. Conley painted a rosy picture of the president’s health, saying that Trump was not on oxygen or having difficulty breathing or walking.

But we’re also unsure just how sick the president is. Press reports state that he’s “furious” with chief of staff Mark Meadows, who invoked the president’s ire for stating that Trump’s condition is “very concerning” and “we are not on a clear path to a full recovery.” Facts notwithstanding, the president very much desires to present himself as indestructible.

Sunday was not without controversy. Conley declared that the president had in fact been given oxygen. He explained his error, saying, “I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude” of the president. It should be a simple matter to state the truth and avoid controversy; perhaps Conley wanted to avoid being lumped in with Meadows. I pity the poor Secret Service drivers who had to endure close contact in a sealed-up limo with the COVID-19 positive president while he rode around the neighborhood for a photo op and to enjoy the adulation of his supporters. Trump once again blew off clear CDC guidelines: a COVID-19 positive person should only be allowed to be transferred from residence to a medical facility.

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As of this writing on Sunday night, the president’s doctors say his health is improving enough for him to potentially be discharged Monday. We don’t know how several prominent Republicans, including Kellyanne Conway, senators Mike Lee, Ron Johnson and Thom Tillis, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, Hope Hicks, Chris Christie, and campaign manager Bill Stephens are doing. All of these people have been in close contact with the president over the past couple of weeks. I wish all of them and the president a full recovery.

As the president has not used a mask or maintained social distancing, it was inevitable that he’d become infected, putting himself, those in contact with him, and the nation at risk. Trump’s mismanagement of the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a weakened economy and many millions of Americans unnecessarily infected with this dangerous disease. We cannot stop Trump from endangering himself and those close to him. But we must stop him from continuing to put Americans' safety at great risk. In matters of life and health, we are all on the same side.

Mitch Edelman writes from Finksburg. His column appears every other Tuesday. Email him at mjemath@gmail.com

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