Why Trump Doesn’t Want To Wear A Mask

The new symbol of patriotism in pandemic-stricken America is a medical mask. And no surprise that President Donald Trump — ever the defiant and self-involved Baby Boomer — says he would only wear one if he “thought it was important.” At a press Friday, he said “I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don’t know. Somehow, I don’t see it for myself,” adding, “I just don’t.”

but let’s stop for a moment and reflect on the personal mindset Trump revealed with them. Under his watch, the pandemic is running out of control in the US. America has perhaps been among the worst in the world in its response, even as he demands praise and appreciation. As death, grief, and suffering pooled around him, Trump’s thoughts turned to the optics of meeting people “sitting in the Oval Office behind that great resolute desk.” Who, in his right mind, would pause in the face of this pandemic to consider visiting dignitaries — including dictators, mind you — and how a medical mask might spoil his look? Aside from anything else, we all know that foreign delegations won’t be arriving at the White House any time soon. And if, by chance, it happened, the president should insist he be photographed wearing a mask if only to show his solidarity with and concern for, others. (The first lady, perhaps less concerned about a mask mussing her hair, encourages their use). The president’s remarks came as he announced the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation that we cover our mouths and noses to give just-in-case protection for others. Though we may not feel sick, we could have the virus and transit it with our breath. The mask is not about me, but rather we. And our reaction to the recommendation signals whether we feel connected to our fellow Americans or regard ourselves as disconnected free agents, competing ad nauseum to be special. Raised by a father who told his sons to be king, Trump has long regarded his instinct as more valid than others’ expertise. As he once said, “I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.” Now confronted with one of American history’s biggest threats to civilian lives, Trump’s response has been to avoid a unified national response — no stay-at-home orders, no rapid mobilization of medical aid — while hyping whatever unilateral actions he takes. The one thing Trump did right, if late, was restrict flights to the US from China, where the virus first appeared. However, his bragging about this move neglects the truth that he followed the airlines’ own moves to stop flights and his policy was so full of holes that 430,000 travelers have come from China to the US since. All of the president’s failures reflect his inability to think of America as a community in need of a responsive government. His administration, on the initiative of John Bolton, closed the National Security Council’s pandemic office and neglected to replenish emergency supplies, which had dwindled due to policies pushed by Congressional Republicans in the Obama years. (Much as he loves to blame his predecessors, a President in his fourth year should own the government and not look like a weakling ducking responsibility.) As other nations marshaled more effective defenses, Trump denied reality. We had the wealth and the expertise to take advantage of the weeks we had to prepare while Asia and Italy were stricken. However, we lack leaders whose concept of America includes a sense that we live in a national community that needs a competent government. The gap between what we need now, and what we have, developed over the years since Ronald Reagan’s famous campaign line:


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