Column: Why can’t President Orange Julius be more like Queen Elizabeth?

Queen Elizabeth in a video address to the U.K.
Queen Elizabeth in a video address called on the British people to exercise self-discipline in “an increasingly challenging time.” Donald Trump explained why he wouldn’t be wearing a mask, despite the advice of experts.
(Buckingham Palace)

I never tried LSD, but when I turn on the TV now I think I know what an acid trip must feel like.

There’s President Orange Julius delivering another bloated pandemic update with white spoons around his eyes, belittling reporters and mashing messages after falling asleep under the tanning lamp again. The president is competing for audience with “Tiger King” Joe Exotic, but Trump’s show is an even bigger circus.

In all my years of breathing there has never been a time when it was more important to stand as one, together, across all differences, to keep our hearts beating. And yet in this historic moment the free world is led by a man who lacks basic civility, a man who is rolling back clean air standards in the middle of a deadly plague of respiratory disease, and whose greatest talent is to divide, mock, insult, alienate.


The U.S. lag in preparing for the coronavirus is costing thousands of lives. The bodies are piling up and Trump says he’s doing a good job but not getting enough credit.

Doctors and contagious disease authorities largely agree that all of us need to wear masks. But in response to that advice, which comes from some of the president’s own experts, he flippantly says he’s not going to wear a mask. Just doesn’t think it’s for him.

Why would someone who could literally save lives by the mere act of leading by example refuse to do so?

Because he “sits behind that beautiful Resolute desk” in the Oval office, Trump explains, and wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing a mask when meeting with “presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens.”

I thought all of those people were staying home. But if they did visit, they’d probably be wearing masks, wouldn’t they?

And speaking of queens, while Trump was flouting the advice of people with actual knowledge of this treacherous disease, Queen Elizabeth was delivering exactly the kind of speech you want to hear in a crisis.


She thanked those staying home for “ helping to protect the vulnerable and sparing many families the pain already felt by those who have lost loved ones.”

And she urged Brits to keep going: “I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge,” the queen said. “And those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any. That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humored resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterize this country.”

Trump, on the other hand, has refused to even ask irresponsible Republican governors to order isolation and social distancing in their states, even though his own medical team has said it’s the only hope we have of containing the virus.

There’s a little something called the bully pulpit, mate, and here’s how a leader might use it:

He reminds everyone we are in a crisis for the ages and the only game is survival. He tells every governor who doesn’t immediately order everyone to stay home for their own safety and the safety of others that he will gouge their eyes out with a 9-iron and punish them in ways they can’t begin to imagine.

He tells religious leaders who insist on packing people together at services that if indeed there is a heaven and a hell, he will buy them one-way tickets to the latter.

He banks on the word of his medical advisers, not his trade adviser, regarding the risk of using anti-malarial medication on coronavirus.

How hard can it be to do the right thing?

I keep hoping maybe the people who stand near Trump at the daily briefings will turn their backs on him in unison and walk out in protest. Or maybe rush up behind him and throw a muzzle on him.

Deborah Birx, the physician and coronavirus response coordinator, stands there a few feet away from Trump and Mike Pence, expressionless, and I think to myself, she seems normal, doesn’t she?

Why doesn’t she grab the microphone and begin screaming that the emperor has no clothes? At the very least, why doesn’t she take the scarf she’s always wearing, make a mask out of it, and wrap it around the president’s face?

Why doesn’t Dr. Anthony Fauci, in the middle of Trump’s fantasies about everything returning to normal soon, flash a sign that says “Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid?”

The coronavirus is the Chinese virus, the president says. The governor of Washington is a snake. The media are corrupt. The possibility that U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney had the virus prompted a sophomoric “Gee, that’s too bad,” from the leader of the nation. Every day he spouts new nonsense.

On Jan. 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”

On Feb. 26: “And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

On March 10: “And we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm.”

Stay calm? With him in charge, with his apologists mute, with congressional GOP sycophants watching like mummies?

Stay calm?

I’d have to get rid of the television.