Column: Trump is no Churchill, no FDR. Try Typhoid Mary instead

President Trump takes off his mask on a White House balcony after returning from being treated for COVID-19.
Back at the White House after being treated for COVID-19, Trump whipped off his mask and posed as if he were some kind of conquering hero.
(Getty Images)

Sean Hannity was on TV the other night lavishing praise on President Trump for his “leadership” during the pandemic, comparing him to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, towering figures who steered their countries through times of war.

Laughable stuff, of course.

In Trump, we have a president who lied to the country about the dangers of the novel coronavirus, flouted the advice of public health experts, imperiled his credulous supporters by dispensing crackpot medical advice and congratulated himself repeatedly as much of the country morphed into a petri dish of disease.

It’s neither FDR nor Churchill to whom our president should be compared.

It is that other iconic figure in American history, Typhoid Mary.


In the early 1900s, Mary Mallon, a cook for wealthy families, was believed responsible for infecting dozens of people with the salmonella typhi bacteria, at least three of whom died. A “super-spreader” before the term existed, she was an asymptomatic carrier, who refused to believe she was infected and spreading a potentially deadly disease.

Typhoid Donald doesn’t have that excuse. He knows he’s infected.

And yet one of the first things he did after helicoptering back to the White House from his brief sojourn at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center was to stride up the steps to the Truman Balcony, whip off his mask and pose as if he were some kind of conquering hero instead of a delusional COVID patient still shedding millions of virus particles, endangering the health of anyone who came near.

“He’s jacked up on steroids,” said CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

“It is amazing that all of these guys with this autocratic fetish,” a Lincoln Project co-founder, Steve Schmidt, told MSNBC’s Brian Williams, “they certainly do like the balconies, don’t they?”

Reed Galen, another disaffected Republican co-founder of the Lincoln Project, put it best in a two-word tweet: “Benito Trumpolini.”


In a campaign-style video posted on Twitter on Monday night, the president, no longer looking as wan as he did in the hospital, where he was apparently out of range of his orange makeup, looked into the camera and announced that COVID is no big deal. “Don’t let it take over your lives,” he said. “Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it.”

This from a man whose life came to a screeching halt on Friday, as his fever spiked, his oxygen levels dropped, he had trouble breathing, and he was whisked to Walter Reed, where he spent three days in the care of some of the world’s best physicians, who administered a trio of treatments to him that no other COVID-19 patient is believed to have received. All on the taxpayer dime.

So, sure. Don’t let COVID dominate your life. Even if it kills you.

Trump’s behavior since his diagnosis should be the final blow to the pundit guessing game of whether anything would cause him to change his ways.

On Tuesday morning, Trump was back to tweeting his usual noxious admixture of insults and lies.

“Flu season is coming up!” he tweeted and posted on Facebook. “Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!”

In fact, over the last decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza has killed between 12,000 and 60,000 Americans a year. COVID-19 has killed at least 210,000 Americans in 2020, and the year is far from over.

Trump’s post ran so far afoul of reality that Facebook, to its credit, deleted it, and Twitter flagged it as a violation of the company’s rules about “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.” (Still, with a single click, it was possible to read the garbage tweet in its entirety.)

Late Tuesday morning, Bloomberg had reported that Trump wanted to return to his desk at the Oval Office right away, though his aides have reportedly wanted him to stay quarantined in the residence at the White House.

My God, I feel sorry for anyone who must be anywhere near this feckless narcissist.

So far, more than a dozen people in close contact with Trump have tested positive for the virus, many of them the maskless guests who crowded into the Rose Garden ceremony where he announced his Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.

“Right now the White House is a center for coronavirus,” Washington Democratic eminence grise Leon Panetta told CNN on Monday night. “It’s a hot spot, it’s a dangerous situation.”


“Donald Trump,” psychiatrist Allen Frances told me Tuesday morning, “will always sink to the occasion.”

Frances wrote the entry on narcissism when he chaired the task force responsible for the fourth edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” also known as the DSM-IV. Over the years, Frances and I have talked about Trump’s dangerous inability to transcend his own self-interest.

“What he has just done is the worst nightmare of any public health official,” said Frances. “He’s like a drunk driver telling other drivers to drink. He is taking the country over the cliff with himself.”

Frances speculated that Trump’s already dangerous impulses might be worsened by his infection, his oxygen deprivation and his course of steroids, which, in a substantial percentage of patients, can cause a reaction “not dissimilar to a manic episode.”

In a sane White House, adults would prevail. But there’s nothing sane about this White House, and no adult present who is capable of reining in the president’s impulses.

And now Trump is vowing that he will attend the second presidential debate, on Oct. 15, against his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Will he still be contagious by then?

Is there anything in his entire 74-year history to indicate that he cares if he is?