Many believe that Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s greatest single line came in his 1933 inaugural address when he declared that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Fear is a precursor to panic and FDR gave the country hope. President Trump has repeatedly said that he wants to maintain the same positive attitude but it was hardly a FDR moment yesterday when Trump told citizens “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” Many of us have denounced the statement as absolutely reckless for a president to make in the middle of a pandemic. At the same time, Trump critics have denounced the President while engaging in utter hysteria over the President’s release. Yesterday, for example, Washington Post columnist and MSNBC commentator Jennifer Rubin appeared to become utterly unglued over the release and tweeted that his doctor should be stripped of his license and Walter Reed “defunded.”I cannot imagine a more irresponsible comment than telling people not to fear Covid. I can understand the push to reopen the economy despite the ongoing pandemic. I can understand the opposition to inconsistent state rules governing protests or gatherings. I also understand the need to remain optimistic. However, with over 200,000 dead Americans, there is every reason to be afraid of this incredibly contagious virus, as shown by the President’s own contraction of Covid-19.
On the other side, the same unhinged rhetoric was in full display. Ruben was a case in point. She excoriated the medical team at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and White House physician Dr. Sean Conley for releasing the President. Rubin declared “Any MD who publicly endorses this insanity needs to lose his/her license. Period.”
The “insanity” was a determination that the President could continue to recover at the White House where there is a full medical facility and staff. Not only did the team confirm that every criteria for release had been satisfied as much as a day earlier, but there are a myriad of reasons why such a release is warranted. First, the hospital staff needs to address acute patients and the huge staff assigned to the President was hardly justified if he was showing no signs of decline after meeting the benchmarks for release. Second, he is the President of the United States. If he can recover at the White House, it is important to have him closer to the situation room and other secure areas in case of emergency. Staff must be able to share classified material and engage the President on matters of state. While the Presidential Suite at Walter Reed is ample, it create logistical and security concerns for staff in interacting with a president.
Rubin however was not finished with her Twitter tirade. She added that “Congress might want to defund Walter Reed. It is a public health hazard.” She added that the President could not be trusted and that the public needed to be protected from him: “A 74 yr old [obese] man with covid – who might have lung damage – and a pattern of disregarding medical advice is returned to an environment in which he may infect others. What planet does Conley inhabit? Where is the rest of Walter Reed? The VP? They are remarkable cowards.”