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President like a stubborn toddler in toilet training

Karen Tumulty



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U.S. President Donald Trump arrives on the South Lawn of the White House after visiting the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives on the South Lawn of the White House after visiting the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives on the South Lawn of the White House after visiting the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

President Donald Trump finally wore a face mask! In public! This development came more than three months after his own administration recommended that all Americans wear masks in situations where social distancing is not possible.

Granted, wearing one should have been a no-brainer, given that Trump was visiting Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre, a facility full of vulnerable patients and front line health-care workers. Also, it is Defence Department workplace policy to "mandate use of cloth face coverings in situations where social distancing is difficult to maintain".

Trump's decision to wear one came as the number of Covid-19 cases is spiking in many states. On Saturday, there were nearly 63,000 new ones. The death toll since February has topped 131,000. Public opinion of the president's handling of the crisis continues to decline, with only one-third approving of it in the latest ABC News-Ipsos poll.

Meanwhile, governors are urging their citizens to wear masks as a means of bringing the spread under control. Texas governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, has issued an executive order that residents of nearly every county in the state cover their noses and mouths in public, or face a fine of up to $250.

But Trump has reportedly told aides that he feared following Centres for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines would make him look weak and "unpresidential". He mocked his poll-leading rival, presumptive Democratic nominee and former vice-president Joe Biden, for wearing a mask.

The praise that Trump got from his campaign staff for belatedly covering his face is the kind of positive reinforcement that any parent who has ever tried to toilet train a stubborn toddler knows well.

Erin Perrine, a spokeswoman, posted an image on Twitter and added: "Rocking a mask like a boss." From Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the campaign, came yet another with the prediction: "Joe Biden is finished."

If such fatuousness is what it takes to get the president of the United States to behave as a role model during a deadly crisis, go for it.

Maybe some of his supporters will begin to understand that the virus has no ideology.

Perhaps now that Trump has put on a mask, we may see fewer of those videos that are popping up all over social media in which customers are having temper tantrums in Costco and Target, claiming their freedoms are under assault by store policies that mandate masks.

Maybe more people might even start wearing them to the superspreader campaign rallies that Trump remains determined to hold. (© Washington Post)

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