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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

President Trump on White House balcony

Only Boss Trump could turn even the Covid-19 plague into a farce. His triumphal return to the White House from Walter Reed hospital—nicely timed for the evening TV news cycle—was like a stunt his pal Kim Jong Un would pull in Pyongyang: pure strongman street theater.

The big man stood glassy-eyed but indomitable on a balcony: corset, shoulder pads, elevator shoes and a half-pound of orange stage makeup accentuating his extreme virility. All the scene lacked was a laugh track, although in the kinds of dictatorships Trump most admires, it is forbidden to smile.

Big, strong me, puny little you. That was the message.

It was four years almost to the day since Trump mimicked Hillary Clinton stumbling at a campaign appearance after being diagnosed with pneumonia. "She's supposed to fight all these different things, and she can't make it 15 feet to her car," he sneered.

So after they carried him to the hospital in a helicopter, the White House sent out a photo of Trump supposedly hard at work. "Nothing can stop him from working for the American people," daughter Ivanka tweeted. "RELENTLESS!" Alas, a close-up showed Trump relentlessly signing a blank sheet of paper.

They do these things better in North Korea.

Back when I raised cattle, it was axiomatic: never let a sick cow die without trying dexamethasone, the powerful steroid that persuaded Trump he was ten feet tall and bulletproof. I've seen it bring animals too weak to stand back to their feet, although not for long unless the underlying infection had been suppressed. It's a stimulant, not a cure.

In humans, dexamethasone also has psychiatric side effects. (In cows, you can't tell. Possibly Layla the abandoned twin calf imagined herself tyrant queen of the herd before disease carried her away. It's impossible to know.) The commonest problems in human subjects are irritability, aggression, and what the drug label calls "psychotic manifestations."

And wouldn't that be wonderful?

That's just one of the reasons nobody but Trump would have been released from the hospital before his treatment regimen was finished. If he weren't going to a fully-equipped White House medical clinic, that phalanx of white-jacketed physicians who staged press conferences outside Walter Reed would have been flirting with malpractice to do so.

An NPR reporter noticed that all of Dr. Sean Conley's written press releases were preceded by a disclaimer saying in effect, "Donald J. Trump has approved this message."

People saw right through it too. A CNN poll found that "69% of Americans said they trusted little of what they heard from the White House about the President's health, with only 12% saying they trusted almost all of it."

Besides, he wasn't really going "home," merely to a smaller hospital where he can be monitored and treated.

What's more, Trump's euphoria was not only chemically-induced, it's also unlikely to last. Repeated doses of dexamethasone can be quite dangerous. It's administered only in serious circumstances, signifying to physicians who don't work for the White House that he was a whole lot sicker when he went to Walter Reed than anybody wanted to let on.

Then where was the hydroxychloroquine, inquiring minds want to know?

So yes, there's every chance that even Boss Trump, the political superhero with "the body that men fear and women adore" in the words of Fifties professional wrestling champ Dr. Jerry Graham, who was bashing rivals with balsa wood chairs at Sunnyside Gardens in Queens, N.Y., back when Trump was an impressionable lad, will get sicker before he gets better.

(Graham also carried a formidable swag belly, and pretty much invented the elaborate blonde pompadour wrestling villains featured back then. Trump basically stole his whole act.)

But I digress. The point is that anybody tempted to heed Boss Trump's advice—"Don't be afraid of Covid. Don't let it dominate your life"—would be well-advised to wait a few weeks before venturing maskless to one of his campaign rallies. We don't know, in Dr. Conley's words, that he's out of the woods yet. But we do know that he's actively contagious.

We also know that Trump cares not at all which Secret Service agents and White House flunkies get infected. Not to mention those anonymous hordes in their MAGA hats and Trump t-shirts.

Meanwhile, Trump acolyte Rudy Giuliani, himself memorably described by Jimmy Breslin as "a small man in search of a balcony" went on Fox News to mock Joe Biden for wearing a face mask. Not manly, he said between bouts of heavy coughing. Fox News blonde Martha MacCallum said she hoped he tested negative.

So have I no humane feelings for Boss Trump, his attendant courtiers and poltroons? I'd answer that I have exactly same degree of empathy and concern he'd have for me and my loved ones.

I leave it to readers to decide what that might be.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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