Far be it for me to offer Donald Trump a graceful path to exit from his disastrous presidency. But there is now an obvious and plausibly productive off-ramp for Donald Trump to end his first and now-evident only term as president on a high and heroic note.
I hereby dare you to take it, Donald.
Do I believe that Trump deserves full credit for a vaccine that may be successfully administered in the next several months? Far earlier than all expectations, certainly when compared to the development of vaccines against previous widespread diseases? Sure, he hyped the unlikely prospect of a vaccine available before Election Day. And, yes, he and his supporters now grouse about the fact that the Pfizer announcement of a 90 percent positive rate in its early tests for efficacy against COVID-19 was not published until a few days after the election rather than a few days before. I get that. Why shouldn’t he think, well, great for Pfizer? But why did they stick the knife in my back by not announcing this a week earlier? Or what about Johnson & Johnson? Well, first of all, Pfizer and J&J announcements of preliminary good news on vaccines would not have reversed the president’s electoral fortunes.
There are two stark facts that confront any remaining Trump loyalists. One is that Joe Biden is the president-elect. Period. And the second is that as of 12:01 p.m, Jan. 20, 2021–one minute after the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden Jr.–the Capitol Police who enforce law within the District of Columbia’s Federal Triangle, encompassing the Capitol, White House and Supreme Court–will evict any White House trespassers from the new president’s residence. That means you, Donald, and any Trumps hanging out in a government-owned house where they no longer enjoy free lease. I fully expect that Donald lacks the grace even to attend the inauguration ceremony, where he no doubt will witness a far larger crowd on the Washington Monument grounds than attended his 2016 event.
But if he wants to avoid the humiliation of forced eviction–a perfect bookend to his disgraceful reign, which began with a don’t-believe-your-eyes lie about his crowd size as compared to Barack Obama’s 2008 inauguration overflow–Donald now has an opportunity to claim a heroic presidential epitaph.
Donald can say now, whatever the facts to support his claim, that his Operation Warp Speed brought a successful vaccine to Americans, and to the world at large, months before anyone reasonably expected. I did that for you, he can claim. I personally don’t buy it for a minute. The timing is inauthentic, accidental, but maybe not entirely so.
The Trump administration did indeed push hard for a quick vaccine solution. But this did not save his presidency. Nor should it have. COVID-19 administrative malpractice was not, by any means, the only black mark against the appalling record of the Trump presidency. I hardly know where to begin, but separation of hundreds of breastfeeding and otherwise preverbal children from their parents at the southern border–with NO MEANS OF REUNITING THEM–is a good place to start.
As far as I’m concerned, Donald Trump is an indecent reprobate guilty of international crimes of moral turpitude. But if he is at all invested in restoring his standing in history–and it stands so low now that I would oppose a Trump portrait ever being hung in the Capitol Rotunda (he’s already delayed Obama’s portrait ceremony because of baseless, racist assumptions about President 44’s legitimacy)–I humbly submit this one opportunity as his only shot in four fetid presidential years to do the right thing. Claim credit for a life-saving vaccine. Campaign for everyone to take it. Many of your followers don’t believe in science. Some regard a vaccine as voodoo, largely but not entirely because of your reckless rhetoric. Your followers no longer believe in anything Dr. Anthony Fauci says, even though you ignored him at YOUR PERSONAL PERIL.
Step up, Donald, and do the right thing. Again, I dare you.
Steve Parks is a retired New York journalist now living in Easton.