By Robert P. Bomboy
There is one Trump. There is only one Trump. There can be only one Trump.
It is amazing where he gets the stuff.
“I like this stuff. I really get it,” he boasted during a tour of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “People are really surprised I understand this stuff. Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability.”
There was a bit of a hitch last week when he suggested that injecting a disinfectant like Lysol might cure the coronavirus. The makers of Lysol, of course, rushed to point out that, “As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route).” Ditto for other disinfectants across the board.
Trump’s “natural ability” hit another patch of bumpy road when he jumped on a Fox News bandwagon for a pair of malaria drugs – hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine – lacking widespread evidence that they work as a coronavirus cure. In coronavirus patients the drugs can cause dangerous abnormalities in heart rhythms. A recent study found that patients taking them had higher death rates compared with those who did not.
The all-knowing Trump swept over that, tweeting: “HOPEFULLY THEY WILL BOTH BE PUT IN USE IMMEDIATEY.” The next day he met with Laura Ingraham of Fox News, and two doctors, offering the drug as a cure-all. He became First Salesman, promoting it from the White House briefing room. “What do you have to lose? I’ll say it again, what do you have to lose? Take it. I really think they should take it. It will be wonderful. It’ll be so beautiful. It’ll be a gift from heaven.”
In briefing after briefing with reporters, Trump defied the voices of medical experts and some of his own top advisers — including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist and an adviser to the coronavirus task force. They cautioned that hydroxychloroquine, which is used to treat autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus as well as malaria, needed to undergo the same kind of rigorous evaluation that other drugs do.
Top health experts have regularly contradicted Trump – and paid the price. During the past week a federal official was removed from his post as head of an agency seeking a coronavirus vaccine. With Trump, it’s my way or the highway.
Dr. Rick Bright was abruptly dismissed last week as the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, and removed as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response. He said that he had been pressured to direct money toward hydroxychloroquine, one of several “potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections.”
Despite Trump’s demand that the malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine be put into use immediately to fight coronavirus, Dr. Bright said he was removed and transferred to lesser duties because he pressed for more rigorous testing of the drugs Trump favored. “I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines, and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” he said. “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”
Robert P. Bomboy has written for more than 60 national magazines and is the author of six books, including the novel “Smart Boys Swimming in the River Styx.” He taught for more than 30 years in colleges and universities, and he has been a Ford Foundation Fellow at the University of Chicago and in Washington, D.C.