"Every cloud," the saying goes, "has a silver lining." And while I'm pretty sure former President Donald Trump isn't a nephologist, he has managed to embrace the gist of the phrase's cumulus optimism by finding a sliver of positivity (wishing death on a political nemesis) in the midst of profound, overwhelming tragedy (a catastrophic pandemic worsened by his own actions).
According to a newly released excerpt from journalists Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta's forthcoming book Nightmare Scenario, Trump is described as trying to joke his way through those uncertain, traumatic early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, oscillating wildly between making light of a disaster that had already killed hundreds of thousands of his constituents, and using that same national tragedy to exacerbate his own petty political/personal feuds.
In a paragraph obtained by Axios on Wednesday, Trump allegedly mused hopefully that John Bolton, his former national security adviser, would not only catch COVID, but drop dead as a result:
"'John Bolton,' [Trump] had said ... 'Hopefully COVID takes out John.'"
Evidently, he was being extremely serious.
Trump and Bolton's relationship had been, uh, fraught over the latter's time in the administration (and all the more so after his departure) in no small part due to Bolton's fanatical obsession with bombing Iran, and also, apparently, his significant mustache. Still, it's a pretty big leap from calling his former colleague "one of the dumbest people in Washington" to tempting fate to strike him dead in the midst of a very real public health crisis.
Which isn't to say Trump wanted all of his subordinates to die of COVID. As described in the same passage from Nightmare Scenario:
At one meeting several months [before Trump got sick], [National Economic Council Director] Larry Kudlow had stifled a cough. The room had frozen. ... Trump had waved his hands in front of his face, as if to jokingly ward off any flying virus particles, and then cracked a smile. "I was just kidding," he'd said. "Larry will never get COVID. He will defeat it with his optimism."
Is ... is that how it works? Like The Secret, you just put some positivity out there into the universe, and then horrifying viruses can't kill you? Huh. Honestly, I'm starting to think Trump might not actually be the high-level medical expert he claims he to be.