Last year, Politico called him ‘the most germ-conscious man to ever lead the free world’. The same magazine quoted a Trump campaign official saying: ‘If you’re the perpetrator of a cough or of a sneeze or any kind of thing that makes you look sick, you get that look. You get the scowl. You get the response of — he’ll put a hand up in a gesture of, you should be backing away.’ He once told the radio star Howard Stern that he washes his hands every day ‘as many times as possible’. One of his old cronies, Anthony Scaramucci, saw it up close: ‘If you’re standing by him, and you’re going to look at something on his desk, and you lick your index finger to open the thing to try to catch an edge on the paper, he’ll smack your hand and be like “What are you, disgusting?”’
So why, why, why did Trump not go nuclear on COVID-19? Why on earth did he deny it, lie about it, undermine basic public health guidelines on it, refuse to wear a mask, mock those who did, market quack cures, and allow his own White House to host a super-spreader event that led to more COVID cases than the rest of Washington combined? For that matter, why didn’t this instinctually authoritarian man react to COVID by shutting down all US borders, and subject US citizens returning home — including from Europe — to the kind of hygienic ordeal he routinely demands of anyone who comes close to him? I don’t really have an answer. My best bet is simply that Trump is such a narcissist that his concern about germs is only ever about him. You can talk to him about the collective good for days on end and all you’ll get back are blank, uncomprehending eyes. And when you see his past attitude toward sickness, you see that he regards it as a sign of failure and weakness, which is why he is now touting his great genes in recovering so quickly.