First, a quick note: Joe and Jill Biden have tested negative for the virus.
Many of my friends, who I consider reasonable people, have spent the morning freaking out on social media about the President's Covid-19 infection. I'm a little alarmed and a little sad. Alarmed, because an unhealthy proportion of my friends seem to believe that the President or the White House is lying about it, perhaps to get out of the debate in two weeks, or perhaps to set up a hero's narrative when the President gets better.
I absolutely do not believe these conspiracy theories, not just because Occam's Razor says that someone who meets with dozens of unmasked people every day while spreading more disinformation about the disease than any other single source on the planet is pretty likely to catch it. I see also that the White House has (a) failed to provide information about how or when he may have contracted the virus; (b) downplayed his symptoms; but (c) already put the Vice President on stand-by, as further confirmation that he's actually sick. He's also a well-known germophobe who hates the thought of being infected with something more than he hates the thought of answering questions about his taxes. The evidence that he really has Covid-19 seems convincing, regardless of how he or his campaign may try to spin it later.
That aside, I'm also a little sad. Five years of constantly lying and actively tearing down our institutions has led to very smart people (e.g., my friends) immediately suspecting that this is just one more lie. The President and his pack of lickspittles and cronies have so damaged the country that people I love are wondering what his angle is in this announcement. He's 74 years old, obese, with some evidence of frontotemporal dementia—there is no angle here. If his disease progression is typical for someone with his comorbidities and age, he could be very sick two weeks from now. The Administration invoking the 25th Amendment—mere days before an election, something no president would ever want to happen for any conceivable reason—is now likelier than at any previous moment in his term.
The President contracting Covid-19 after nine months of lying about it and refusing to observe even the simplest prevention techniques in his own house is a breathtaking example of literary irony. That smart, thoughtful people on both sides of American politics immediately thought he was lying about it is its own irony. With only the slimmest apologies to Marx, the first is tragedy; the second, farce.
I sincerely hope the President and First Lady recover quickly, so he is fully aware and healthy when he loses the election, faces multiple criminal indictments in New York and other states, and pays hundreds of millions of dollars back to the US in tax penalties, as the institutions he's spent years trying to break show they still function just fine. Let him live to old age a pauper or an exile.