WASHINGTON. Seven weeks after President Dwight D. Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in 1955, he emerged from his hospital room for a photo-op. Sitting in a wheelchair, Eisenhower sported maroon-colored pajamas with five stars on the collar, denoting his rank as General of the Army during WWII. And the words “Much Better Thanks” embroidered over the left breast pocket.
The pajamas were a gift from the Washington press corps, some of whom stormed the beaches at Normandy as soldiers under Ike’s command. Some of them covering the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France as reporters for news services.
The White House Rodney Dangerfield
President Donald J. Trump, on the other hand, received a decidedly colder reception from the scribbling class when leaving Walter Reed Hospital following a 3-night stay for treatment to combat Covid-19.
The following exchange occurred on MSNBC,
Anchor Brian William:
“Donald Trump, now under treatment for the deadly coronavirus, and contagious with it, tonight checked himself out of Walter Reed Hospital. The leader of the nation that leads the world in coronavirus deaths, walked out of the brass front doors of Walter Reed for the greatest possible effect. He could not have liked either of the questions yelled at him by a reporter.”
“Mr. President, how many staff are sick? How many of your staff are sick? Do you think you might be a super-spreader, Mr. President?”
CNN’s Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter experienced something of a meltdown as Marine One conveyed the president to the White House South Lawn,
“We are seeing the president exerting his power, right? The leader of the Executive Branch showing off all the tools at his disposal.
“And it reminds me a little bit of the night at the Republican Convention when the president – there on that same South Lawn – held his acceptance speech. It was just a few short weeks ago. And he used that same stage that he is now using to portray a victory from the coronavirus. When he is quite sick. When every indication is that he is still not out of the woods.
“But he wants us all to see and believe he’s out of the woods. It is a contradiction made in front of our eyes. It’s hard for folks to wrap their heads around.
“So, I hope that doctors and experts on all the channels, including on the president’s favorite channel, are putting this in context and explaining that the president is trying to portray himself as the winner against a deadly virus. But it is the virus that is in charge.”
The president’s dramatic photo-op, you see, worked to diminish media hysteria surrounding COVID-19 and its survivability. Their cherry-picked “doctors and experts” have been inconsistent, to say the least, whether the question is on the efficacy of face masks or the effectiveness of experimental vaccines, some of which were used to treat the president.
Rallying around the president
Anti-Trump media’s anger is understandable. Americans tend to rally around a president during times of war or when he is ill. The public outpouring of support for President Ronald Reagan after he was shot by John Hinckley in 1981 is a case in point.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Reagan…
“… emerged from the ordeal with a much stronger bond with the public, one that stayed with him through the rest of his presidency.”
The Times forgot to mention that this outpouring of support translated into votes and a second term for the Reagan/Bush team in 1984. Does anyone remember the name of Reagan’s Democratic opponent?
Large and in charge
Trump, like Reagan, understands that optics – walking tall from Walter Reed and flying back to the White House – is far more powerful than peevish media vitriol.
And President Trump added a much-needed message of positivity and hope for his fellow Americans, but the media was the intended target.
“One thing’s for certain: Don’t let it [COVID-19] dominate you.”
He added that “we have the best medicines, all developed recently” and reminded members of the press he is a willing test subject for these experimental treatments.
“I know there’s a risk, there’s a danger, but that’s OK. And now I’m better…”
And that’s what really scares members of the press, like CNN’s Brian Stelter. They will soon face the uncomfortable realization that it is Trump, not the coronavirus, who “is in charge.”
Top Image: President Trump arrives at the White House after stay at Walter Reed Hospital. CNN screen capture.