President Trump missed a golden opportunity this week.
There he was, making a dramatic entrance to the White House after a short stay at Walter Reed Hospital where he was treated for Covid-19. The President gave a long salute and a thumbs up.
It was a moment, one where most Americans could say with a sense of relief, “The president of the United States is going to be okay.”
However, as we know, Trump has his own rules about these moments. He chose to pull off his mask before walking in the White House. Just that quickly he went from being a President who is strong and on the mend to a potentially lethal virus spreader.
Keeping the mask on would have been an important signal to the rest of the country; when you are infected, be careful so you do not infect others.
Additionally, the President tweeted, “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” That registered with his most ardent supporters who have been saying the same for months.
But the statement sets up a false dichotomy; it’s not an either/or choice.
Trump could have easily hit a sweet spot. How about something like this:
“I now have first-hand experience for what tens of thousands of Americans are going through and I understand your concerns. As your president, I’m going to do everything in my power to help keep you safe.
“We are not afraid, but we are cautious. We cannot let the virus dominate our lives, so we will keep the economy going. However, to do that we all must do our part to keep each other safe.
“And that starts at the top with me.”
Now, I know his harshest critics would ravage him. They would say that Trump’s epiphany came only after thousands of needless deaths, but those voters were never going to be with him anyway.
Trump supporters might cringe at the slight pivot, but he is their guy and they are going to stick with him no matter what.
But it just might have struck a chord with the limited number of undecided or wavering voters who are, like everyone else, exhausted by all things Covid. It would be an expression of empathy by the President that connects personally with voters.
It would say, “He gets it.”
The polls show Trump trailing, but Trump was also behind Hillary Clinton by double digits just a couple weeks before the 2016 election, so who knows?
However, the pandemic is THE issue of this campaign and if Trump loses, that moment Monday outside the White House will stand out as a missed opportunity.