U.S. Lives Depend on ‘How Alert, Healthy a President Is’

U.S. Lives Depend on ‘How Alert, Healthy a President Is’


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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Donald Trump was to be moved from the White House, to the Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., opening even more questions about the government of the United States only hours after it was revealed that Trump tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Plans to hospitalize Trump emerge after he developed a fever and cough, according to reports.

“Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the President will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days,” the White House said in a statement. 

Trump’s hospitalization, however, raised more questions particularly related to continuity of government.

President Barack Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, was among those who mentioned the potential of the 25th Amendment to ensure continuous presidential leadership, in which presidential powers can be passed to the vice president or other official in the presidential line of succession if necessary.

“Well, it has been used in the past when presidents have been temporarily incapacitated. It’s not quite as clear, at least in my mind, about what happens if the vice president is incapacitated,” Clapper said. “So one thing I trust, or I hope, is that the vice president is being isolated and is being careful about he’s not being infected. The other thing I think we have to be mindful of, is that the typical pattern of the COVID is, if come down with it, that the first few days are typically mild symptoms.

“And so the real issue here I think is going to be in a few days to see which path this disease takes, particularly with the president,” he added. “But I think all of the rest of the government is going to be, you know, leaning forward and being on the alert. I think another issue to be — the speculation about, will someone, some nation state or non-nation state do something to try to ‘take advantage,’ air quotes, of the situation. I’ve said that’s certainly theoretically possible, but I think at this point it’s very unlikely.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is third in line in presidential succession, said that she has not been contacted by the White House about continuity of government.

“No, they haven’t, but that is an ongoing [discussion] — not with the White House, but with the military, quite frankly, in terms of some officials in the government,” she said. “Let us just all pray for the president’s health and thank God the vice president has tested negatively, and the second lady as well. So again, that continuity of government is always in place. I always say it’s a relic of the past, but nonetheless, they say we have our job we have to do, and this is what we’ll do. So I wouldn’t go so much to that, but I do — I do think that it’s really important for people to know that every infection is a sad one.

“The president of the United States, of course, but every single one now, we’ve gone over such a high number in our country of infections. Every one of them a sad occasion. Over 209,000 deaths. A tragedy beyond even comprehension one year ago and still more to come,” Pelosi said. “But maybe this will be the moment where people will say, ‘Okay. Mask, distance, sanitation, tracing, treatment.’ And also recognizing that many people in the minority community, people of color, disproportionately affected by this. People in the Native American community, very, very disproportionately affected by this. So let’s understand the diagnosis that our country has had at the highest level and recognize that every life, every diagnosis is important to us. And the health needs — having the treatment is very important. We’re glad the president has it. We want it for everyone. That’s in our bill.”

Famed presidential historian Michael Beschloss said that he was shocked at how cavalierly White House staffers are treating mask-wearing and social distancing–even after Trump’s infection.

“I mean, the sight of [White House chief of staff] Mark Meadows this morning without a mask was shocking to me. And I do hope that does not suggest that there’s casualness about this at the White House, but I’ve also seen pictures this morning of the president’s medical adviser, Scott Atlas, also without a mask,” Beschloss said. “After everything that’s happened in the last 24 hours, I can’t believe that’s happening, but it is. You know, these people, this is not just their lives, our lives, the lives of our children, our future all depend on how alert and healthy a president is and what kind of a future he and his people have.”

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