Opinion | Lincoln Has Another Lesson for Trump

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Perhaps they have mused on how fragile life is and our civilization is. How our planet burns. How there may be more to discover in just being still than in running. How less may be more. How much a loved one may be missed. How hollow the temples of consumption are; and how, one morning through the mist, the towers of Manhattan may look like the medieval towers of San Gimignano, relics from another era.

Trump, now at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, is alone battling the virus within him. Alone with his thoughts and a tenacious, unpredictable thing that he belittled.

It was an angry, barking, surly, rude, defiant Trump who showed up for the first debate with Joe Biden and made no secret of his contempt for American democracy. He said of the balloting that has already begun, “It’s a fraud, and it’s a shame.”

Perhaps his supporters saw in him a muscular American self-reliance. I saw a parody of that — a relentless aggression as veneer over desperation — and a clear and present danger to the Republic.

Before Trump tested positive for the virus, he boasted on Twitter, “I won the debate.” That’s loony. There was one clear loser: America. I was on a French radio show a couple of hours after the debate ended, and the segment opened with a 20-second clip of Trump, Biden and the moderator, Chris Wallace, all shouting at once.

That’s the world’s image of Trump’s America: chaos and gobbledygook.

What now, at less than five weeks from the election? We have our October surprise. Trump’s symptoms are relatively mild, the White House says, but of course they could worsen. Trump may have to quarantine for almost half the time that remains before Election Day. No more big rallies full of unmasked people. No more mocking of Biden for wearing a big mask. Trump’s braggadocio, part of his appeal to millions of Americans, is in tatters.

He is mortal, and truth, like science, is relentless. Perhaps there will be a sympathy vote for him. Perhaps he will recover quickly with a redoubled conviction that the virus is an exaggerated threat, or declaring that his enduring through the illness means that God wants him to be president. But what I feel is the curtain coming down and closing a chapter of American derangement.

The virus is Trump’s deus ex machina. Not his retribution but his salvation, because the road he has trodden can only lead to disaster. I wish him a good recovery, and Americans the desperately needed renaissance whose name is Joe Biden.

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