“This proves I was right in what I’ve been saying for months,” said President Trump, stopping to speak to reporters on his way to Marine One. “Sleepy Joe is too weak to be President.”
“Sir, do you have a message for him and his family?” asked a reporter, shouting to be heard over the helicopter’s noise. She was plainly offering him an opportunity to be presidential, by sending prayers and/or well-wishes to the Biden family.
“Well, we’ll have to see,” replied the unmasked President, oblivious to the cue he’d been handed. “At his age — look, I’m pretty strong. I haven’t caught the China Virus, he has. I don’t know that Joe’s weak necessarily, but people are saying that. That giant mask he wears all the time didn’t do him any good, or so I’ve read. I hardly ever wear a mask, and look at me — doctors say I’m in perfect health! One of them told you all that I have incredible genes, you know, so… I don’t know — maybe I’m immune to this thing!”
It had been less than 24 hours since former Vice President Joe Biden had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and Mr. Trump had barely acknowledged Mr. Biden’s status — aside from a couple of late-night tweets that his supporters read as clever and his detractors saw as mocking Mr. Biden.
“Mr. President, will the remaining debates be canceled?” asked another reporter.
“I think that’s up to him,” replied Trump. “I’m willing to do it, you know, me standing there at a podium versus, what? A big screen? If he thinks he can keep up, from his bed, then why not?. And he’s not, you know — I don’t want to say that he’s old, but when it comes time for the next debate, who’s to say? He might be on a ventilator or whatever.”
After pausing a moment, he spoke again as if something new occurred to him. “Look, everybody knows that I won the first debate.”
When several reporters tried to object to that statement, he cut them off, shouting louder than anyone over the helicopter.
“Without question — without question! — I won the first debate, and you all know it. You all know it! But if Sleepy Joe makes it out of his hospital bed in time, and he feels like he’s strong enough to debate again, then let’s do it. I’ll win this one, too! But I seriously doubt Joe will be better in time, that’s just my gut feeling. And I wouldn’t want to do anything to make him feel worse, in his condition. It’d be a shame to make him feel weaker. He might be unable to continue his campaign.”
Amid a storm of other questions — including one asking if he’d suspend his attack ads while his opponent was convalescing — Trump waved the reporters off and retreated to Marine One. He was on his way to New Jersey, where he would hold a VIP fundraising event for investors willing to donate money in the hundreds of thousands of dollars toward his campaign. And where he’d also try to get in a round of 18 holes before the sun set.
The news media, meanwhile, was focusing all of its coverage on Biden. They said his family had been spared, probably thanks to his unwavering policy of always wearing a face mask outside of his home. He’d immediately quarantined himself as soon as his test result came back positive. Thankfully, no one in his family, none of his campaign staff, nor anyone else around him had contracted the disease.
But given his age, he was advised to be admitted to ensure that it wouldn’t progress into “COVID Pneumonia,” as they were calling it.
Biden had been scheduled for a television interview that evening on one of the major networks, and a small rally with running mate Kamala Harris the next day. He canceled the interview and sent Harris to the rally alone. He could have carried on as if nothing was wrong, keeping his diagnosis to himself. But it was common sense that no one could be foolish enough to continue attending events after being exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19.
Imagine the others that he could expose.
Instead, he sent out a message of gratitude to his supporters, thanking everyone for their prayers. He said that he was in good spirits and feeling fine. Believing in full transparency, Mr. Biden admitted to having a few scares: his temperature spiked a couple of times, and he’d had one episode of some mild to severe breathing difficulties. But the “extraordinary medical team,” in whom he had full confidence and the utmost respect, were helping him through it.
He ended with a personal appeal. “This experience has doubled my resolve that universal healthcare is absolutely crucial for all Americans,” he said. “ So very many have suffered from this terrible disease, without the care I have been blessed with — without affordable healthcare. They have withered away, died alone, some in hospital hallways, gasping their last breaths without loved ones at their side. This is America, and I promise you, our great nation can and will do better.”
Late that night, upon returning to the White House, Trump was red-faced livid. Particularly at Biden’s comments about Obamacare. Anonymous reports from inside the Oval Office said that Trump had fuming over all of the media coverage being focused on his rival.
“Biden could f*cking die from this f*cking China Virus, and he’d still get better coverage than me!” he was reportedly heard yelling in the West Wing. “I have to get back on top, or it’s all over! How do I get a win out of this? And why does the godd*mn media hate me so much? Those f*ckers love Joe, and all he did was get sick! And they have the f*cking nerve to ask me if I’ll stop my attack ads until he’s better? What, I’m supposed to wait around until the doctor sends him home with a clean bill of health and a lollipop? That’s bullsh*t!”
At 5:AM, he called Mitch McConnell, heaping further pressure on the Senate Majority Leader to get Supreme Court Justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett confirmed before the election.
“My entire f*cking campaign hinges on this win, Mitch!” he said, barely keeping his voice below a yell. “Biden is making the stupid corona thing into the top issue voters are going to be thinking about! Ballots are already being mailed in, and what if I can’t convince people that they’re cheating? What then? I need Barrett in that Court seat yesterday!”
With that, he hung up. Phone still in hand, he took a quick glance at Twitter, which showed that #getwelljoe, #weneedyoujoe, and #joestrong were the top tags trending on Twitter. He threw the phone across the room, where it shattered on the very old, very historic hardwood floor.
Later that day, a new series of ads began appearing on television and the Internet. They were placed in heavy rotation, and using the analytics provided by Facebook, YouTube, and other advertising platforms, the Trump campaign was able to target the ad to undecided voters between the ages of 30 and 60.
This followed on the heels of a “tweetstorm” from the President that began in the early hours of the morning. Trump passive-aggressively degraded Biden and his weak body’s inability to fight off what was basically “a bad case of the flu!”
These tweets, along with the ads that he’d approved to begin running later today, were the kinds of things that would normally turn off his Evangelicals. The ads showed that Trump wasn’t holding back anymore; he was going straight for the jugular. Compassion for his sick opponent was out the window. But he wasn’t worried; he knew that despite what the Bible said about “the lost Samaritan” or whatever, he had those Jesus nuts so deep in his pocket that he could do anything he wanted and it wouldn’t matter. He could pee on the Constitution and they’d find a way to justify it.
Part of him wanted to try it just to see what they’d come up with.
Trump’s first new ad began with a familiar image of Joe Biden in public, staring at the camera, wearing his black face mask and sunglasses. A slider slowly moved across the screen from left to right, revealing a transposed photo of a weaker, more tired looking man, smiling from a hospital bed. (Cropped out of the extreme closeup were his arms, both of which were extended with thumbs up, along with three of his nurses leaning in, smiling. The photo had been originally been sent out to Biden’s followers on social media with a message thanking nurses, the “most unsung heroes in America.”) As the slider crawled across the screen, a man’s voice that had never met a conspiracy it didn’t like spoke over the imagery. It called into question the efficacy of face masks, since their biggest political proponent had “gotten sick despite never taking his mask off.” It suggested that Biden had been using masks as a political weapon, cocked and fired against Trump’s “bravery and common sense” in the face of the mass panic over COVID that the Democrats would prefer to see.
It ended with the familiar, “I’m Donald Trump and I approved this message.”
Despite significant blow-back from haters and losers who saw the ad as “poorly timed and predictably tone deaf,” Trump was undeterred. He pushed forward with his second ad, which appeared later in the day.
It began with stock video of the exterior of the hospital where Biden was staying. As it panned inward, it faded into fast-moving, first-person camera that followed an empty gurney through the nondescript, white walls.
(This footage wasn’t filmed in the hospital where Biden was staying.)
“OBAMACARE?” said a booming, ominous voice, as the word appeared on the screen in big, all-caps, blue block letters. As the gurney continued zooming inhumanly fast through the spotless, sterile corridors, the letters melted, oozing down the screen in imagery obviously meant to evoke blood.
The voice next said, “HEALTHCARE FOR ALL?” as matching words were superimposed over the hospital hallways on the screen. Likewise, these words melted away.
The gurney finally ended its trip, turning into an empty hospital room. This image faded into photos of Joe Biden in his hospital bed (in his actual hospital room), surrounded by doctors and nurses.
“SOCIALISM” was the next voice/image combo, this one lacking the question mark. As these words melted, the ad cross-faded through half a dozen photos from inside Biden’s room, until finally settling on a picture of Biden himself, looking decidedly healthier than in other photos that were circulating. This picture was a more recent one, showing his recovery, with more color in his cheeks and an easier, more natural smile on his face.
The voice went as deep and sinister as it could as it intoned “COMMUNISM,” with matching words appearing over Biden’s guileless smile. These letters were in blood-red, and they never melted. There was no exclamation point. There was no need; it was strongly implied. As the photo zoomed-in on Biden’s face in the background, the voice boomed:
“THE BEST CARE YOUR TAXPAYER MONEY CAN BUY… FOR THE ULTRA-WEALTHY.”
Social media and newscasters had a field day with Trump’s “despicable attack ads” that were “hypocritical considering that he himself was among the nation’s ultra-wealthy,” not to mention how he’d “paid little to nothing on his taxes.”
The President nonetheless saw his poll numbers climb by 8% that day.