The ultimate October surprise is not a surprise at all

  • Saturday, October 10, 2020 1:30am
  • Opinion

Karma (noun): The sum of a person’s actions decide that person’s fate…The intent and actions of an individual influence the future of that individual.

And so it has happened. Trump testing positive for the coronavirus – four weeks before the election, no less – certainly looks like the ultimate October surprise. But when we consider his long string of actions (or, more precisely, his lack of action), it doesn’t seem surprising at all.

We are the sum of the choices we make. We are condemned to consequences. Or, as Clint Eastwood said in his film Unforgiven, “We all have it coming, kid.”

Forgive me for sounding heartless about Trump’s health, but by dint of his reckless behavior, he’s long had it coming.

Last week, at the debate he desecrated, Trump mocked Joe Biden’s safety regimen.

“I don’t wear masks like him. Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from (people), and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen,” Trump said.

Just a few weeks ago, Trump staged a maskless super-spreader rally in Pennsylvania, where all the saps joined in laughter as he mocked Biden again.

“Did you ever see a man that likes a mask as much as him? It gives him a feeling of security. If I was a psychiatrist, I’d say this guy has some big issues,” Trump said.

And so on. No need here to recap the quack’s shameless rhetorical record – about how the virus would disappear like a miracle, about how he’s smarter than the scientists, yadda yadda – because the big question is: What happens next?

How will the markets react? If Trump is in quarantine for days or weeks does that put the kibosh on the remaining debates (or move them to Zoom)? If he becomes symptomatic or worse – if he becomes too ill even to tweet – at what point would he be compelled to temporarily relinquish power, and who makes that call? The 25th Amendment allows Trump to cede control to Mike Pence (who just tested negative), but to reclaim his crown when he’s deemed able, but who’d make that call?

Or perhaps we’re getting too far ahead of ourselves. All we know right now is that an incumbent who’s on the ballot four weeks hence – an obese 74-year-old in the highest risk category, with a history of mystery visits to Walter Reed – has been infected with a killer disease after sowing irresponsibility among his cultists and turning the White House into a Petri dish. In what remains of this unprecedented presidential, there’s no other issue now. The blood of 208,000 dead Americans is on his hands – as well as his own.

“Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” cried Lady Macbeth. Oh well, too late.

Yes, I am offering thoughts and prayers for Trump’s health. Nobody should have such a disease. But right now I’m more concerned about whether the COVID poster child’s 90-minute spittle-yelling put Joe Biden in any danger.

The future of this benighted nation may hinge on that.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at Email him at

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