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Why Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis may be a ‘body blow’ to his supporters

With only a month left for the elections,the President, First Lady, a few top aides including his campaign manager and several Senators have tested positive for COVID-19, redirecting the Trump re-election campaign. Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss possible political implications.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    For more on the political implications of the president's coronavirus diagnosis with just a few weeks left until election day, I spoke with Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield who joined us from Santa Barbara, California.

    Jeff, last time we spoke, you said fate is not done with this campaign. What are the political consequences of what's happened this week and more specifically, the president's positive COVID test?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Well, the argument from the Trump people is that this actually came, oddly enough, at a time when they needed a break. There was a story of his taxes, there was a calamitous debate, which a new New York Times poll out just today shows really hurt him in Florida and Pennsylvania. You had the stories about white supremacy. And so, in this sense, the campaign gets frozen and there may be a feeling of goodwill the way there was when Reagan was shot in 1981.

    The counter argument is, wait a minute, in a sense, Trump helped set the politicization of this illness. And I think one of the consequences may be that from Trump's most ardent supporters, who've rallied around his case, that it's a hoax or a fraud, it's overstated, it's political, the mask is an intrusion on freedom, this has got to be a bit of a body blow. And if I'm a big Trump contributor who went out to Bedminster, New Jersey, when Trump came there to raise money, knowing that one of his closest aides was positive, that might not sit so well.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Should candidate Biden, former Vice President Biden, should they be out on the campaign trail considering that the incubation period for the virus that we know about is still several days? Are they putting themselves or the people around them in greater danger?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    It's a fair question. I think the answer from the Biden people say, look, we spent six months being as careful as humanly possible. We've been criticized, ridiculed for taking care and why do we have to be punished because of our correct behavior, versus the other side's reckless behavior? No, I don't think that's going to fly.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    What are your concerns for the president, kind of long term, not just physically?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    The president's entire approach to life, not just politics, is domination. He's written about this often: I have to win, somebody has to lose. That's why he was looming behind Hillary Clinton at that debate in 2016. That's why he slaps the nickname "Little" on people like Marco Rubio, Adam Schiff—little, I'm bigger than you. That's who he is. And his whole argument about Biden is, he's too weak. He loves that approach with opponents—I'm the strong guy. So for the president to be in a hospital bed while his opponent is out on the campaign trail, you have to wonder what that does to him psychologically when his entire life is organized around the idea that, I can't be weak.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    You, as well as the rest of the nation, saw the president's doctor at a microphone today. Given the administration's track record, the lack of transparency on issues around COVID, is it legitimate to have doubt?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Yeah, on two grounds.

    First, there's the history, a presidential history of obfuscation. Grover Cleveland had emergency jaw surgery and that was kept secret. Woodrow Wilson had a stroke that was kept hidden. Franklin Roosevelt was dying in 1944 of congestive heart failure. John Kennedy had all kinds of illnesses that were covered up.

    The second thing is, this White House has been completely stonewalling about a lot of issues about the president's medical history. Why did he go to Walter Reed several months ago?

    So, yeah, there are grounds for at least skepticism about whether the public is getting the true story on something that the public has every right to know. We're being asked to re-elect this president and if we're not getting transparent, clear, honest information about his health, that's a pretty serious matter.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Jeff Greenfield, thanks so much for joining us.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    OK, Hari.

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