President Donald Trump’s use of the bully pulpit to defy his own government’s advice on face coverings has turned into the era’s latest ideologically motivated assault on science and civility.
The simple act of wearing a mask to protect others during a pandemic is now a political and cultural flashpoint, underscoring the polarization afflicting every corner of American life.
His noncompliance is a symbol of his refusal to adopt the customary codes of the presidency during a crisis and his habit of turning even a dire national moment to political advantage.
The episode is unfolding at a particularly intense moment of the President’s cycle of distortion and distraction; in a first on Tuesday, Twitter appended a fact-check warning to one of his tweets.
Trump and his White House are mocking presumptive Democratic 2020 rival Joe Biden for wearing a mask in public as conservative commentators brand the practice as elite liberal fear-mongering.
Biden, in his first in-person interview since the stay-at-home orders, lashed back at Trump in reply, telling CNN’s Dana Bash that the President’s “macho” and “falsely masculine” behavior was “stoking deaths” in comments that will only deepen national estrangement on the issue.
“He’s a fool, an absolute fool to talk that way. I mean every leading doc in the world is saying you should wear a mask when you’re in a crowd,” Biden said.
“And especially when you know you’re going to be in a position where you’re going to inadvertently get closer than 12 feet to somebody.”