I ask this question in genuine perplexity, no sarcasm attached: How does Donald Trump fall asleep at night?
When the president slipped into bed last night, Tuesday, May 12, which way did his worries turn first — toward Capitol Hill or the U.S. Supreme Court?
On Capitol Hill Tuesday morning, U.S. senators listened to the nation’s most trusted coronavirus expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who tried his best to be diplomatic but essentially called the president a very dangerous fool.
Meanwhile, a few blocks away, at the Supreme Court, arguments were held over Trump’s desperate attempts to hide his tax returns and business records.
Who puts up such a fuss as Trump if he’s got nothing shameful in those records?
Come to think of it, what could be worse than the stuff we already know? Like the $280,000 in hush money payments to a couple of Trump’s lady friends, to help swing the last presidential election?
Or the money Trump’s bilked from innocent people with his phony university and his phony charity, and those tax returns he promised during the last campaign that he’d release the moment the IRS finished auditing him?
Or as Trump laid his head on his pillow Tuesday night, did he worry more about the high court’s arguments over financial records from Capitol One and Deutsche Bank into Russian money laundering and potential foreign influence?
There’s so much for Trump to worry about, which rattled around Washington on Tuesday, that it’s hard to know what stuff consumed him the most.
Such as the Senate hearing on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the grotesque pats on the back Trump insists on giving himself.
“We have met the moment and prevailed,” Trump declares.
He says this as the death toll across America slips past 82,000, and while a key coronavirus model often cited by the White House recently forecast that 147,000 Americans will die by Aug. 4.
He says this while urging individual states to “liberate” themselves and go back to pre-virus days — while Dr. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned this Senate panel that Americans might experience “suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery.”
For Trump, this is part of a delusionary pattern. Last week, he told us the coronavirus “is going to go away without a vaccine. There could be flare-ups,” but the virus would disappear on its own.
“That is just not going to happen,” Dr. Fauci said.
What magic allows this president to fall asleep each night, with so much information hovering about that threatens to make him look like a fool, a cheat and a liar?
He doesn’t miss an opportunity to congratulate himself over a job well done on the coronavirus. And yet at Tuesday’s senate hearing, we had Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) pointing out that back in March, when the president was still in public denial, the U.S. had lost nine people to the virus and South Korea 28.
But while South Korea moved quickly into testing and other preparations for the onslaught, Trump dithered and denied. And by Monday, May 11, South Korea’s death toll was 256.
And America’s was about 82,000.
Oh, except for this: at Tuesday’s hearing, Dr. Fauci noted that many have died, especially in the early days of the virus, while at home. They never got to a hospital. No one yet knew the cause of death.
The 82,000 number, Dr. Fauci said, is likely even higher.
Is that what President Trump thought about when he got into bed Tuesday night? Or did he think about the Supreme Court and the fight over his financial records?
It’s a simple, honest, perplexing question: How in the world does this guy manage to fall asleep each night?
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books, including “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age” (Johns Hopkins University Press).