In the post on Twitter, Herman Cain was surrounded by four grinning Trumpers, presumably members of Black Voices for Trump, which Cain co-chaired. They were crowded together at the Tulsa Trump rally on June 20, a maskless audience in the front rows of a mostly empty hall. Seat signs that intended to enforce social distancing — an easy mission when there are more empty seats than occupied ones — were removed by President Donald Trump's staff.
Within two weeks, the man who managed to beat stage 4 cancer, was hospitalized for the coronavirus. On Thursday, nearly six weeks after he was "having a fantastic time" at the rally, he died in the hospital due to complications from the coronavirus.
Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather Pizza and former presidential candidate, was famous for his "9-9-9" tax plan (9% individual income tax, 9% corporate income tax and 9% national sales tax). He greatly contributed to the liveliness of the 2012 debates, if not to the results of any primary.
At the time he was hospitalized, aides recognized that attention would be focused on his attendance at the rally but added that he had also done a lot of traveling. Eight members of the president's advance team and eight Secret Service detail were also infected with the virus in the same time span, as were a fast-growing number of Oklahoma residents, contributing to the major spike in cases that the state has experienced.
Even so, in a Twitter post now deleted but widely reported, Cain (or whoever tweets as him) appeared to condone, and certainly did not condemn, the no-mask-needed policy for Trump's 4th of July event at Mount Rushmore: "Masks will not be mandatory for the event, which will be attended by President Trump. PEOPLE ARE FED UP!"
"FED UP" with what?
On his website, Cain argued that social distancing, sanitizing and hand-washing would allow us to open the economy safely. But he also endorsed the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which, by June, had been shown to be totally ineffective in treating COVID-19.
Wednesday, the day before Cain's death, another Trumper, who had actively participated in House hearings the day before, confirmed that he had tested positive. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican known for his maskless appearance in the Capitol, was supposed to travel with Trump on Air Force One and said he was suffering no symptoms when lined up on the White House lawn for testing.
Lest there be any doubt: The president's seemingly superhuman resistance to the virus around him is mostly the product of the very sort of comprehensive testing he has denounced — for fear it would drive the numbers up — when it comes to protecting others.
In a video recorded in Gohmert's office after he tested positive, the Texas Trumper blamed his diagnosis of the "Wuhan virus" on the fact that he had been wearing a mask for the past week or so.
"If I hadn't been wearing a mask so much in the last 10 days or so, I really wonder if I would have gotten it," Gohmert told a reporter.
He announced that he, too, would be treated with the thoroughly ineffective and potentially dangerous hydroxychloroquine.
In another administration, we might dismiss such thinking as no more than quackery. On Monday, the president and his son were censured by Twitter for posting false information about the positive effects of hydroxychloroquine. The tweets highlighted the view of a so-called expert, neglecting to mention that her other work includes suggesting the DNA of aliens is used in medical treatments.
Every time they tweet this stuff and take it down, people blame the left for censoring the president. That is what Trump has taught them to do. They believe what he says, even though it keeps getting labeled as false. People are supposed to be able to trust the president in times of crisis. That's what the bully pulpit is for. This president has abused that power.
Trump's state of denial and his spread of "scientifically fake news" to serve his politics seems to be catching up with him in the polls. His mishandling of both the pandemic and the economy may well lead to his defeat in November.
But between now and then, it is leading to more sickness and death. And that is a tragedy.
Rest in peace, Herman Cain.
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore