Biden should have called Trump out as Covid’s Typhoid Mary

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL December 7, 2021

Photo by Branimir Balogović on Unsplash

I have to say I agree with Jamelle Bouie (paywall): Joe Biden was wrong not to highlight Donald Trump’s criminal negligence as a Covid version of Typhoid Mary.

Mr Bouie did not compare Mr Trump to Typhoid Mary – that’s my embroidering of his argument. But his argument is valid: Mr Trump, we have learned, tested positive for Covid before his first presidential debate with Joe Biden, but still attended that debate, as well as his Rose Garden celebration with his Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, and a meeting with Gold Star military families.

He “exposed dozens, if not hundreds, of people, including his 77-year-old opponent, to a potentially deadly illness,” writes Mr Bouie. “It was a remarkable demonstration of his selfish indifference to the health and welfare of everyone around him.”

In other words, Mr Trump acted like a 21st century Typhoid Mary.

Mary Mallon, aka Typhoid Mary, was an Irish cook who immigrated to the United States. She was identified as an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid. For years, she continued to flout the New York health authorities’ explicit instructions that she stop working as a cook, adroitly using fake names to pursue her profession. As I have written before, Typhoid Mary caused typhoid outbreaks everywhere she went and is thought to have caused at least three deaths. However, her sneaky dodging of the authorities means the exact toll of her carelessness and callousness is not really known.

Whatever the outrage over the behaviour of an itinerant cook, it can’t really compare to how one feels to learn that a serving president of the United States was so heedless about others’ wellbeing.

So, to Mr Biden’s calm response to a question about Mr Trump’s negligence. He didn’t really answer, only choosing to offer the nirvanic observation that he did not “think about the former president.”

That’s ridiculous. It’s all very well to be high-minded and to be seen to be getting on with the job, but it’s not right to dismiss another’s negligence.

As Mr Bouie has said, “The news of Trump’s decision to endanger everyone around him was an opportunity…for Biden to emphasize the many and overlapping disasters he inherited from the former president and how both Trump and his party were poor stewards of the United States and the American people. A sharp remark would have put Trump’s failure back in the news and forced other Republicans to respond to it — on Biden’s terms. Instead, by speaking as if he’s above the controversy, the president has, in effect, defused it.”