Fintan O'Toole: Trump's illusion of immunity has been exposed by the virus

Covid-19 reveals the great weakness of authoritarianism: the leader’s body

US president Donald Trump has surprised supporters gathered outside the Walter Reed Medical Center, where he is receiving treatment for Covid-19, by riding past in a motorcade. Video: Reuters/The White House

“There are some who would have thought him mad. His followers felt that he was not. It was necessary to hear and see and touch him to be sure he was not.” – Edgar Allan Poe, The Masque of the Red Death (1842)

In his admiring memoir, Team of Vipers, Cliff Sims, a former assistant to the US president, describes the system of authority at Donald Trump’s White House. It is that of not a managerial hierarchy but a royal court in which everything revolves around the person of the monarch: “The real org chart . . . was basically Trump in the middle and everyone he personally knew connected to him – like a hub and its spokes.”

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