Observations of an expat: Trump, Covid and me

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Donald Trump and I have something in common. We are both on steroids. And I can tell you from personal experience, that heavy doses of steroids can affect you mentally – and physically.

It can make you angry and a shade irrational. Just ask my wife. In fact she says I should delete the word “shade”. In my case it affects my feet and hands as well; swelling the feet and making the hands shake.

The reason for these changes is that steroids dramatically and rapidly push up your sugar levels. It is a bit like suddenly swallowing a kilo of the white stuff in one 10 second sitting. You become hyper. I have also become a steroid diabetic. As President Trump weighs about 20 kilos more than me, it is possible that he has suffered the same or similar fate.

In my case, I have to take steroids for a chronic cancer called Multiple Myeloma. The bad news is that the nature of the cancer, the steroids and a bewildering cocktail of other drugs, means that I will be boring you with this column for many years to come. Steroids affect your behaviour and your quality of life. But they save lives. They don’t end them.

Your body also adjusts to the initial onslaught of steroids and the chemicals that accompany them. In my case it took about four months and a reduction in steroid intake. I have no idea how long it will take Trump to physically and mentally acclimatise. But, I can assure you that a weekend at Walter Reed Hospital – no matter how good the doctors are – is insufficient.

Of course, Donald Trump’s behaviour was erratic in the extreme long before he swallowed his first dose of dexamethasone. He stands apart as a person who refuses to accept that the laws of nature and man apply to him. Facts, historical records and evidence of our own senses are an irrelevancy as far as Donald J. Trump is concerned.

For his supporters, that is a big part of Trump’s appeal.  For them laws and rules equate to restrictions and constraints in a country dubbed the “Land of Liberty,” and respect for physical strength often goes hand in hand with disdain for the normal rules of behaviour.

Throughout history ruthless brawn has too often been valued over brain as the most sought after characteristic of leaders. William the Conqueror was illiterate. So was Genghis Khan. In fact the Mongols did not have a written language until the great Asian ruler was 40 years old. Clovis the First – the sixth century founder of France – also preferred mastering sword play than the written word.

An illiterate political leader is unthinkable in the modern world. But at the same time there is almost an unbreakable connection in the public mind between physical strength and mental agility. Vladimir Putin, goes to great lengths to be photographed shirtless as often as possible. A photo opportunity of a jogging president with his phalanx of secret service agents is almost mandatory.

When political leaders suffer illness it is covered up. The withered legs of Franklin Roosevelt were one of Washington’s best kept secrets; as was John F. Kennedy’s debilitating back problems. Churchill bullied his doctor Lord Moran into hushing up a series of strokes which started as early as 1941 and eventually forced his retirement in 1955.

There is reams of evidence to prove that poor health has resulted in bad political decisions. In 1956 British Prime Minister Anthony Eden was taking a drug called Benzedrine to relieve the pain from a blocked bile duct. Benzedrine was the wonder drug of the day. Now it is classed as a dangerous amphetamine which causes insomnia and severe mood swings – not too dissimilar from steroids.  Eden’s blocked bile duct and the Benzedrine have been blamed by many for the irrational behaviour which led to the disastrous Suez War.

Steroids are being blamed for the even more erratic than usual behaviour of President Trump, and one of the main reasons why the Joe Biden is widening the gap between himself and the current occupant of the White House. Perhaps I should send the president some extra pills.


* American expat journalist Tom Arms is a regular contributor and author of the forthcoming book “America: Made in Britain.”

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  • Thought Trump was on a five day dose of drugs not a lifetime of them but what is quite frightening, a second Trump term when he does not have to worry about being re-elected so can get really weird… I guess even more worrying would be a Trump about to die with his hand hovering over the nuclear button.

  • John Marriott 10th Oct '20 - 9:47am

    Yes, Mr Arms, my view as well. You won’t be getting any stick from me! As for Frank West’s assertion about POTUS not needing to worry about being re-elected if, God forbid, he wins a second term, I wouldn’t be so sure. Before his fall from grace, I believe that Richard Nixon was speculating about getting the US altered to enable him to continue past a second term, as FDR had done. So, who knows?

    Trump reckons that he is “a perfect physical specimen”. Well, besides stretching “perfection” to limits never seen before, it begs the question whether that his is the standard to which we all should aim. I wonder whether the nodding donkeys behind him when he speaks would agree?

    One final note about hiding illness. Didn’t Woodrow Wilson’s wife virtually run the White House after her husband suffered a stroke in 1919 and was virtually incapacitated for the remainder of his term in office? As for JFK, one could add that, by the time he became President, he was a walking pharmacy thanks to all the drugs he was taking to combat, among other conditions, Addison’s disease, which might also have accounted for his high libido. No wonder he had a ‘bad back’, if half the stories about his philandering are to be believed!

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