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    Donald Trump proves he is still capable of shocking his opponents, and still the circus showman

    JUSTIN WEBB: As Donald Trump proves he is still capable of shocking his opponents, don’t write off the circus showman just yet

    He’s done it again. All the rules broken. All the normal conventions ditched. 

    His opponents, who thought they had seen it all, forced to concede that this man is still capable of surprising them, of shocking them. 

    Even as the President visibly gasped for breath in that extraordinary balcony appearance at the White House, his critics were left gasping as well. 

    For when Donald Trump told Americans ‘Don’t be afraid of Covid’, millions of them will have cheered. 

    Donald Trump (pictured) was accused of spreading misleading information about Covid last night as he told Americans they would have to learn to live with the virus.

    Just as there was a groundswell of support when our own Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, told us last month that coronavirus was going to be part of life, that we ‘must learn to live with it and live without fear’. 

    America is vast. Plenty of Americans and their families and friends are relatively unscathed by coronavirus but greatly affected by the economic disaster it has imposed. This is the message they want to hear. 

    Politically it could work wonders for Trump, energising people to go out and vote. 

    His ally and friend Rudy Giuliani – the mayor of New York when terrorists hit the twin towers on 9/11 – said: ‘I’d urge those people who haven’t made up their minds: Isn’t that what you want leading America, you want somebody who’s a fighter? 

    ‘Sure, he may get injured in the fight. This is an injury. But this is the kind of guy you want leading your country.’ 

    Trump’s message that he has taken on the virus and won may be premature, but it is upbeat at a time when voters need the feelgood factor, and it’s a strategy that many believe could help his faltering campaign.

     A strategy, too, that seems in contrast to that of our own Prime Minister in recent weeks. 

    President Trump rips off his mask as he addressed the nation to go out and vote. He said be careful adding  the country has the best medicines in the world

    President Trump rips off his mask as he addressed the nation to go out and vote. He said be careful adding  the country has the best medicines in the world

    Ever since Boris Johnson had his frightening brush with the virus, critics have accused him of a caution quite unsuited to a time of national crisis. 

    At a deeper level, Trump’s show-boating performance also taps into something uniquely American. 

    It is the blurring of the distinction between myth and reality, between fiction and truth. 

    Think of the inventor of the modern circus, P T Barnum. In 19th-century America, he thrilled people with freak shows, human oddities, weird things that boggled the mind. 

    It was not clear whether Barnum’s circus performers were real or fake but nobody cared. 

    They loved it. No other major nation has even attempted the blurring of reality and fantasy that America has. 

    The point is simple but often missed: America’s rational brain and irrational heart are not in conflict. 

    They are essential organs in a deeply strange body. They always have been. This is what Donald Trump instinctively knows. 

    This is his strength. He needs no cocktail of drugs to energise him when it comes to understanding how to play to this American trait: Nobody in the modern era has done it better. 

    But wait. It is worth adding that none of this suggests all his strong-man posturing will be politically successful. It is one thing to rev up his support base. 

    It is another to persuade worried Americans that ignoring the virus, ripping off the masks, is wise or sensible or kindly. 

    Earlier the President visibly gasped for breath as he climbed the steps for that extraordinary balcony appearance at the White House

    Earlier the President visibly gasped for breath as he climbed the steps for that extraordinary balcony appearance at the White House

    It could be that the gentler Trump, seen briefly without makeup and swagger in the hospital, might have been the politically wiser persona to adopt. 

    He seemed briefly vulnerable, and thankful, even humble. Well, not quite humble, but you see what I mean. 

    Perhaps the best option would be a combination of the two approaches – ‘live without fear’ but respect the damage the virus can do. 

    But to use his illness as a stepping stone to a second term, Trump must get well and get well soon. And that, even he will be unable to fake. 

    Justin Webb, a presenter of Radio 4’s Today programme, was the BBC’s North America editor from 2007 to 2009

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