For three years, Americans, along with the rest of the world, have watched President Donald Trump run an administration unlike any other in U.S. history. He repeatedly broke norms, principles and traditions, upending the way all of his predecessors had governed. His many disruptions have taken their toll, but it took the emergence of a global pandemic to expose the full cost of Trump’s now-familiar patterns.
As the coronavirus spread, and a global crisis loomed, Trump resorted to the flawed habits and measures that have been the hallmark of his presidency. He relied on the advice of unqualified acolytes. He viewed himself as the subject and the object of events as they unfolded, framing the news of the outbreak—and the federal government’s slow response—as an attack on him. That meant he went on the offensive against those bringing dire warnings and facts about the coronavirus, as if they were his enemies seeking to do him harm. And, in characteristic fashion, his right-wing media enablers amplified his message, contradicting the advice of public health experts and distorting the picture of reality sent to the public. The results have been disastrous, as cases of COVID-19 rise across the country.
On Monday, Trump suddenly awakened to reality—somewhat—after downplaying the outbreak for weeks and telling Americans to “relax.” From a podium at the White House, a more somber Trump didn’t claim everything was under control or that the virus would soon disappear, as he had earlier, but instead finally acknowledged the extent of the crisis. Yet when asked to rate his own response to it, Trump still gave himself “a 10,” pretending he had done a fantastic job. Nothing could be further from the truth.