Give some credit to the Washington Post for focusing on someone other than Donald Trump for public statements that minimized the threat of the coronavirus outbreak. That has become a staple for White House reporters at these briefings, with Jim Acosta dragging up a Trump quote from March 4th on Monday. It’s also been a go-to argument for Democrats who want to put a dent in Trump’s polling during this leadership crisis.

No national-level leader, however, has a track record as bad and as long as New York City mayor and former Democratic presidential contender Bill de Blasio. As late as March 13th, de Blasio urged New Yorkers to “go on about their lives,” even as the federal government started sounding the alarm about the necessity for social distancing.

To be fair, de Blasio has the same defense that Trump has on this — the China defense — but still

The idea that politicians should not be judged by their comments early in a crisis is, of course, not how it works. Politicians should have future decisions judged in light of how they have handled a situation in the past. But it’s understandable why de Blasio does not want to turn back the clock.

Throughout the crisis that has now hit New York City harder than any other area of the country, de Blasio offered comments that, like Trump’s, downplayed the threat and suggested that the city was ready for what lay ahead. The mayor also repeatedly told people that transmission of the disease was very unlikely in casual encounters and in public places. …

Today, a little more than a month later, the resources of New York City hospitals are stretched, and both de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) are pleading with the federal government for more ventilators and other medical equipment.

In the weeks in between, de Blasio repeatedly said the coronavirus was transmitted through prolonged, close exposure and played down the idea that it could travel via casual encounters or touching surfaces that an infected person had touched.

What about the China defense? They withheld crucial information and the scope of the disease, which had the US and other governments setting up to handle a more SARS-like disease that could be more easily contained. Only after watching the wildfire spread in Italy did it become obvious that China lied through its collective teeth (and is still lying to this moment), but Italy ordered a national lockdown on March 11, too.

That’s why de Blasio tried to parry this criticism on Sunday by telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that this isn’t the time for looking backward. Self-serving? Sure, but de Blasio might have his finger on the pulse of America better than the media does. I linked my column for The Week in an earlier post, I looked at Trump’s ratings surge in comparison to the media’s approval, and concluded that the media is even more estranged than usual from the concerns of its consumers. The main point here is applicable to de Blasio too, or at least he’d better hope it is:

The media’s focus on itself and its existing antagonisms with Trump rather than on the urgent issues at has created a further gulf between the industry and its consumers. They failed to grasp the moment that Trump belatedly recognized, and they still have not quite come to terms with it. …

Voters appear to be signaling that these fights are of little interest to them. Rightly or wrongly, what Americans see is the media feuding with the president while the president takes action to meaningfully address the crisis.

The problem for de Blasio on this score is that he’s been sooooo terrible on a personal basis on taking the crisis seriously. Whether it’s been getting in one last workout at the gym while everyone else sheltered in place, or driving to another borough to take a walk in a park — which was just this past weekend, mind you — de Blasio’s personal behavior has matched his official nonchalance. There’s really no coming back from that. Is there?