Mr. Trump is right that his opponents, in politics and the media, want to turn the virus into his Hurricane Katrina. That is inevitable and he shouldn’t take their bait. The best defense isn’t to strike back as if the virus is Adam Schiff. It can’t be mocked with a nickname or dismissed with over-optimistic assertions that risk being run over by reality in a week or a month. On Wednesday Mr. Trump punched back at an article in Vanity Fair by tweeting: “Our team is doing a great job with CoronaVirus!” Who cares about Vanity Fair?
The best reply is cool and realistic leadership that marshals the strengths of the government a President leads. This means letting the experts speak, not putting himself in the front of every briefing and speculating about things he doesn’t know much about. It means showing personal support, ideally at some point in person, for virus patients and their front-line caregivers.
Leadership means putting together a response to economic weakness and what can be done to help those who lose their jobs, not promising something he can’t deliver on Capitol Hill or blasting the Federal Reserve for the 100th time. Above all, leadership in a crisis means telling the public the truth, lest people begin to tune him out or, worse, make him a figure of mockery.