At the onset, the pandemic was aggravated by Trump’s negligence and indifference. He had dismantled the country’s pandemic preparedness. He denied the disease for two months. He made one crucial mistake after another.
Even so, Trump could plausibly shift at least some blame for the arrival of the disease. The pandemic did originate outside of the U.S., China did cover up the disease, and the World Health Organization did enable China. Trump could also argue that even those countries with the best responses were hit hard for many weeks.
But what has happened in the U.S. in June, and what will happen in July, is entirely Trump’s fault. The president’s approach to the virus has been guided by his lifelong beliefs: It’s just as real to say you have done a good job as to do a good job. Denying you failed is just as real as actually succeeding. This time, though, reality will not be blustered away. Tens of thousands are dead, and millions are out of work, all because Trump could not and would not do the job of disease control—a job that includes setting a positive example to those Americans who trust and follow his leadership.
Across the rest of the developed world, COVID-19 has been ebbing. As a result, borders are reopening, economies are reviving. Here in the U.S., however, Americans are suffering a new disease peak worse than the worst of April. How lethal will this new peak be? We will learn that the way we seem to learn everything in this era of Trump: the hard way.