This item is of a piece with hundreds of articles and late-night comedy rants now accusing Trump in some vague manner of downplaying the significance of coronavirus. The impression one gets is that instead of what he is doing now (i.e., taking advice from relevant officials; declaring a public health emergency; instituting the first Centers for Disease Control quarantine in half a century; coordinating a response among an almost uncountable number of federal, state, and local bodies charged with everything from screening travelers and contacting Americans abroad to educating doctors and the general public) he should spend hours a day on television engaged in an omnidirectional attempt to induce panic in as many people as possible.

What else would these people prefer to Trump’s calm, decisive action here? If he had taken more sweeping measures — restricting business travel by executive order, for example, rather than with the tacit cooperation of Apple and hundreds of other firms — he would have been called a fascist. If he had gone to the airwaves (or his favorite social media platform) to warn everyone of an imminent outbreak, he would be dismissed as an uninformed crank whose scare-mongering posed a more serious threat to global peace and health than the disease itself. Fact-checkers are handing him Pinocchios for saying that the situation is “very much under control.” What would have been more accurate? Him declaring that coronavirus is on the verge of destroying civilization as we know it and suggesting the average American family stock up on masks, food, and gasoline and pray that the end, when it comes, be swift and painless? The mind reels.