If you think you’ve been hearing a different President Trump this week — more accepting of the reality of the coronavirus pandemic — don’t be fooled. The new Trump is the same as the old Trump. He can’t help it. He’s incapable of taking responsibility for his role in this crisis — and thus incapable of leading us out of it.
After weeks of denial and deflection, a seemingly chastened Trump on Monday conceded that the virus was, in fact, “not under control,” and was, indeed, “a very bad one.” What caused the switch in tone? Who knows? Perhaps it was the largest one-day point drop in the Dow Jones in history on Monday. Perhaps it was a study the White House received saying that 2.2 million Americans could die. Perhaps it was that Trump’s beloved Mar-a-Lago is getting a coronavirus-necessitated deep cleaning.
But the sudden shift can’t conceal the fact that Trump has shown himself to be wholly inept at dealing with the pandemic. It doesn’t change the fact that he puts himself first, always. It doesn’t alter the fact that, as he once told top aides, he thinks of “each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals.” It doesn’t dissolve Trump’s compulsion to lie, even when truth would serve him best. It doesn’t diminish his incompetence, ignorance or propensity for administrative chaos.