The government’s top public health professionals, fearful of losing their jobs and of even worse behavior by Trump, have also become crucial enablers, forced to pretend that Trump’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis has been sound. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, has taken on a more prominent role at briefings after effusively praising the president, while Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been less noticeable as he has grown more willing to contradict Trump’s most dangerous assertions. On Saturday, Birx went along while Trump hijacked the daily briefing to complain about Democrats, the press, and China.

The result is that the White House is stuck in a surreal alternate reality in which reporters and government officials continue to do their jobs as if the president were not mad as a hatter.

But because of Covid-19, the rest of the nation now recognizes what should have been obvious ever since Trump took office: His first response to every crisis is to insist on complete authority, while at the same time abandoning all responsibility. Despite his inaction and incompetence, he won’t relinquish control over the government’s resources to those who know how to use them.