Confronting intelligence about an imminent world health crisis, Trump could have convened a special session of Congress (before lockdowns). With the unmatched optics of a joint session, he could have announced travel restrictions, requested a huge investment in testing, contact tracing, and supported isolation, and recommended the temporary relaxation of regulations to speed treatments and streamline supply chains. He could have called upon Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader McConnell to chair a task force to coordinate the production and distribution of testing and other medical supplies nationwide. If he were truly rising above his instincts and were able to utter a few unifying words, there is no telling how different things might feel now. He might have said:

“We have deep disagreements in this country. There are bitter feelings between the parties. But this is not a time for grievances. We are facing a crisis. It will hit all of us in different ways, some more grievously than others. It will require courage and sacrifice and patience. It will call upon Americans’ volunteer spirit and generosity. I wish I could say it will be easy, but that just isn’t true. This is a new threat and we have much to learn. But one thing is certain: We will face this not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans. American creativity, innovation, and flexibility have permitted us to meet great challenges before. This time is no different. If we unite, nothing will stop us.”