The president has made a cold, hard political calculation and decided to take the path of selfish expedience. He’ll be on the side of opening at all costs. Play his favorite red-state-versus-blue-state card. Blame the doctors for being overly cautious and the Democrats for prizing science over American jobs. Force the governors to make the tough, agonizing decisions and make them walk the plank. Use China as a shield against his own inexcusable failure to act earlier.

Instead of unifying the country, Trump is hoping to pry open and deepen the divides that have been so central to his political project. Already you can see the polarizing effect — in polling, on social media and Fox News. While most Americans still favor a cautious approach, the familiar fault lines are beginning to form.

A responsible leader would have behaved differently; would have followed the science and told the country that quitting the distasteful prescription mid-course would only prolong the misery.