It is always difficult to determine how much of President Trump’s daily communication results from compulsion and how much results from calculation. But it has been Trump’s unique genius to turn the appearance of mental breakdown into effective political maneuvering. And we are seeing his approach take shape: a strategy of distraction to obscure a policy of abdication.

It is admittedly not easy to distract the attention of the nation from 80,000 covid-19 deaths, a good portion of which were avoidable. Trump’s late and reluctant embrace of sound scientific advice on the pandemic, and his early and enthusiastic undermining and abandonment of that advice, constitute the worst response to a national crisis since Herbert Hoover. Perhaps the worst response to a national crisis since James Buchanan.

The sum of all Trump’s picked fights, childish slights and transgressive tweets is an attempt to divert attention away from a historic fiasco. In pursuit of this goal, being unhinged is a virtue. Irrationality is a rational option.