It may not be the death of denial, but it is a moment when denial no longer appears to be a viable strategy for Mr. Trump. For more than three years in office, he proved strikingly successful at bending much of the political world to his own vision of reality, but after six months the coronavirus pandemic is turning out to be the one stubborn, inalterable fact of life that he cannot simply force into submission through sheer will.
The president’s springtime confidence that he could cheerlead the country back to a semblance of normalcy in time to kick-start the moribund economy and power himself to a second term in November’s election has proved unequal to the grim summertime medical and autopsy reports emerging from the South and West. With 60,000 new cases and 1,000 more deaths being registered each day, Mr. Trump has been forced this week to retreat from the rose-colored assessment of the health of the nation — and his presidency.
Not that he has admitted a change. As he revived his coronavirus briefings this week, he still insisted that most of the country was doing well and offered upbeat predictions about conquering the virus. But his actions belied that view as he canceled the convention in Jacksonville, Fla., citing the same health care concerns that he had disparaged in shifting it abruptly from Charlotte, N.C., in the first place.
Even the decision to begin holding the briefings again was itself an admission that the crisis he wanted so desperately to be over in fact is accelerating even as he falls behind former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. by double digits in the polls.