What we have under Trump is very nearly the mirror image of this ideal. He relies on gut instinct and gets his information from what he happens to see on television or hears from friends. He is extremely disinclined to acknowledge mistakes, process bad news, or think beyond the news cycle. The structure his staff has built around him is designed more to manage his ego and shield him from bad news than to yield wise decisions. His understanding of the relationship between the president and other political actors is rudimentary, causing him to alternate between passivity and assertions of total control.

Even where his administration has acted adroitly — it did work assiduously to bootstrap the initially anemic testing effort to a different level — Trump hasn’t been willing or able to explain it convincingly. He has even complained, in varying tones, that testing should be slowed down because it makes the infection rate look higher.

Trump hasn’t conveyed steadiness, resolve, empathy, and seriousness of purpose to the public — the sort of thing that other political figures, whatever their ideologies and even competence levels, have done to their own benefit — because he does not possess them. He does not give much sign of even recognizing that the public would appreciate them. Reassurance is not his brand. “Fighting” is, and Trump especially enjoys taking public shots at people who, by virtue of their position, cannot fight back. His most successful recent such campaign has targeted Dr. Anthony Fauci — if it counts as success for Trump to persuade many of his supporters to distrust one of his own advisers.