Throughout his presidency, Trump’s twitter feed and his public statements were filled with invective. He spread conspiracies and lobbed insults. Nearly every controversy Trump created during his time in office was due to his failure to grasp the gravity of the office — that saying things as president can carry significant consequences and thus is different than saying them as a private citizen. A stray tweet can rock the stock market or trigger an unnecessary foreign policy crisis, or spread dangerous disinformation.
At the start of this year, with the economy booming, a string of foreign policy successes to boast of, and a failed impeachment effort, it was quite possible that Trump could have overcome all of these things and won reelection. But then the coronavirus hit. While the devastation it brought was a challenge, it could have also been an opportunity to demonstrate that he could switch gears when actually confronted by a crisis. This was yet another chance for him to cut his schtick and start acting like a president for all Americans.
Unfortunately for the nation as well as his re-election prospects, he was incapable doing so. He could not abandon the persona of indulging petty feuds during a pandemic. He could not understand that in a time of crisis, people want the truth, not happy talk and unsubstantiated boasts about how great things were going and how quickly it would be over. This wasn’t a crisis that he could talk his way out of by rallying supporters as he did with his “perfect” Ukraine phone call.