Trump’s bluster doesn’t beat a virus, calm a restive nation – The Denver Post

WASHINGTON — Not long after noon on Feb. 6, President Donald Trump strode into the elegant East Room of the White House. The night before, his impeachment trial had ended with acquittal in the Republican-controlled Senate. It was time to gloat and settle scores.

“It was evil,” Trump said of the attempt to end his presidency. “It was corrupt. It was dirty cops. It was leakers and liars.”

It was also soon forgotten. Also Feb. 6, in California, a 57-year-old woman was found dead in her home of natural causes then unknown. When her autopsy report came out, officials said her death had been the first from COVID-19 in the U.S.

The “invisible enemy” was on the move. And civil unrest over racial injustice would soon claw at the country. If that were not enough, there came a fresh round of angst over Russia, and America would ask whether Trump had the backs of troops targeted by bounty hunters in Afghanistan.

For Trump, the virus has been the most persistent of those problems. But he has not even tried to make a common health crisis the subject of national common ground and serious purpose. He has refused to wear a mask, setting off a culture war in the process as his followers took their cues from him.

Instead he spoke about preening with a mask when the cameras were off: “I had a mask on,” he said this past week. “I sort of liked the way I looked … like the Lone Ranger.”

These are times of pain, mass death, fear and deprivation and the Trump show may be losing its allure, exposing the empty space once filled by the empathy and seriousness of presidents leading in a crisis.

Bluster isn’t beating the virus; belligerence isn’t calming a restive nation.

Angry and scornful at every turn, Trump used the totems of Mount Rushmore as his backdrop to play on the country’s racial divisions, denouncing the “bad, evil people” behind protests for racial justice. He then made a steamy Fourth of July salute to America on the White House South Lawn his platform to assail “the radical left, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters,” and, for good measure, people with “absolutely no clue.”

“If he could change, he would,” said Cal Jillson, a presidential scholar at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “It’s not helping him now. It’s just nonstop. It is habitual and incurable. He is who he is.”

Over three and a half years Trump exhausted much of the country, while exhilarating some of it, with his constant brawls, invented realities, outlier ways and pop-up dramas of his own making. Into summer, one could wonder whether Trump had finally exhausted even himself.