President Donald Trump's mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic may well be the key reason he's a one-termer. It will mark his legacy. None of his tantrums about China, Democrats, demonstrators, the UN, the CDC, the FDA or the "deep state" will erase the misery — or the memory — of the crisis.
Worse yet for the Republican Party, the flaws that very well could beset the Biden administration's COVID-19 response likely will appear minor compared with Trump's failures.
Trump's White House ditched pandemic preparations. He refused to level with the public about the virus's severity and risks. He spitballed dubious cures at news conferences. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, assigned to create supply chains, failed.
Trump actively discouraged mask use and social distancing, dismissed experts, undermined state public-health measures, publicized quacks and issued repeated self-promotional predictions that the virus would all soon disappear.
The verdict on his performance is in. He made things up as he went along. But the disgrace has yet to end.
On Wednesday, the U.S. recorded more than 3,100 coronavirus deaths in a 24-hour period, breaking last spring's daily record. For the first time, there are more than 100,000 Americans hospitalized with COVID-19. New cases exceed 200,000 per day. So much for Trump's gaslighting about how "we're rounding the corner."
Also Wednesday, Trump gave a 46-minute address that he called his most important. The only mention of the pandemic was in passing, in a stream of false statements about alleged election fraud.
"The Democrats had this election rigged right from the beginning," Trump said during the rant filled with disproved or baseless claims. "They used the pandemic, sometimes referred to as the China virus, where it originated as an excuse to mail out tens of millions of ballots, which ultimately led to a big part of the fraud, a fraud that the whole world is watching, and there is no one happier right now than China."
Clearly Trump, never a pitch man for democracy, would have preferred for states to have made no accommodations for voting during the pandemic.
Now comes Trump's Twitter scandal du jour.
A photo of a hospital’s alternative care site in Reno, Nevada, was mispresented by cranks on social media who used the image to call the rampant pandemic a hoax.
Trump helped propel that falsehood. He retweeted the photo and added a message: "Fake election results in Nevada, also!"
The president, meanwhile, is letting lawmakers craft a new coronavirus stimulus package to blunt the pandemic's impact. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he spoke to White House officials about what Trump would or wouldn't sign.
Trump's public posture of downplaying the virus didn't change after he contracted COVID-19. After he received advanced treatments, he declared himself immune, recovered and then strutted at crowded campaign events.
In this final stage of Trump's term, the national virus death toll seems to matter little to him. He's far more focused on defaming an election that he lost fair and square.