White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany at her daily news...

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany at her daily news briefing Monday. Credit: AFP via Getty Images / Saul Loeb

Certain fiascoes are indelible. The White House stumbled and fell behind in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, which President Donald Trump downplayed for months. Planning came up short. Testing kits were delayed. States had to improvise medical responses. Trump's messaging on quarantines, masks and medication was at times muddled and contradictory.

Now the president needs to spin his administration's performance before the electorate. About 120,000 people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19 so far. These days, Trump gives shifting estimates of how much worse the number could be.

Blaming China, well after the fact, became a tactic in recent weeks. Trade adviser Peter Navarro calls COVID-19 a “product of the Chinese Communist Party” and hints without evidence at an intentional plot. Trump suggests there is too much testing, blaming it for raising infection numbers higher than they otherwise would be.

Excuse-a-thon 2020 plows ahead on other fronts, too.

Trump wants us to believe the disorder and backlash embodied in anti-racism and anti-police demonstrations couldn't possibly implicate his leadership or lack thereof. On Tuesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted that governors and mayors who are Democrats "have failed to secure our streets." Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani says an uptick in urban crime "follows the Anarchist playbook. This was predicted and the mass media covered it up!"

Trump's playbook seems to say that just as the specter of the antifa movement offers an alibi for "American carnage," overzealousness on the part of public health officials can be blamed for the economic collapse that resulted from states' COVID-19 lockdowns. Last month, the president complained about the pace of reopening. “The people want to come back … I think some people don’t want it really to come back, for political reasons, which is sick."

After a Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, proved a flop, campaign adviser Mercedes Schlapp said enemies of the president created a hostile environment and blocked supporters from attending. Reporters on the scene said ticket holders had no trouble getting into the venue. While inside, Trump spent many minutes explaining away an appearance at West Point, where he seemed to have had difficulty drinking water one-handed and walking down a slightly inclined ramp.

His former national security adviser John Bolton used official documents in a new tell-all book to support his descriptions of the president as a corrupt bumbler on foreign policy. Trump rage-tweeted on Tuesday: “Washed up Creepster John Bolton is a lowlife who should be in jail, money seized, for disseminating, for profit, highly Classified information.”

Maybe by Trump's logic, the fiascoes cited in the book never occurred because Bolton shouldn't have exposed them.

Last week, the president's most powerful media ally, Fox News, published a national poll showing likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden had opened up a 12-point lead over Trump — who called the survey fraudulent and said "haters" had created it. As far-fetched excuses go, that one was particularly unconvincing, especially because other polls also showed Biden surging, if only for the moment.

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