Mr. Trump has also seemed incapable, or at least unwilling, to acknowledge the cost of denying reality. He continues to insist the economy will have a “V shaped” recovery, even though the Federal Reserve chairman he appointed, Jerome Powell, said on Tuesday that Americans should brace for a “longer-than-expected slog back to full recovery.”
Mr. Powell warned of potentially tragic consequences if economic stimulus wasn’t extended; hours later Mr. Trump pulled the plug on negotiations with Democrats, saying he would take it all up again after he won re-election.
The recklessness of mocking mask-wearing appealed to the base, but imperiled his staff, his Secret Service detail and his supporters.
Anyone who thought the president might be chastened by his personal experience with the coronavirus, from the drop in his oxygen levels to his helicopter evacuation to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, got a dose of reality when he insisted on being driven around the outside of the hospital to wave at his supporters, no matter what the risk to his protective detail in an armored limousine designed to cut off outside air.
But it was his return to the White House that showed Mr. Trump was determined to turn his infection from a vulnerability into another sign of strength, of triumph. He declared that the United States should just soldier forward, even while his press secretary was announcing that she, too, had the coronavirus.
And his dramatic ripping off of his mask as he returned to the White House, even though he knew he would be encountering White House staff members as soon as he stepped indoors, drove home his determination to deny the risks — not for him, but for those who worked for him.
Now he presides over an executive branch that is running on half speed. Most of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are in isolation. His chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, is working at home because he has comorbidities, and his staff is staying away, too.