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Donald Trump was late to accept the nature of the threat from the coronavirus pandemic

The United States is heading into one of the darkest chapters of its modern history so far deprived of the unifying and clear-sighted leadership that helped it prevail in earlier times of crisis.
President Donald Trump was late to accept the nature of the threat from the coronavirus pandemic and, even while now admitting its gravity, is deflecting blame, covering for a faltering federal response and emerging as the nation’s greatest source of misinformation on the crisis. He is also telling people what they want to hear, touting unproven therapies and predicting the frozen economy could soon relaunch like a “rocket.”
One of Trump’s top public health lieutenants Sunday reached for grave historical parallels when describing the agony of the days to come.
“The next week is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment. It’s going to be our 9/11 moment. It’s going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives,” US Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The analogies may be apt in expressing the historic enormity of the pandemic. But they also contain implications that are not flattering to the administration.
The United States was caught by surprise by Japan’s attack on Hawaii and al Qaeda’s strike on US soil, although in retrospect there were warning signs of both days that will live in infamy.
But contrary to Trump’s claims that no one saw the approach of the virus, its advance on the US was obvious since at least January. Previous administrations also prepared for a pandemic and left plans that the Trump administration apparently ignored.
And in the immediate aftermath of the attacks in 1941 and 2001, Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and George W. Bush unified the nation, bound its wounds and set it on a new course. But despite a small spike in his approval rating, which appears to be reversing in some recent polls, Trump is as divisive a figure as he has been for his three years in power.
After one briefing hailed by pundits as a “change of tone” last week, when he admitted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans could die, the President reverted to type. He blamed the Obama administration for the shortage of tests for the coronavirus, even though the pathogen was not discovered until last year.
Trump predicted Sunday the storm would soon pass.
“We see light at the end of the tunnel,” Trump said at his daily briefing, though he admitted that a “horrific” period lay ahead in an oddly upbeat message, given the earlier remarks by Adams.
In a troubling moment, that symbolized his administration’s disrespect for science, the President shut down America’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, when he was asked to weigh in on the President’s enthusiasm for hydroxycholoroquine.
The anti-malaria drug is being pushed by Trump’s conservative supporters as a treatment for Covid-19 despite a lack of peer-reviewed clinical trials proving that it works. That push was on full display this weekend, during a heated disagreement in the Situation Room between Fauci and Trump’s top trade adviser Peter Navarro, who is not a formal part of the task force but tried to make the case for the drug’s effectiveness, a person familiar with the meeting said.