When a briefing is not a briefing

Margaret Sullivan at the Post reminded us yesterday that Trump isn’t issuing health information, he’s campaigning and vanity-pumping.

More and more each day, President Trump is using his daily briefings as a substitute for the campaign rallies that have been forced into extinction by the spread of the novel coronavirus.

It must be awful for him. He loved those rallies – you could tell by watching him for a few seconds (all a sane person can stand). He’s different when he’s performing at those things: he’s no less stupid, of course, but he’s far more fluent and relaxed. He’s at home there, the crowd gives him a high. They assure him that he’s funny and truth-telling and tuff, kind of a mix of Don Rickles and Clint Eastwood. It’s nauseating to watch, his comfort and elation, but it sure does explain a lot about him.

The press briefings don’t do that to him, so clearly they’re far from an adequate substitute, but that doesn’t mean they’re harmless.

These White House sessions — ostensibly meant to give the public critical and truthful information about this frightening crisis — are in fact working against that end.

Rather, they have become a daily stage for Trump to play his greatest hits to captive audience members.

His greatest hits are bragging, attacking journalists, and lying.

Trump is doing harm and spreading misinformation while working for his own partisan political benefit — a naked attempt to portray himself as a wartime president bravely leading the nation through a tumultuous time, the FDR of the 21st century. 

FDR would have him summarily and permanently banished, just as he did to the loathsome Joe Kennedy.

It’s important to remember how much Trump’s tune has changed on the coronavirus, from blithely dismissive to self-importantly serious. 

This is what he was saying about the virus in public as recently as Feb. 27: “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.”

We know, without any doubt, that Trump was ignoring intelligence reports that warned about the likelihood of a pandemic at the same time he was cooing these baseless reassurances. But now he’s claiming that he knew the problem was a pandemic long before others did, and that he took every step possible.

He can lie and brag at the same time. It’s a gift. Mind you it would be pretty difficult for him to brag and tell the truth at the same time.

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