After Donald Trump announced that he'd hold a press conference on the coronavirus outbreak, the stage was set for an important presidential leadership test. In theory, it was one that the Republican should've been able to pass with relative ease.
After all, the basic contours of the script were already obvious. All the president had to do was show up, reassure the public that there's an effective plan in place to deal with the public-health emergency, and make clear that there's a competent team in place to implement that plan. As rhetorical challenges go, this didn't seem too difficult. In fact, aides could've put the whole thing on note cards.
Alas, Trump wasn't up to the task. As the Washington Post summarized:
As several countries around the world confirmed additional cases and higher death tolls, Trump tried to seize the reins of his administration's public response to a crisis that has featured a daily stream of negative developments. But his news conference quickly devolved into campaign-style attacks on Democrats, predictions of a stock market rally and self-congratulatory assessments of his handling of the crisis.
With the pressure on, and much of the public hoping to see evidence of a steady hand at the wheel, the president thought it'd be a good idea to publicly attack House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's patriotism and competence. Trump also talked about his poll numbers, his re-election prospects, his complaints about the Federal Reserve, and his affection for his recent trade deals.
And, of course, the president made a variety of claims about the coronavirus outbreak that didn't stand up well to scrutiny.
Even when it's in his interest to at least try to be a grown-up, Donald Trump can't stop being Donald Trump.