After his off-the-cuff (and the rails) comments at his coronavirus press briefings backfired, President Donald Trump quit the regular dais appearances in April, stating that they were "not worth the time and effort."
He was right about that — at least the way he was conducting them.
Had he chosen to truly lead the country out of the COVID-19 crisis, the briefings would have in fact been valuable. But instead of steady discourse and deference to Dr. Anthony Fauci and other medical experts, the president did most of the talking, and often what he said was wrong and potentially dangerous.
On Monday, Trump announced that he would begin the briefings anew. But his justification suggested more a political than public health motive.
"I was doing them and we had a lot of people watching, record numbers watching in the history of cable television," Trump said. "There's never been anything like it."
He's correct about the unusual nature of his earlier appearances, but his focus on ratings reflects a desperation to get back in front of voters. Almost as an aside, Trump added Monday that the briefings are "a great way to get information out to the public" on vaccines and therapeutics. That's true. But the nation would be better served if the president would yield to experts such as Fauci and avoid turning the briefings into brag sessions about how good a job he's done.
First, it's not true. The pandemic is raging, and America's shambolic response is a global embarrassment. Second, the public isn't buying it, as scores of polls show low voter approval of his handling of the matter.
In his Tuesday comeback, Trump struck a more serious tone and did say Americans should wear masks when social distancing isn't possible. But he continued focusing on China and defending his response. Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx did not appear.
Because the president seems to view his public appearances as a TV host might, he should understand why viewers eventually tuned out in April. Like any TV show, all talk and no action (or, in this case, results) won't hold an audience.