He has been personally absent from the stalled negotiations with Congress over an economic aid package that would offer relief to businesses and workers devastated by the virus. He has mostly left the public mourning of nearly 180,000 Americans to others, refusing to show the sort of empathy that a number of speakers this week have insisted he possesses. And he has refused to model the kind of mask-wearing that health officials say could help stem the virus’s spread.
What Mr. Trump is most focused on when it comes to the virus is finding a vaccine (giving the effort the public-relations-friendly name “Operation Warp Speed”) or some sort of remedy as quickly as possible. It’s an urgency that has led him into endorsing unproven treatments, conflicts with his own agencies and a discourse on injecting people with disinfectants that left Republicans cringing and for a time halted his coronavirus briefings.
On Sunday, Mr. Trump hailed the emergency approval of blood plasma for hospitalized coronavirus patients as “a powerful therapy,” only to have scientists question the administration’s framing of the treatment. On Wednesday, Mr. Pence called America a “nation of miracles” and declared the country on track for a vaccine by the end of the year.
In a speech on Thursday afternoon in Washington, D.C., Senator Kamala Harris, Mr. Biden’s running mate, scalded the Trump ticket for its handling of the pandemic, saying the ongoing suffering was “completely absent from this week’s Republican National Convention.”
What was present was Mr. Trump’s deep imprint on a party that he has so thoroughly overtaken from the inside that Republican National Committee delegates this week actually bypassed adopting a formal party platform, opting instead “to enthusiastically support the president’s America-first agenda,” as the party resolution said.
On Thursday, for the third night in a row, the Trump campaign gathered a large crowd on federal property in an attempt to present an image of normalcy and a visual show of defiance of the pandemic that has kept millions of Americans inside their homes and out of work and will keep children away from schools this fall.
“Everything that Donald Trump does is in service to Donald Trump,” said Sarah Longwell, a founder of Republican Voters Against Trump. “It is ironic because the thing that would help him most in terms of getting him re-elected would be to do his job. But he tends to opt for the things that he’s more interested in and that is the optics around this convention.”
Still, Democrats worry the norms and rules smashed this week offer only a preview of the final rule-bending race to Election Day and beyond. Lawmakers have already begun to hold hearings on Trump administration maneuverings involving the Postal Service, and party lawyers have filed lawsuits to maximize voting by mail and the ability of people to vote during the pandemic. There are deep concerns about Mr. Trump’s words and threats to delegitimize the election results.