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OPINION

Trump is desperately trying to distance himself from his failed presidency

The man who once said, ‘I alone can fix it,’ now wants to recast himself as the president who wasn’t there.

Photo illustration by Lesley Becker/Globe Staff; Adobe; Globe file photos

Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, recently excoriated Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee.

“Joe Biden can’t run from his disastrous record responding to the coronavirus,” she tweeted Sunday. “The truth hurts, Joe!”

That “truth” probably would hurt Biden — if he was, in fact, the man trying to run from his “disastrous” coronavirus response. Perhaps McDaniel’s laughable post is, as CNN contributor Bakari Sellers, called it, “the dumbest tweet of all time.” More likely, though, it’s a kind of weaponized nonsense in which McDaniel ignores that COVID-19 is devastating America not just on President Trump’s watch, but also directly due to his own lethal negligence.

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In an administration that prefers demonstrable lies to uncomfortable truths, Trump the Republican presidential nominee is doing all he can to distance himself from Trump the failed president.

It’s not Biden on Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s tapes talking about the severity of the virus in February, nearly a month before the first recorded COVID-19 death in this country. Nor is that the former vice president later telling Woodward how he downplayed that severity even as sickness, upheaval, and death engulfed the nation.

To some extent, this ludicrous tactic is a remix of a Trump hallmark — namely, taking credit for his predecessor’s achievements. Last month, he lumbered out of a news conference when a reporter pushed back against his lie that he got the Veterans Choice program passed after “others had failed for 50 years.”

No, he didn’t. President Barack Obama signed that program into law, which allows eligible veterans to receive government coverage even if they seek care outside of the Veterans Administration system.

Trump also floated the idea of an executive order requiring health insurance companies to cover preexisting medical conditions. That, he claimed, “has never been done before.”

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The president keeps using that phrase; I do not think it means what he thinks it means. It’s been done before — in Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which Trump has spent years trying to destroy.

Trump, who said, “I don’t take responsibility at all” when asked in March about the lack of coronavirus testing, only takes responsibility for other people’s achievements.

The America Trump promised to make great again (well, for some Americans anyway) feels like it’s skidding toward the abyss. A June survey, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, found that only 14 percent of Americans described themselves as “very happy,” the lowest number in 50 years.

In several Western states, fires, aided by the ravages of climate change, have killed at least 35 people and consumed millions of acres. Trump ignores science and facts. Instead, sounding like a toddler in need of a nap, he babbles about wildfires caused by exploding trees.

“It is maddening right now that when we have this cosmic challenge to our communities, with the entire West Coast of the United States on fire, to have a president deny that . . . these are climate fires,” Governor Jay Inslee of Washington said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

In a similar vein, Trump continues to deny his culpability in allowing COVID-19 to ignite into its own kind of uncontrollable fire. He’s blaming Biden, just as he has falsely blamed his Democratic opponent for this summer’s unrest in the streets. His campaign strategy is weapons-grade mendacity marinated in flop-sweat desperation.

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Trump repeats his lies, expecting them to go unchallenged. But a lie is always a lie — presidential repetition can’t change that. Of course, that will never stop Trump from trying, even as his untruths endanger lives.

In a recent interview with The Atlantic, Alexander Vindman, the decorated Army veteran and key witness in Trump’s impeachment trial, said, “Truth is a victim in this administration. I think it’s Orwellian — the ultimate goal of this president is to get you to disbelieve what you’ve seen and what you’ve heard.”

By far outpacing even the most wretched predictions for his presidency, all Trump can do now is shift the blame for his historic catastrophes. The man who once said, “I alone can fix it,” now wants to recast himself as the president who wasn’t there.

With confirmed US COVID-19 deaths expected to soon pass 200,000, Trump has less than two months to convince voters that he would be a better leader than the malignant and incompetent man currently occupying the White House.


Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.