Two cases of “what was he thinking??”, here:

First, what was he thinking when he actually downplayed the risks of Coronavirus? Even if you’re a big Covid sceptic, surely the low-risk play back in March was to go all out and warn people that the virus was potentially deadly, and to stay at home and be careful? Even if you were wrong about that, then you’d at least be hedging your bets on the side of caution. If the virus turns out to be nothing, then you’ve lost a month or two of peak economic productivity. If it turns into a pandemic, well, you’ve done the right thing.

Second, even if he did downplay it, what was he thinking when he decided to say as much, on tape, to Bob Woodward?

There’s no “he didn’t say it, it’s fake news” here, by the way, Trump fans. He’s on tape:

There are two things here that are significant: One, there’s Trump, in his own words, saying that he knows that the virus is deadly – five times worse than the flu, in his own words.

Second, he’s on tape admitting that he, essentially, distorted the facts in order to play down the risks because he “didn’t want a panic”.

The problem with that, of course, is that the best possible way to create a panic is for the Government to insist everything is fine, even as the corpses pile up in New York City. That’s how we ended up with the situation where he was on telly every day, insisting that all was well, even as states resorted to introducing their own lockdowns. It was a “Baghdad Bob” moment, and he’s been paying for it in the polls ever since.

He might still win, of course, but it’s a reasonable question: What would the opinion polls look like for him today if he’d decided just to be honest with the voters about what he knew, back in January?

We’re not anti-Trump screamers here at Gript, and in fact yours truly is broadly sympathetic to him on most areas of policy. But character and judgment has always been his achilles heel, and it’s biting him in the backside at a very unfortunate moment right now.

Put it this way: A lot of Trump supporters are convinced that he will beat Biden in the debate. But it doesn’t matter how bad Biden is in those debates, when the first question, and the first half an hour, of the first debate is about Trump’s handling of Coronavirus.

All Biden has to say is “you knew, and you hid the facts from the American people”. If he can say that five or six times, how’s Trump going to win the debate?

He’s not, is the answer.

So why did he talk to Woodward? The White House, it seems, is full of people scrambling to tell the media that they advised him against it:

Now, Trump’s impulse may cost him as the interview transcripts and recordings are released this week, just under just eight weeks from Election Day and as some Americans start receiving mail-in ballots. The revelations in “Rage” have sent the Trump White House scrambling, with aides blaming one another for the predictable fallout from injecting even more chaos into an already challenging reelection race.

“You don’t talk the president out of things,” one White House official said Wednesday, one of 10 current and former White House officials who described the circumstances leading up to the latest book.

Well look. He’s pulled off a miracle and won once, maybe he can do it again. And after all, as bad as this is, it’s nowhere near as bad as the “grab ‘em by the pussy” tape from 2016.

Maybe he and Woodward were just engaged in some of that good old “locker room talk” that all of us men engage in when there are no women around, apparently. It will be bad, on policy grounds, if he loses, but he certainly doesn’t deserve to win.