Former Vice President Joe Biden revitalized his presidential campaign with a stunning round of victories on Super Tuesday, and no one could be more jealous and angry than President Donald Trump.

Trump would love to bask in that warm glow of acceptance and is desperately trying to as he grapples with the health concerns of the coronavirus. Even his critics are hoping he’ll succeed.

“I want him to succeed. I want the Trump administration to win,” Dr. Dena Grayson told me. But she says, the government’s response to COVID-19 is “totally catastrophic. A total fail.”

Dr. Grayson is a former Democratic candidate for Congress in Florida; more important, she’s a former Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute and has overseen the development of broad-spectrum antiviral drugs against deadly viruses. She believes the Trump administration has badly fumbled its attempts to contain COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. “We are behind the eight ball,” she said. “The conditions are right for a wildfire. This checks all the boxes for a global pandemic.”

She’s not the only scientist to say so.

Dr. Stephen L. Hoffman, CEO of the biotech company Sanaria, has testified before Congress and tried for years through his company to develop a vaccine for malaria. He told me his concern is over what we don’t know: how many people in the United States are currently walking around with the virus. “We have to prepare, and we’re not prepared for it,” he said. “It’s taking 24 hours to confirm a case. So methodologies are slow.”

Donald Trump is taking the situation seriously. Last Wednesday, he did something he’s never done before: He took questions from reporters for about an hour in the James S. Brady Briefing Room.

For the first three years of his administration, he avoided the room as if it were the coronavirus itself. But when the stock market tanked last week, it seemed Trump’s interest in the economy as a way to secure his re-election forced him to hold a press briefing about the administration’s reaction to the spreading virus.

I want him to succeed. I want the Trump administration to win.

Early morning Wednesday, February 26, Trump sent out a tweet telling us he’d hold a news conference about the coronavirus. He showed up at 6:30 p.m. and for an hour he took questions, including several not on the coronavirus, including one from me. That day news also broke that Trump’s re-election campaign sued The New York Times over an opinion piece based on already published news. No new information; just an opinion. The very essence of protected First Amendment speech—and Trump sued for libel.

So I asked him, “Your campaign today sued The New York Times for an opinion piece…”

“Yeah,” Trump said.

“Is it your opinion or is it your contention that if people have an opinion contrary to yours, that they should be sued?”

“Well,” Trump said. “When they get the opinion totally wrong, as The New York Times did and, frankly, they’ve got a lot wrong over the last number of years. So we’ll see how that… let that work its way through the courts.”

I listened, but I had to follow up. “But that’s an opinion, right?”

“No. No,” Trump said. “If you read it, you’ll see it’s beyond an opinion. That’s not an opinion. That’s something much more than an opinion. They did a bad thing. And there will be more coming,” he said, suggesting he’d file additional suits. “There’ll be more coming.” About a week later, he sued The Washington Post for the same thing.

Trump’s disgust with the press is well known, and his threats to sue over opinions differing from his own show how he’s hampering himself in handling the coronavirus. It didn’t help that Trump, Vice President Pence, Rush Limbaugh and the whole propaganda apparatus from team Trump pushed the narrative that reporters were engaged in hyperbole about the coronavirus in order to make the president look bad. Further, we were trying to drive down the markets, and Donald Trump Jr. said, in effect, that the Democrats wanted millions to die from the virus.

Trump's threats to sue over opinions differing from his own show how he’s hampering himself in handling the coronavirus.

The CDC task force, charged by the Trump administration to fight COVID-19, is faced with the need to placate an isolated and insecure president—who will sue if you have a contrary opinion—while trying to deal realistically with a dangerous public health threat. Since Trump is ignorant of science, squeezing out information is difficult at best.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar met with about 50 reporters in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s South Court Auditorium Friday and briefed us on the coronavirus. The stock market was still tumbling on that day and the first American death in the United States attributable to the coronavirus had occurred. In that vortex, Secretary Azar asked reporters gathered to get the word out about the need to wash our hands.

I had a question. “The World Health Organization today said that the risk is ‘very high’ for COVID-19 to spread. I’ve also read reports that say 40 to 70 percent of the worldwide population could be infected, with a 2 percent mortality rate. So that could be hundreds of millions of people in this country infected and millions dead,” I said. “How do you assess the accuracy of those reports? And if they’re anywhere near accurate, of what we’ve heard today, what are we preparing to do in hospitals and clinics to prepare for such an inundation of sickness?”

Azar’s reply was less than comforting but, reading between the lines, it was informative. “I have seen those reports about the 70 percent projection. That’s just not something that we’ve experienced so far,” he told us. “In terms of fatalities . . . outside of Hubei Province, I believe it was closer to a 0.7 percent, is what they were reporting. What we don’t know is what kind of fatality rate we’ll see in a much more advanced public health and healthcare system that also has the early, early containment and mitigation efforts, unlike what we saw in China where they had to play a bit of catch-up there.”

Azar said a 30 percent infection rate might be more reasonable to assume, making the coronavirus in the United States still more virulent and, with a .7 percent anticipated mortality rate, seven times more deadly than seasonal flu—and those were conservative estimates.

Reporters left the Azar briefing with a realization: “They don’t have a handle on this.” Among other things, Azar and his deputies admitted there had been inadequate testing and there was little or no funding for clinics and hospitals should the need arise.

Reporters left the Azar briefing with a realization: “They don’t have a handle on this.”

On Saturday President Trump showed up for a second time in the briefing room and tried to reassure the electorate, like Kevin Bacon in Animal House, that “All is well.” Only Trump didn’t look all that well, making many wonder about his own health. Monday, I asked him when he would finish his annual physical he claims he started back in November. He gave us a 90-day window.

The market rallied on Monday, so Trump turned over the briefing duties to Pence, who appeared for his first briefing in the Brady Briefing Room with the Coronavirus Task Force. Pence seemed nervous and never looked up as he called on reporters from a written list to ask him questions—including one reporter who wasn’t there. When the task force began talking about how they were going to test a million people, I saw an opportunity to jump in.

“Just a real quick follow-up: You guys came out and said that the risk is low. But with so few tests being done and the incubation rate being as much as two weeks, how can we accurately say that the risk is low, at this point?”

Pence looked around the lectern for someone to answer the question. “Do you want to speak to that?” he asked a few members of the task force.

We waited for a moment. “Anybody?” I asked.

Dr. Anthony Fauci—whom Pence apparently had already bounced from Sunday talk shows—stepped up to give it a college try. “If you talk about the entire country … , the risk is a low risk. I think the point you’re making is that, since we haven’t done yet—but it will happen really soon—the testing of the community, how do we know the risk is low? I would imagine it’s still going to be low regardless of that. What happens in real time, which is the reason why we do this so frequently, is that things can change. But right now, today—on this day, Monday—if you look at the country as a whole, the risk is low.”

In other words, on one day at the beginning of March, when little testing had been done nationwide, the perceived risk was low. Hardly reassuring. But it’s the best you can do when your president is so insecure he sues people for contrary opinions.

Pence, who is coordinating efforts to stem the tide of the virus, has other problems. Most of the protective gear used in hospitals is made, where else, in China. “Even with a mild outbreak we may not have enough protective gear,” Dr. Grayson warns. “We’re going to have to clean our gear or find a way to produce them ourselves.”

The president of the United States, used to bullying the press, his critics and the populous, cannot bully science.

Then there’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the famous neurosurgeon and CNN medical reporter. With a mild outbreak of the coronavirus he estimates we will not have enough ventilators in this country to assist patients who need it.

When I asked about that a senior administration official told me, “We have millions of masks.”

It’s almost as if the administration doesn’t understand the difference between mask and ventilators.

Some have said it appears the pandemic is ebbing in China but, as others pointed out, the number of cases only began to decline after the Chinese government effectively locked down an estimated 700 million people. “That’s almost twice our population,” Dr. Grayson noted. “We can’t lock down our whole country.”

Dr. Hoffman said without adequate testing, something the CDC officials admit hasn’t yet happened, no one can get a handle on an infection or mortality rate in the United States. “No one really knows what the numbers mean,” he explained.

“How many people are running around with this infection who are asymptomatic and are able to transmit? I think that is much higher than we’re thinking,” he added.

As for President Trump, he doesn’t seem to understand the problems facing us though he desperately wants to appear presidential in handling it. We don’t know how many have it, no one has an immunity to it, and since it isn’t a flu and doesn’t act like a flu, you can’t treat it like the flu. Trump didn’t seem to understand that when he asked his task force what impact would a flu shot have.

“Probably none,” Trump was told.

“Probably none? That’s separate,” Trump responded.

Scientists say it will take at least a year to develop an effective vaccine against COVID-19—but Trump wants to hear it will only take six to nine weeks.

Simple minds need simple answers. But the coronavirus is a complex problem. We are far behind in combating it, and the president of the United States, used to bullying the press, his critics and the populous, cannot bully science.

“I wish there were a vaccine against abject stupidity,” George Conway tweeted Monday.

Indeed.