Under siege in the White House, President Donald Trump is aggravating America's latest racial anguish in a nation now simultaneously beset by violence-wracked cities, a deadly disease and staggering economic deprivation.
After being briefly moved to an underground bunker during Friday night's protests outside the White House, Trump spent Sunday night again sheltered as violence raged nearby amid protests sprung up from Minneapolis to Miami and Portland to Philadelphia.
The show of fury was sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man whose throat was constricted by a white policeman's knee. City after city Sunday imposed curfews after days of protests and looting, even as the country tentatively tries to open up after weeks of coronavirus stay-at-home orders.
Fast moving events leave Trump's presidency -- and his bid for a second term in November -- consumed by a backdrop of smoldering cities, 104,000 dead and counting in a public health disaster he failed to take seriously until it was too late and unemployment approaching Great Depression-levels.
Far from acting to restore calm, Trump's instinct has been to exacerbate the sense of crisis and division -- blasting the demonstrators as "THUGS," calling for crackdowns and vowing to declare the coalition of Antifa anti-fascist and anarchist activists, which he sees as instigators of the protests, as a terror group. But the President's threats to so designate a domestic group have no grounding in law and he has been more reticent to censure white supremacist groups in the same way. And his efforts to portray the protests as a purely radical uprising are not reflected in the make-up of crowds and deflect from the underlying catalyst for the protests.
Abroad, Trump is accelerating a new Cold War with China as he seeks to lay blame for the coronavirus pandemic that has infected 1.7 million Americans. His pullout from the World Health Organization amid the worst global public health challenge in 100 years is meanwhile leaving notions of US leadership in ruins.
As Trump fumes, the country is getting a glimpse of how a President with authoritarian reflexes handles a public order crisis and a potential preview of the no-holds-barred politics with which he plans to win reelection in November.