Photo by Alex Brandon of The Associated Press / President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room at the White House on Saturday, March 14, 2020, in Washington.

It is obvious that Donald Trump thinks he can score political points with the coronavirus. There is no other reason for him to show up at a news conference every day and spew one lie after another.

He stands there with an approving look on his face, seemingly stalking speakers at the podium to make sure they give him sole credit for everything the smart and committed health professionals and government workers are doing on the front lines to combat the virus.

Though most people on the stage have much more useful — and accurate — information to offer than Trump, they are forced to cede the platform to him while he babbles on for an hour. The nation is held captive while he verbally attacks reporters, recreates history and makes up stuff as if we are too dumb to know it.

In a scene as autocratic as any tyrant would insist upon, members of his Cabinet shower him with praise and delicately attempt to correct his mistakes without making him seem wrong.

The government-recommended 15-day pause is now "the president's 15-day guidelines." On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went so far as to substitute the coronavirus with Trump's bigoted preferred term, Chinese virus.

Chad Wolf, acting U.S. secretary of Homeland Security, began his remarks with this: "Let me start off by thanking the president and the vice president for protecting the American people."

Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services, repeated Trump's go-to talking point when his slow response to the virus is questioned — that restricting travel from China saved many American lives.

Azar ended with: "Thank you, Mr. President, for the work you have been doing throughout this crisis to slow the spread of the coronavirus and to keep our country safe."

It's hard to keep count of how many times Mike Pence credits Trump in his brief remarks. It's as though the vice president wants us to believe that the coronavirus would be unstoppable if anyone other than Trump was at the helm.

The only ones who weren't willing to use their brief time at the microphone to shower Trump with praise were the two health officials — the National Institutes of Health's Dr. Anthony Fauci and global health expert Dr. Deborah Birx.

After bungling every public speech for weeks, Trump has suddenly attempted to appear presidential. The way he likely sees it, going in front of the American people every day is the best campaign ad he could make. He's betting that this free advertising will translate into votes in November.

But it has confirmed what many Americans already knew — he is decisively unqualified for the high job he holds.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams told reporters recently that there should be no more "criticism or finger-pointing" at Trump's response to the pandemic.

In other words, if the media and Trump's critics would just shut up, the president could do anything he wants without being held accountable. Nothing would make Trump happier than for Americans to forget about every horrible deed he has done and every lie he has told over the past three years.

Trump wanted us to ignore his declaration three weeks ago that the virus would disappear "like a miracle." He didn't expect us to cringe when he said last week that he always knew this was a pandemic.

In a crisis, Americans need a president we can trust to move mountains in order to keep us safe. The last thing we need is someone who can't even get his facts straight.

We're not looking for false promises about testing being available for anyone who wants it. We don't care that he just has "a feeling" that two unproven drugs might be a cure for the virus.

The only thing Americans really want to know right now is the truth. Unfortunately, Trump is so out of practice that he doesn't know how to begin to give it to us.

The Chicago Tribune