As the United States election campaign enters its final three months, President Donald Trump appears determined to project an image of normality and strength.
With the country in the grip of a pandemic and the economy plunging by a record-shattering 32.9 per cent annual rate last quarter, the President's approach frequently seems surreal.
Despite having just passed 150,000 coronavirus deaths and 4.4 million cases, the US is drifting while it waits for a vaccine. There seems to be no urgency at the top of the administration to change course.
Trump on Thursday visited Texas, where Covid-19 cases have been rising, but he spoke about his energy policies and attended a fundraiser. Two Republican politicians had to pull out of events after positive test results. Texas, which Trump won by 9 points in 2016, is now a toss-up state.
It is the kind of normality you can only achieve by ignoring reality.
Trump could have used defence powers to deploy military resources as part of a national strategy, rather than leaving the Covid-19 response up to state governors. Instead, he sent militarised agents to a US city.
Trump used an Executive Order and imported imagery and rhetoric from America's overseas wars to stage a "surge" in Portland, Oregon. The state's governor called it "political theatre".
Heavily equipped and camouflaged agents descended on a small area of the liberal city as though it was a fear-blighted Iraqi town. They used crowd-control devices, beat protesters, snatched some off the streets, caused injuries and suffered some themselves.
Homeland Security agents have been in Oregon without state agreement since early this month with the stated aim of protecting federal buildings.
Editorial: Covid-19 coronavirus will throw a huge shadow
On Thursday, there appeared to be an attempt to de-escalate and reduce the federal presence with an agreement struck with state authorities. Trump said the agents prevented Portland being "burned and beaten to the ground".
Before then, the agents' presence caused what were mostly small, peaceful Black Lives Matter protests - with some vandalism and clashes at night - to swell into larger, more mainstream gatherings.
Trump's focus on law and order reflects a vulnerability with white voters amid the pandemic. His ads suggest crime would rise under Biden. Polls show him behind Democratic rival Joe Biden by about 10 per cent in suburban areas. In 2016, Trump won the suburbs by 4 per cent.
Polls are only a snapshot but, at least so far, Biden is preferred on handling crime and safety. An ABC/Washington Post poll gave him a 9 per cent lead. It also showed that 60 per cent of respondents disapproved of Trump's handling of the pandemic. A Fox News poll showed the coronavirus was the top concern for voters with 29 per cent compared the next biggest issue – the economy, with 15 per cent.
It is hard for the public to care about another issue when their health and livelihoods are affected by the all-consuming coronavirus.
Late in the week, he tried adding to the distractions by tweeting a suggestion mail-in voting was inaccurate and the election should be put off "until people can properly, securely and safely vote". This was swiftly dismissed by senior members of Congress from his own party.
Trump has vast resources and manpower but they are not being deployed where they could make the difference his country so desperately needs.