WHILE watching the daily Downing Street press conferences it is possible to feel a range of emotions. Frustration, for instance, as one inquiry after another goes unanswered, or disappointment at the quality of the questioning.

Never once have I looked at the figures at the podiums and thought they had lost the plot. Yet that was the inescapable conclusion after watching Donald Trump’s two and a half hour performance in the White House press briefing room this week.

I did not intend to stay for the duration, but the event became hypnotic in its awfulness. Part Saturday Night Live sketch, part fever dream, here was the leader of the free world acting in a manner that made your average tantrum-throwing toddler look like the Dalai Lama.

His agenda was simple: I was right and you in the media were wrong. He had been placed on the back foot by a New York Times report that detailed how experts had warned the President from early January that a pandemic was on its way, but to no avail.

READ MORE: Scale of care home deaths revealed

While he did take some action, including banning travel from China on January 31, attention has now focussed on the missing weeks between then and his announcing the lockdown in mid-March. The President said he had bought the country precious time. But what had he done with that time?

That was what CBS White House correspondent Paula Reid wanted to know. If you were ever in any doubt that journalism matters more than ever in these grim days check out Reid holding the President to account while he tries to shout her down and calls her disgraceful. She was just doing her job, sure, but she did it in a coolly impressive, informed, confident way. If anyone in the Downing Street briefings fancies doing similar, be our guest.

At the same White House press conference Mr Trump played a showreel-cum-campaign ad setting out his case: another new low in a presidency hardly short of them. Besides his unseemly and ugly fury, he was rambling and repetitive. All in, not his finest two and a half hours.

After criticism he came out swinging again, this time against the World Health Organisation. Accusing the UN agency of a pro-China bias and “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus”, he suspended America’s $400 million funding.

The largest donor to a global body set up with the express purpose of keeping the world safe, and he pulls the plug. The biggest crisis to hit the planet since the Second World War, and he spits the dummy. And this at a time when the virus has not even begun its work in Sub-Saharan Africa. It has taken a grisly enough toll in rich nations with advanced healthcare systems; try to imagine what horrors it will wreak among some of the poorest and most vulnerable.

READ MORE: Helen McArdle on differing death rates

The WHO has its faults, not least praising China’s response and failing to run the rule over the dictatorship’s claims about numbers affected, but Mr Trump applauded China too. In a Tweet on January 24 he said China had been working very hard to contain the coronavirus, adding: “The US greatly appreciates the efforts and transparency. It will all work out well.” Infamous last words.

China does have a lot to answer for, not least its persecution of Dr Li Wenliang, the whistleblower who tried to warn his country and the world about the virus, only to himself die from it. In sending supplies around the world, China, like Russia, is using the virus crisis to extend its already considerable reach and influence. It has repeatedly failed to crack down on the wet markets from which it is most likely the virus emerged.

As is sometimes the case with Mr Trump, there are valid points in his complaints about China. But the conclusion to which he has come, that the best way to deal with them is by starving the WHO of funds at this critical juncture, is dangerously misguided.

It is not the first time Mr Trump has acted in such a way. The man elected on a platform of America First also walked away from the Iran nuclear deal, the UN Human Rights Council, and the Paris climate change agreement. He has had more flounces than a drag queen. All have had harmful consequences, but few have the potential to cause immediate havoc like cutting cash to the WHO.

READ MORE: Partial U-turn on firms help 'falls short'

If this virus shows anything it is that we are all in this together. Not in a good, egalitarian, let’s make the world a better place way. We are all in it together because we cannot escape each other. This virus does not respect borders, or seas, or land masses. It knows nothing of national sovereignty. It is like the weather, it is everywhere. It will keep moving round the globe, from Europe to America, from Asia to Africa, ebbing and flowing, till a vaccine stops it. Or does Mr Trump think he can build a wall round America?

America is suffering terribly as a result of this virus. Many countries, many families, are in the same storm tossed boat. We mourn the deaths in America as we do the world over. But the President must know that now is not the time for America to try to withdraw further from the world.

We are so busy trying to preserve life it is hard to keep track of how democracy is suffering in this crisis. Mr Trump is running for re-election in November. He should be out making his case to the people, answering for his actions. But with physical campaigning suspended, his Democrat opponent Joe Biden, like everyone else, is confined to barracks.

According to polling by Lord Ashcroft published yesterday, Mr Trump’s chances of a second term have not been harmed by the virus. America stands where it was in 2016. Those who backed Mr Trump strongly then support him just as fervently now, and the same goes for his critics. With seven months to go, says Ashcroft, there is still time for the crisis to turn the tables, but it has not done so yet.

There is still time for Donald Trump to row back on his WHO decision, just as he changed his mind on the virus, and show the kind of leadership required.

Do the right thing Mr President, because the cost of getting it wrong will be painful indeed.