Amid the rubble of buildings and lives, American presidents in modern history have faced national trauma with phrases like: “I can hear them”; “They have lost too much, but they have not lost everything”; “We have cried with you, we have hugged our children tightly.”

Just as they were diverse in eloquence and empathy, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had their own way of going through the noise of the catastrophe and approaching people.

But now, the death toll from the new coronavirus in the United States is rapidly approaching 100,000 under the command of a president whose communication skills are powerful in a political dispute, but not made for a time like this.

The impeachment process put an indelible mark on the Trump presidency. Now there is another, a growing list of American deaths that has surpassed deaths in the combined Vietnam and Korean wars. The deaths of Americans in the deadliest hurricanes and earthquakes are insignificant by comparison. It is the deadliest pandemic in a century.

The actual death toll from COVID-19 is undoubtedly higher than what is currently shown, a number that will be corrected over time.

In every opportunity he has had, Trump has said the numbers would be much worse without his leadership. However, the number continues to rise. It has exceeded what the president told people to expect, even as public health authorities began preparing the country in early April for at least 100,000 deaths.

“I think we will be substantially below that number,” Trump said April 10. Ten days later he commented: “We are going to some 50,000 or 60,000 people.” And ten days later: “We are probably going to go to 60,000-70,000.”

The magnitude and speed with which the virus kills is unlike anything that Trump’s recent predecessors faced. However, the calamity offers no memorable moment, no trigger to turn blue skies to black, no shooting at an elementary school. Instead, the balance develops in stages of illness.

The pandemic is unfolding in a divided country under the command of a president who lives by enthusing his supporters and making those who displease lose their temper, whether it means forgetting to wear a mask, play golf while millions take shelter or lash out. against his adversaries on Twitter. He raised the flags at half-staff to recognize those who have died of the virus, but raised them days before the 100,000-death mark was reached.

What was your feeling on Tuesday? He tweeted to “all the shoddy politicians” that, without their leadership, the loss of life would be much worse than the “more than 100,000 that seems to be the number.”

At first, when just a few hundred had passed away, Trump was asked during a press conference what his message was for frightened Americans. “You are a terrible reporter, that’s what I have to say,” he replied. “I think it is a disgusting question.”

In the attack on Oklahoma City in 1995, in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and other national nightmares that have lowered the flags to half-staff, the presidents found words more comforting to the frightened and distressed than Trump’s repetitive phrase that one death is too much.

Empathy was Clinton’s specialty. The vaguely rhetorical Bush resorted to eloquence. And the calm and controlled Obama cried.

“Trump? I have never seen a president with less empathy, ”said Andrew J. Polsky, a professor of political science at Hunter College at New York City University and who has studied leadership traits for decades. “He doesn’t even try … he’s out of his emotional comfort zone,” he added.