(CNN)In politics, there is no such thing as a coincidence.

Politics is a game of timing, calculation and appearances, and it’s very, very rare that anything happens entirely by chance.As in, when an ambitious politician books a trip to Iowa or New Hampshire, it’s not by accident, or as a long-promised favor for a good friend. It’s because that pol wants to run for president, or at least have people talk about him or her running for president. Or when a politician starts to vote more conservatively or more liberally. They haven’t just had some sort of ideological epiphany. They are worried about a primary challenge.Or to provide a very specific example, when a president of the United States holds a news conference to tout a supposed breakthrough in treating Covid-19 the night before his nominating convention is set to open, it’s not just by accident. It’s because, for President Donald Trump, announcing an emergency order to allow doctors to use convalescent plasma to treat coronavirus patients at that news conference amounted to an attempt to jump-start the Republican National Convention.”Hope you had a great weekend at your convention,” Trump told reporters gathered in the White House briefing room Sunday night. “And we’re going to have a great convention coming up, and I look forward to it.”Read MoreConsider the challenge Trump faces as he — and the Republican Party he has seized control of — hold their quadrennial convention. The coronavirus pandemic continues to percolate in the country, which has now infected more than 5.7 million Americans and killed almost 177,000. (Both are the highest totals for any country in the world.) Poll after poll shows a majority of Americans disapprove of how Trump has handled the pandemic. Those same polls show Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden by high single-digits nationally while he also is behind Biden in most swing states.While Trump’s polling freefall over the summer appears to have slowed, he finds himself in a hugely unenviable position: A clear underdog for a second term in an election that may hinge on the one issue — the pandemic — that is immune to political calculation, pressure or spin.Faced with that sobering reality, Trump is trying to goose the science to match the political calendar.The announcement on Sunday, which will make it easier for doctors to obtain and use plasma from patients who have recovered from Covid-19 to treat those still suffering from the disease, is a perfect example of what the President is trying to do.Consider the timeline here. Last Wednesday — August 19 — The New York Times wrote a piece headlined “F.D.A.’s Emergency Approval of Blood Plasma Is Now on Hold” that included this paragraph:”Last week, just as the Food and Drug Administration was preparing to issue an emergency authorization for blood plasma as a Covid-19 treatment, a group of top federal health officials including Dr. Francis S. Collins and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci intervened, arguing that emerging data on the treatment was too weak, according to two senior administration officials.”Then, on Saturday, Trump tweeted this:”The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics. Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Must focus on speed, and saving lives!” (Trump tagged FDA Administrator Stephen Hahn in the tweet.)And then, whammo, a day later suddenly the FDA was issuing a emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma! On the day before the opening of the Republican National Convention! Man!


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Asked about the reversal on Sunday, Trump said this:”Well, I think that there might have been a holdup, but we broke the logjam over the last week, to be honest. I think that there are people in the FDA and actually in your larger department that can see things being held up and wouldn’t mind so much. That’s my opinion — a very strong opinion. And that’s for political reasons. This has nothing to do with politics; this has to do with life and death.”So, to be really clear here: Trump accused the FDA, a department run by a man he appointed, of slow-walking the convalescent plasma decision so as to make it more difficult for him to claim a victory in the fight against the coronavirus before the election. This is a classic bit of projection by Trump. He is trying to push through treatments to show that progress is being made in hopes of changing public opinion about how he is handling the coronavirus before votes start being cast. Just ask the experts!”While the data to date show some positive signals that convalescent plasma can be helpful in treating individuals with COVID-19, especially if given early in the trajectory of disease, we lack the randomized controlled trial data we need to better understand its utility in COVID-19 treatment,” Dr. Thomas File, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said in a statement. According to Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the announcement on Sunday was “bullying, at least at the highest level of the FDA, and I’m sure that there are people at the FDA right now who are the workers there that are as upset about this as I am.”And the Sunday night announcement isn’t the only place where Trump is trying to bend the arc of the search for treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus to fit his election timetable.As CNN’s Ana Cabrera tweeted Monday morning: “NEW: White House officials raised possibility in July meeting of a vaccine emergency use authorization before completed phase 3 trials, two sources familiar with the meeting tell CNN.”That follows hard on reporting from The New York Times Sunday night that included these lines:”Trump administration officials met with congressional leaders last month and told them they would probably give emergency approval to a coronavirus vaccine before the end of Phase 3 clinical trials in the United States, perhaps as early as late September, according to two people briefed on the discussion.”Look. Everyone — and I mean everyone — wants effective treatments and, ideally, a vaccine for this deadly virus sooner rather than later. At issue is whether politics (and the President’s need to change the narrative of his handling of coronavirus) is in the driver’s seat, or whether the science is. Pushing out a treatment that is not thoroughly vetted could do more harm than good. And with lots of people already saying they would not take the Covid-19 vaccine, imagine the damage done if a vaccine was rushed to market and proved ineffective or, even worse, detrimental to people’s health?The calendar of coronavirus doesn’t neatly match up with the political calendar. And the more Trump tries to make it do so, the more likely it is the science gets rushed. And rushing the science could produce outcomes even worse than the ones we currently face — no matter who wins in November.

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