Politico wrote today about Mike Pence’s new stance on the coronavirus pandemic. Pence pretended to be thoughtful while he was head of the coronavirus task force. Now that the task force seems to have disappeared, he is free to echo Trump without any pretense of balance or thoughtfulness.

VEEP IN THOUGHT — Since February there has been a rift inside the White House between the scientists and the politicians over how to contain the spread of coronavirus. Anthony Fauci has been the consistent advocate of a forceful response and an opponent of any sugar-coating of the perils Americans face. President Donald Trump has been the reluctant warrior against the disease who took some major steps early on but soon grew impatient of the stay-at-home restrictions, the masks, and — most of all — the economic calamity that might jeopardize his re-election.

Vice President Mike Pence, the chair of the president’s coronavirus task force, often played the role of bridge between the factions. At the awkward task force briefings that dominated afternoon television in March and April, the three roles of the three men played out as theater: Fauci the doomsayer, Trump the misinformed optimist, and Pence the child of a troubled marriage trying to smooth things over during mom and dad’s public fights.

Pence abruptly reinvented himself as a coronavirus skeptic this week, with comments and an op-ed article that stray into pandemic denialism. In a conference call with governors, Pence incorrectly argued Monday that the spike in cases that almost half of the states are experiencing is simply a function of more testing. In a Wall Street Journal piece published today and headlined “There Isn’t a Coronavirus ‘Second Wave,’” Pence wrote, “The media has tried to scare the American people every step of the way, and these grim predictions of a second wave are no different.”

The op-ed cherry-picked a handful of positive statistics — there are of course bright spots — and emphasized the administration’s record in increasing testing and pumping up the manufacture of personal protective equipment. He boldly predicted a vaccine would be available “by the fall.”

Perhaps most telling, Pence made it clear that the effort to eliminate the disease before a vaccine is ready is not really the goal anymore. Instead, Pence argued that the White House now measures success by a lower level of daily deaths.

“In the past five days,” he wrote, “deaths are down to fewer than 750 a day, a dramatic decline from 2,500 a day a few weeks ago and a far cry from the 5,000 a day that some were predicting.” This purportedly tolerable rate of 750 dead Americans a day would equal 270,000 deaths in a year.

By this afternoon, the news pages of the Journal contradicted much of what Pence had to say. In an interview with the paper, Fauci reiterated that the jump in cases “cannot be explained by increased testing.” He warned that relaxed approaches to social distancing, such as congregating close to lots of people in large venues, and an aversion to mask-wearing would cause the disease to spread.

Pence is scheduled to be with Trump at a rally in Tulsa, Okla. on Saturday, while Fauci told NPR that he hasn’t talked to Trump in two weeks.

But Fauci did agree with Pence on one thing. “People keep talking about a second wave,” he told the newspaper. “We’re still in a first wave.”