Walls Closing in on Trump

Helaine Olen writes at WaPo,

I believe that when we look back at the Trump era, we will remember the spring of 2020 as the time when Trump and his administration finally jumped the shark. Somewhere between seeming to promote bleach as a cure for the novel coronavirus and accusing elderly protester Martin Gugino of being an “Antifa provocateur” after Buffalo police shoved him violently to the ground, Trump has — finally — lost control of the narrative thread.

“Trump wants your eyeballs,” Olen continues. He wants to you watch him, listen to him, pay attention to him, and stay tuned for the next exciting episode. His entire presidency has been a series of attention-grabbing stunts. He doesn’t do the job; he puts on a show. And for three years, he got away with it. Olen continues,

As it turns out, what Charles Sykes at the Bulwark calls Trump’s “almost reptilian instinct for tapping into the Zeitgeist” might well have been a combination of good economic circumstances mixed with ghastly entertainment appeal.

But now we’re facing multiple real crises, and at every turn Trump just makes a bigger fool of himself. And people are noticing. The bad polling numbers for Trump I wrote about last week have gotten slightly worse.

Trump’s speech at West Point on Saturday was clearly intended to enhance his image and provide some video footage for campaign ads, but the stunt appears to have backfired. Stephen Collinson, CNN:

President Donald Trump’s showmanship is failing him as fears mount of a new spike in coronavirus infections and after another shooting of an African American man raised new questions about police brutality.

Instead of addressing such questions directly, Trump is grasping for made-for-TV moments designed to enhance his personal aura — a device he has used to some effect in his presidency but that is now emphasizing his disconnect with many Americans and struggles to manage crises besieging the White House.

The President’s television producer’s eye leads him to seek dramatic tableaus that create his preferred image of himself — strong, defiant, tearing down establishment structures and trampling the normal etiquette of the presidency.

In the most recent example on Saturday, Trump’s attempt to wrap himself in the power and prestige of the military failed at a West Point graduation ceremony apparently put on for his benefit, when his creeping walk down a ramp triggered so much social media mockery that he felt the need to explain it in a tweet of his own.

Now he’s about to resume the rallies, which I don’t believe ever appealed to anyone outside his hard-core fan base. It’s possible those will backfire on him as well.

Assuming there are no more disasters — no wars, no monster hurricanes, no huge second wave of the virus that forces another shutdown — it’s safe to say that by November the economy will not have snapped back to where it was in January, which wasn’t all that great if you didn’t own stocks. The most optimistic independent forecasts I’ve seen say the economy will be in recession until sometime next year. Given the stinginess of the federal response, it’s pretty much a given that working people in service sector jobs especially will still be hurting badly as we go to the polls in November. The very wealthy, of course, probably will be wealthier.

And other than an economy that didn’t completely suck, I don’t see that Trump has anything else to run on. It’s also safe to say that none of our other pressing issues, including racial equality and police brutality, will be addressed in any meaningful way as long as Trump is sitting in the White House and Mitch McConnell controls the Senate.

There are many more hazards for Trump ahead. A neice, the daughter of Trump’s older brother Fred, will publish a tell-all book in July that’s said to be full of “unflattering revelations.”

The niece, Mary Trump, will release the book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” on July 28, according to Ms. Trump’s publisher, Simon & Schuster. The Daily Beast first reported on the book on Sunday.

In the book, Ms. Trump, 55, will say she was a primary source for The New York Times’s coverage of Mr. Trump’s finances and provided the newspaper with confidential tax documents. A spokeswoman for The Times declined to comment on Sunday. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

And then there’s John Bolton’s long-anticipated book, The Room Where It Happened, that was originally scheduled to be released March 17 but which now is scheduled to go on sale June 23. Trump is expected to sue to stop the book from going public, which smells like censorship to me. It’s anybody’s guess whether the suit will stop the book from coming out next week.

From the Simon & Schuster press release:

What Bolton saw astonished him: a president for whom getting reelected was the only thing that mattered, even if it meant endangering or weakening the nation. “I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations,” he writes. In fact, he argues that the House committed impeachment malpractice by keeping their prosecution focused narrowly on Ukraine when Trump’s Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy—and Bolton documents exactly what those were, and attempts by him and others in the Administration to raise alarms about them.

Bolton also reveals what it was like to fight against an incumbent President determined to prevent publication of this book. Trump directed the seizure of and withheld his personal and other unclassified documents, despite numerous requests for their return. He also obstructed Bolton’s Twitter account and made outright threats of censorship.
Bolton’s response? Game on.

It sounds as if Bolton has added to the thing since Trump stopped the earlier release. And, frankly, whatever is in that book, Trump would have been much better off had it come out on March 17, just as the coronavirus was beginning to consume the nation’s attention.


ABC News will air a one-hour interview with Bolton on Sunday as a prime-time special. According to ABC News, “Bolton will provide a first-hand account of crucial moments including private meetings in the Oval Office, the Putin-Trump summit in Helsinki and the president’s historic meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. For the first time publicly, Bolton will also present his account of the July 25, 2019 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and discuss why he didn’t testify during the president’s impeachment trial.”

This could be fun. See also George Conway, John Bolton made a tragic mistake. It’s not the one you might think; and Paul Waldman, Let’s hear what John Bolton has to say. But he’s no hero.

Further down the road there’s the fight over Trump’s taxes and other financial records. I understand that we might get a decision — either way — from the Supreme Court late this month or early next month. However, it’s very possible the mess will get kicked back to a lower court and not be resolved before the November election.

Nothing that happens in the next few months will matter to Trump’s base, which will stampede over a cliff for him.  Paul Waldman:

Despite all the signals of danger — weak poll numbers, a mismanaged pandemic, an economic disaster — Trump supporters have stamped in their mind a mental picture of Trump succeeding, and they are holding it tenaciously. As Politico reports, local Republican officials are brimming with confidence:

“The more bad things happen in the country, it just solidifies support for Trump,” said Phillip Stephens, GOP chairman in Robeson County, N.C., one of several rural counties in that swing state that shifted from supporting Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. “We’re calling him ‘Teflon Trump.’ Nothing’s going to stick, because if anything, it’s getting more exciting than it was in 2016.”
This year, Stephens said, “We’re thinking landslide.”

Will Trump win all 50 states, or merely 45 or so? It’s a bit early to say.

Sarcasm off. Fortunately for us, Trump’s base by itself cannot win the election for him. Unfortunately for us, these folks are not going to believe the results if when Trump loses. See Steve M and Digby.