Trump: Cornered Wolverine or Fainting Goat?

First — it’s been a while since I’ve done a fundraiser. This will be a very small one. My expenses for hosting The Mahablog are about to go up. (The site gets too much traffic to get away with the bargain basement hosting plans any more, which is a good thing, I guess, but ….). I want to raise enough money to pay for a year’s worth of hosting,which is less expensive than month to month but just a twitch more than I can afford to spend right now. Here is the GoFundMe link. And, of course, if you’re on the home page there’s a PayPal link at the top of the column on the right. Thanks for all support.

Trump did an interview with Sean Hannity — today, I think — that’s getting a lot of scrutiny. I didn’t see it, but the outtakes are fascinating. Here’s one part:

For the second time this week, President Donald Trump appeared almost resigned to the idea that former Vice President Joe Biden will beat him in November, telling Fox News’ Sean Hannity that Biden “is going to be president because some people don’t love me.”

During a town hall in key swing state Wisconsin, Trump fell back on his well-worn attack lines against his Democratic opponent, painting Biden as too old and suffering from cognitive decline.

“Whenever he does talk, he can’t put two sentences together,” Trump exclaimed. “I don’t want to be nice or un-nice. The man can’t speak.”

At the same time, the president seemed to acknowledge current polling, which shows the ex-veep up by double digits nationally and leading in most battleground statesincluding Wisconsin, a must-win for Trump.

“And he is going to be president because some people don’t love me, maybe,” Trump said. “And all I’m doing is doing my job.”

Oh, so sad. Bring out the tiny violins. I’ve been thinking that Trump will probably become more reckless and dangerous as we get closer to election day — think cornered wolverine. But here he’s channeling his inner fainting goat. And when you think about it, he certainly does have a pattern of just giving up and changing the subject whenever the going gets hard, as he has been doing regarding the pandemic.

Of course. the “all I’m doing is doing my job” is a howler, because he never once has done his job, or has exhibited a hoo-haw about the job. He can’t even be bothered to read the security briefings, remember.

Indeed, yesterday Paul Waldman asked, “Why isn’t Trump trying to win?

The three most significant threats to Trump’s reelection are the pandemic, the country’s terrible economic situation, and the eagerness of Democrats to turn him out of office. In every case, the president has chosen not just to avoid taking actions that might help him win, but to actively worsen his situation.

Trump’s decisions are substantively appalling, resulting in more death, misery and political instability, which is what’s most objectionable about them. But even from the standpoint of his own self-interest, they’re almost incomprehensible. …

… Trump has spent a lifetime trying to avoid being seen as a loser. A little over four months from now, he could become one of the biggest losers in American history, only the fourth president in the last 100 years to fail in his reelection bid.

I assume we’re putting the ongoing unrest over police brutality under “the eagerness of Democrats to put him out of office.” Waldman then provides details of the many ways Trump is mismanaging the pandemic, the economy, and the election. For all of our worries about how Trump will pull some trick to steal the election, we may be overlooking two critical factors: One, Trump is dumb as a box of rocks. Two, Trump is dumb as a box of rocks.

For example, now the stable genius is suppressing his own votes. This is from the right-wing Washington Examiner.

President Trump’s extreme opposition to mail-in ballots is more likely hurting him and down-ballot Republicans than it is helping him.

Mounting evidence in voter registration data, a survey, and organizer anecdotes shows that instead of preventing the voting method from being a major factor in the November election, his stance is turning Republican voters off from using the method entirely, which could have the effect of depressing Republican votes.

I hope someone can get to him and explain this to him in a way that even he can understand so that Republicans can stop blocking vote by mail. Because it’s very possible the damn pandemic will be eating us alive in the fall.

And why isn’t Trump even trying to address the problems that are costing him in the polls? Did I mention the box of rocks thing? Ezra Klein writes that Trump campaigned in 2016 as a reality television star, and that’s all he knows.

Trump never changed his approach. He has continued to treat the presidency as a media spectacle, the work of governance as a dull distraction from the glitter of celebrity. He obsesses over cable news and Twitter conflict and neglects the job Americans hired him to do. And so now he does have a record: More than 120,000 dead from Covid-19 — and counting. An economy in shambles. Coronavirus cases in America exploding, even as they fall across the European Union.

“Governing has been so little on the mind of this administration from the very beginning that it’s created a bizarre, extraordinary situation,” says Yuval Levin, director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “The president thinks so much about what he’s doing in terms of the show he’s putting on that there’s been very little attention paid to how the government is functioning.”

Trump has spent the past three years and 158 days playing president on TV and social media. But he has not spent that time doing the job of the president. A strong economy that carried over from Barack Obama’s presidency hid Trump’s dereliction of duties. But then a crisis came, and presidential leadership was needed, and the American people saw there was no plan, and functionally no president.

A lot of American still haven’t seen it, of course, but I suspect many more will have caught on before November.

Instead, Trump is holding rallies maskless and settling old scores on social media. It is, to put it generously, a strategy against self-interest. And it suggests that what Trump did in 2016 was not a strategy at all: It was his sole way of being in the world, a mode that happened to match that moment, even as it’s failing him in this one.

“What does the dog do when it catches the car?” asks Levin. “Turns out the dog just keeps running and barking. I had this thought in the Lafayette Square madness. Trump puts on this show. And then he gets there and has nothing to do. He’s just standing there. His whole presidency is like that.”

Trump probably thinks he’s doing the job just fine, but then he’s never in his life had a job, so what does he know?

Anyway, there’s more to the Sean Hannity interview that’s disturbing. See up there where Trump says of Biden,

“Whenever he does talk, he can’t put two sentences together,” Trump exclaimed. “I don’t want to be nice or un-nice. The man can’t speak.”

Let’s look at how Trump answered one question.

SEAN HANNITY traveled with President DONALD TRUMP to Green Bay, Wis., for a Fox News town hall, and asked him this good question: “What’s at stake in this election as you compare and contrast, and what are your top priority items for a second term?” This is as standard a question as a sitting president can get — why should we give you another four years, and compare yourself to your opponent.

HERE IS HOW TRUMP RESPONDED: “Well, one of the things that will be really great, you know, the word experience is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience. I’ve always said that. But the word experience is a very important word. It’s a very important meaning. I never did this before — I never slept over in Washington. I was in Washington I think 17 times, all of the sudden, I’m the president of the United States. You know the story, I’m riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with our first lady and I say, ‘This is great.’ But I didn’t know very many people in Washington, it wasn’t my thing.

“I WAS FROM MANHATTAN, from New York. Now I know everybody. And I have great people in the administration. You make some mistakes, like you know an idiot like Bolton, all he wanted to do is drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to kill people.”

I have a vision of a future academic book on the Trump Administration. “Box of rocks, dumb as” will be one of the index entries.

See also another Paul Waldman column, Trump’s new reelection strategy reveals his contempt for his voters.

Very basically, what Waldman says here is that Trump’s re-election strategy amounts to squeezing enough voter enthusiasm out of his shrinking base so that it overcomes the less-than-roaring support for Joe Biden. That’s assuming enough of his shrinking base survives, of course, and that they can get to polls in November, since he doesn’t want them to have vote by mail.

Trump advisers and Republicans are resisting another big economic rescue, in part because they worry that extending supplemental unemployment benefits could discourage people from returning to work.

That’s driven by ideology. But it’s also about creating the illusion that we’re roaring back — a deception effort that’s central to Trump’s reelection — and more financial assistance might disrupt that illusion.

Never mind that if cases keep spiking, that will slow the economic recovery, meaning more people will badly need financial help. Trump is betting it all on coronavirus denial, and his voters are along for the ride.

My sense of things is that Trump voters are going to have to feel a whole lot more hurt before they realize they need to rethink things. But the way things are going, a whole lot more hurt is surely at hand.