I’ll add to that headline: Donald Trump wouldn’t just light his own house on fire if that’s what it took to get some press and a crowd.
He’d do it after getting the job of fire chief. After half the town burns, Trump would pull a Russell Crowe.
Because that’s what he sees his job: entertainer-in-chief, not commander-in-chief.
Governing is Complicated and Boring to him. His tweet about Joe Biden being a boring ratings disaster as president, now, that’s telling. This is what matters to him: ratings, not results. Trump doesn’t solve problems. He’s hard-wired to create new ones.
It’s why he loves giant rallies and the ability to move the press with constant tweets.
And this is why Trump continually generates controversy, even when it hurts him. He believes in the theory that there’s no such thing as bad press, and that worked for him to generate name ID and coverage when he was a real estate developer. You can make a living selling overpriced condos and fake Trump University degrees if millions of people know your name. Doesn’t matter if 90 percent of people think you’re a buffoon–10 percent of millions of people is all you need.
Politics is different. Name ID can get you through a crowded primary, but it doesn’t help you run a country.
This is why I never look at Trump’s weird moves as three-dimensional chess. He’s doing what he knows, picking weird fights to get maximum media coverage even though (1) as president, he naturally gets more coverage than any person on earth, and (2) many of these battles are insane and counter-productive.
There’s nothing smart about picking a fight with Bubba Wallace and defending the Confederate flag when everybody is going the opposite direction: NASCAR, the state of Mississippi, the leaders of the military, voters.
If it generates press, owns the libs, and makes his base happy, he does it. Goya beans, marching neo-Nazis, kids in cages, travel bans–the list is endless. I don’t have time to type all the horrors.
So what changed?
The COVID pandemic, economic crash, and protests against police violence all hit at once this year. They exposed Trump’s incompetence in the face of a single real crisis, much less three simultaneous ones.
When times are good, sure, people like to be entertained and diverted. You can dominate the headlines with fights about the Confederate flag or whatever.
But if the nation is on fire, with the economy in shambles from the pandemic, people dying, and the largest civil rights protests in history, that’s what will dominate the press and the minds of voters. They won’t be distracted, no matter how shiny the object. Only a spectacular fool would try to divert attention from those pressing issues.
Here’s a headline for you: As COVID-19 Toll Soars, Trump Brags About Bringing ‘Back’ Incandescent Light Bulbs
So yes, Trump is a spectacular fool.
After years of this, he won’t change. Maybe he can’t. Clearly, he doesn’t want to, no matter how many advisors tell him it’s not working.
I think Mary Trump has it right: Donald Trumps is still a damaged little boy, the kind of kid who will swear at the Thanksgiving table and knock things over because he’s incredibly desperate for attention.
It’s not a brilliant political strategy. Any fool can make a packed room full of people turn around and pay attention.
Walk into a Safeway and throw a tantrum–about masks, QAnon conspiracy craziness, flat-earth theories, whatever–and kick over a carefully stacked pyramid of Coors Light and tortilla chips. With cell phones turning every person into a mobile, worldwide TV studio, you could easily go viral doing that sort of trashy nonsense. The shares and retweets might go crazy.
But it doesn’t make you a media savant.
And it’s not a good habit for an elected leader who’s supposed to be solving problems, especially when millions of people are out of work or infected with a deadly virus.