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Tue May 12, 2020, 02:33 PM

The Atlantic - David Frum : Trump Has Lost the Plot [View all]

The president is talking about things most Americans can’t comprehend, let alone care about.


A couple of years ago, BuzzFeed asked a former White House official to explain the logic behind some bizarre Trump action. The official responded with one of the master quotes of the Trump era. President Trump, the official said, is not playing “the sort of three-dimensional chess people ascribe to decisions like this. More often than not he’s just eating the pieces.” Over Mother’s Day and then through Monday—and who knows, perhaps continuing today—Trump has fired off hundreds of rounds of weapons-grade lunacy on Twitter. When Trump does this kind of thing, many are ready with an explanation: He’s rallying his base; he’s distracting his critics; he’s challenging the existence of reality itself.

But these explanations miss the point. Trump horribly and uniquely bungled the coronavirus crisis. The human result is mass death and Great Depression–scale unemployment. The political result is that while leaders in Britain and almost everywhere else in the democratic world have been boosted by a surge in public support and approval, Trump has not. The governors who have clashed with Trump have seen their poll numbers rise; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo may now be the most popular politician in the country. Governors who support Trump, like Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Georgia’s Brian Kemp, have seen their numbers tumble.

Trump trails Joe Biden in national polls by at least five points, as he has done all year. Trump is even lagging behind in swing-state polls. He is down by three points in Florida, five in North Carolina, and seven in Pennsylvania and Michigan. An internal Republican National Committee poll of the 16 least-decided states shows Trump behind in virtually all of them—so much so that he seems likely to drag the Republican Senate majority down with him, The Washington Post reported.

Trump’s psychology is defined by his terror of rejection. The most stinging insult in his vast vocabulary of disdain is loser. And yet every poll, every powerful Biden TV ad, forces Trump to contemplate that he is headed toward a historic humiliation. He’ll stand with Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover, the incumbents rejected because they failed to manage economic crises. Trump failed to prevent the crisis. Out of envy and spite, he dismantled the pandemic-warning apparatus his predecessors had bequeathed him. Trump failed to manage the crisis. At every turn, he gave priority to the short-term management of the stock market instead. Trump failed to message the crisis. He not only lacks empathy; he despises empathy.


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