He doesn’t look well. I don’t mean the effects of the virus, or the drugs, though both surely have their role. Mostly, he just looks subdued.
He looks like he’s starting to figure out that he’s the one thing he absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, allow himself to be:
The label terrifies him so much, he projects it on other people literally every day. It’s embarrassing to watch that in a president.
But if he loses this election, he stands to lose everything — his businesses, his money, his property, and quite likely his freedom. That’s a lot of losing for a guy so obsessed with it.
This makes him dangerous, but he doesn’t look it. Not nearly as dangerous as he looked a month ago, when we were sure he would close the postal service, seize the ballots, and have Chad Wolf’s DHS troops march on Pittsburgh to start riots he could then quell. With over fifty million citizens having voted already, the antics — which keep on coming — look a lot less menacing than they did back then.
Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine sequel wasn’t even a nice try. It landed with such a thud, you have to wonder what they were thinking. Even if every word of this “scandal” were true — and it’s not clear that even one actually is — did they really think it would change a single vote?
Even so, Trump’s instinct is to damage, and there’s plenty more of that he can do. But on some level, it must be sinking in that he is, by a wide margin, the most despised person on earth. That there is nobody anywhere who likes him. His friends loathe him. His family detests him.
He’s surrounded by fawning toadies who hate his guts. They have foolishly thrown their lives away for him, and they’re starting to talk about it publicly. Most are hanging on for their final paychecks, knowing full well that the job market will soon see them as radioactive.
All that hatred has to be hard, even for Trump. He has the demeanor of someone coming down from a long drug binge. This isn’t just my speculation — it’s practically a matter of public record. But as to which drugs and in what doses, who knows? All we have is rumors and the word of compromised doctors.
But the trouble with Donald Trump on strong drugs is how could we tell? Manic episodes? Grandiosity? Aggressiveness? Narcissism? These boxes have already been checked, too often to count. He’s a walking side-effect in normal times.
The psychology community is rightly reluctant to diagnose Trump without putting him on the couch, but I have no such compunction. He is, clinically speaking, crazy as a loon. His tray table is not in an upright and locked position.
And like any number of psychotic despots before him, he seems to be growing increasingly paranoid. Which is compounded by the fact that people really are out to get him. Lots of people.
Running for president was a terrible idea. It was always just a branding exercise, a way to cash in on the Trump name. He was looking at a great new career, trashing President Crooked for a living. In his mind, he saw himself as host of his own show on Fox, mistakenly assuming he had the attention span for it.
It would have been so beautiful, but then he went and won the election —which wasn’t even Putin’s plan. And that’s when the loser came out. That’s when all his most childish impulses came to the fore. He started grabbing everything he could. He was a kid in a candy store.
The opportunities for grift were too good to pass up. Saudi princes. Russian oligarchs. Greedy businessmen of every stripe. All staying at Trump hotels, playing at Trump golf courses, renting space in Trump office buildings, buying memberships at Mar-a-Lago.
Strangely, the bucks are not that big. This is
not oligarch income. The total take wouldn’t be a rounding error on Mike
Bloomberg’s lunch budget. And when you consider the risk of running serial scams
on the entire federal government, his behavior seems off-the-charts reckless. Self-destructive. Compulsive.
But the money was there for the taking. He couldn’t resist it. He didn’t think through consequences. It's the story of his life.
And nothing in that life prepared him for being president. He never considered that paying attention might be a usable asset. He couldn’t imagine a scenario where bullshit — which had served him so well in the past — would have its limits. He has been out of his depth since day one of his presidency, and on some level he knows it.
Not only that, he’s running out of tricks. The Roy Cohn playbook has long been overexposed, and it gets no traction against a virus. Cohn himself tried it, and the virus won.
Unfortunately for us, Trump’s playbook only allows for one course of action: doubling down. On everything. On lying, grifting, avenging any slight, smashing any norm, destroying any institution, and purging anyone with the slightest shred of competence or ethics.
He knows he’s a loser. We know he’s a poor loser. It’s hard to imagine him going out with anything less than a bang. Hopefully not nuclear.