Does Donald Trump’s odd behavior of late mask a hidden desire to crash his third presidential candidacy?
As absurd and unlikely as this notion seems, some pretty smart folks have floated the possibility of a Trump political self-immolation lately. With a steady stream of unforced errors (dinner with proven kook Ye and his anti-Semitic pals at Mar-a-Lago, Donald? Really?) and the usual quantity of establishment media hyperbole and distortion over Trump’s role in the less than inspiring results of this year’s elections, it almost appears as though his 2024 fortunes took a nosedive as soon as he uttered the “I’m running” words nearly a month ago.
The most recent flap over Trump’s remarks on the Constitution and overturning the 2020 election – over two years after the fact – demonstrate the point. The former chief executive isn’t acting like a person who’s got his political victory hat on. If he did, he’d be handling things with more self-control. Trump needs to turn off the controversy, and soon. Does he have enough desire and discipline left in his tank? In a piece titled “Does Trump Really Want To Be President Again?”, the irreplaceable Victor Davis Hanson wrote at PJ Media last week:
“[G]iven events since Trump’s departure, [Trump] should be in the driver’s seat. But he is not. Why?
“Rather than offering detailed correctives for Biden’s disastrous record, Trump is again dabbling in social media madness. He needlessly floated the absurd idea that constitutional norms might need to be changed to allow the disputed 2020 election result to be overturned. He seems oblivious that the Left, not conservatives, talk of altering the Constitution. They call for the destruction of the Electoral College, and wish to dilute the Second Amendment and redefine the First.
“Why did Trump need to descend into personal invective when prior to the midterms, many primary polls were confirming his front-runner status? Why did he not remain magnanimous, unite the party, and focus on giving millions to his endorsed but endangered candidates like Dr. Mehmet Oz, Blake Masters, and Herschel Walker?”
Far be it from me to question the wisdom of Victor Davis Hanson, but the answer to his queries is obvious: Because we’re talking about Donald Trump, that’s why.
Trump thrives on keeping everyone guessing about his next move or reaction. He can’t always hide his feelings – as he was pretty angry on Election Night a month ago – but he maneuvers his campaign message based on his own instincts. And he has a pretty solid track record to convince himself that he’ll come around even when he messes up.
The truth is, nobody knows what Donald Trump is going to do. Anyone who pretends to understand the day-to-day motivations of the man couldn’t possibly be right most of the time. Many people – and nearly all politicians – seek to do things seen as favorable to others close to them. Of course there are the anti-social outcasts, system snubbers, recluses, permanent losers and the clinically insane who don’t understand their own actions.
Donald Trump fits none of these categories, yet he still commits inexplicable blunders even in the presence of his supporters and friends. How many times has he been counseled to stay away from social media and stick to pounding on the Democrats while relentlessly promoting his winning MAGA agenda? Is it really a coincidence that Trump enjoyed a small surge in popularity when he was banned by his enemies from electronically popping off without filter at all times of the day?
I can’t imagine wife Melania advising her husband to keep doing what he’s doing. Nor would any of his advisory team, though I can’t speak for those in his personal inner circle.
“Let Trump be Trump” was the rallying cry in 2016 and afterwards. I myself was an adherent to the philosophy, although with each ill-advised tweet or callous, indifferent – tacky? – personal snafu it became harder and harder to simply look the other way. His post 2020 election behavior may have been correct on the merits but he ticked off so many potential allies that they stopped pushing for a more thorough review on his behalf.
Trump stopped being the man who you loved being in charge of the country but would never be friends with and instead morphed into an annoying, whiney, vindictive and spiteful sore loser who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer to anything he proposed to do – not that he’d ever actually accept counsel from others at various times.
In the process, Trump turned comrades into would-be enemies. His persistent snubs of his longtime loyal vice president, Mike Pence, over the Electoral Vote counting matter was very sad to see. The most successful president since Reagan left town not as a jilted hero or representative symbol of a lost (stolen?) cause, but as an unstable bore who generated very little sympathy. Many of his most ardent backers were relieved when he voluntarily removed himself to Mar-a-Lago.
With all of this being said, there is one thing about Trump that is indisputable and easy to understand. The man hates losing. Absolutely despises it. For the growing gaggle of Trump detractors who think his ongoing abhorrent behavior signals his willingness to burn the GOP house down around him, I’d remind them that were he to go through with this scenario, his legacy – and that of his family business – would be ruined for all eternity.
There aren’t many things Donald Trump loves more than himself, but his reputation and name brand are two of them. Trump wants to be seen as the political savior of America, not the one who permanently spoiled the soup. He may not grasp how his actions are viewed as self-sabotage to practically everyone else, but Trump would not ever do lasting damage to his family and business.
This character trait hasn’t changed since Trump first burst onto the political scene and it won’t change now. Many observers suggested that there was no way Trump could win in 2016 when he ran for the Republican nomination and that he was only waging a campaign for gobs of free media attention to bolster his brand recognition and to sooth his gigantic ego. Or to gain the necessary foundation for a Trump-based media empire that would rival any of the top cable channels and network news operations.
No one will ever know if any of this was part of Trump’s original thinking, but he did run, he did win and he did fulfill his duties as president. What he refused to do, all along, was change his behavior. Why would anything he’s done lately alter the firm impressions he’s already ingrained in so many?
There’s no such thing as a single damaging episode that will kill off Trump’s political prospects. The cumulation of events might do it – in the form of approval ratings that wouldn’t allow him to prevail – but his ultimate undoing won’t be due to someone in the media or Republican Party saying “that’s enough!” and declaring him politically lifeless.
Besides, the Republican establishment will invariably do something stupid – like retiring senator Thom Tillis negotiating an absurd amnesty “compromise” with Democrats – to infuriate and reanimate the Republican base so much that they’ll ignore practically every shortcoming in Donald Trump’s repertoire. Who among Republicans would never compromise on amnesty for illegal aliens (at least not without major concessions from the open borders crowd)?
The 45th president, that’s who.
I don’t believe Trump would take down the country because he’s mad at the way he’s been treated. And he doesn’t care what his enemies think about him anyway. Like a dwindling hurricane that suddenly regains strength by moving onto warm ocean waters, something will propel Trump to his old potency he once exhibited. Trump has more political lives than a cat. And you can bet the house that he wants to win.
You can also wager that he won’t kill off the GOP’s chances in the next election. Should he lose in the primaries, here’s thinking Trump will back the effort of the next Republican nominee. If he doesn’t, his lasting legacy will be mush. And there’s no way Donald Trump the man would ever stand for lasting mediocrity.
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