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Donald Trump's biggest fear

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Posted: Dec 11, 2017 6:13 PM
Updated: Dec 11, 2017 6:13 PM

In this terrific New York Times piece on Donald Trump in the White House, one line stood out to me as absolutely critical to understanding how the 45th President of the United States approaches the job.

It's this one: "Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals."

There's so much to unpack there.

Start with the fact that TV is the frame through which Trump sees not only his presidency but his broader life. If something or someone is on TV, it matters. If not, then not. The equation for Trump is that simple.

You see that focus-bordering-on-obsession manifested in all sorts of ways during Trump's first near-year in office.

* His habit of praising some member of Congress in a crowd for how he or she did on television. Example: I saw Congressman Gaetz on TV the other day. He did a great job. Really great.

* He is uniquely focused on how cable covers his events and pronouncements. This, from CNN's Dylan Byers, is hugely illuminating on that front: "In the wake of almost every event he holds, whether it be a rally, a bilateral press conference or a White House ceremony, Trump is presented with a packet of screen-shots showing how the television networks covered the event."

* He makes constant reference -- in virtually every speech -- to the number of cameras covering the event. One example: "Look at all those red lights," Trump said when he was in Alabama earlier this year to campaign for appointed Sen. Luther Strange. "Ay yai yai. It's always fun to see a red light."

Now, take a step back. It's not just that Trump judges success or failure via TV. It's deeper than that. It's that he views his entire presidency as one big reality TV show in which the goals are only: a) to be perceived as "winning" in the eyes of the audience and b) to keep people watching.

Go back and read that sentence from the Times' piece. "Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals." (Italics are mine.)

The key for Trump is to win the day in the eyes of the people watching on TV. But, it's more than that. It's also to vanquish his political enemies. To be seen as the victor, the tough guy, the winner. It's like he sees the presidency as a daily singing competition where he always wants to win the people's vote.

What's important about Trump's view of the presidency is that winning a cable news cycle -- or a daily singing competition -- is, at best, a tactic. It's nothing close to a strategy.

Which jibes with the difficulty that arises any time someone tries to put a narrative arc on this presidency. There really isn't one. The secret plan is that there is no secret plan. Trump acts and reacts in real time with a very short-term goal: Win the moment.

Being talked about is enough. As long as he is a subject of the national conversation, Trump is relevant. (Witness Trump's insistence that Barack Obama wasn't born in the U.S.)

And, in Trump's world, being relevant is the only thing that matters. Death for him is not mattering.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 66646

Reported Deaths: 1874
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5599118
DeSoto363230
Harrison249836
Madison241464
Rankin227633
Jackson226942
Jones188558
Forrest177856
Washington164641
Lee142839
Lauderdale140792
Neshoba128592
Lamar120214
Oktibbeha111838
Bolivar110834
Warren108932
Lowndes107437
Panola105412
Sunflower102425
Scott99820
Lafayette96416
Copiah95028
Pike92836
Leflore92562
Holmes89048
Grenada84321
Yazoo82912
Pontotoc8218
Lincoln80941
Simpson79530
Leake78625
Monroe77853
Wayne76421
Coahoma74312
Tate72028
Marshall6889
Marion65720
Union62716
Winston62016
Adams61725
Covington61213
George5595
Newton54211
Pearl River54038
Tallahatchie53010
Attala52125
Walthall49819
Chickasaw45920
Noxubee45311
Alcorn4195
Calhoun4179
Prentiss41710
Tishomingo4095
Claiborne40413
Smith40413
Clay39413
Hancock38814
Jasper3879
Tippah36013
Itawamba35810
Tunica3337
Clarke32625
Montgomery3213
Lawrence3197
Yalobusha31310
Humphreys29111
Quitman2621
Carroll26111
Greene24111
Kemper23214
Perry2327
Jefferson Davis2316
Amite2306
Webster22812
Wilkinson20513
Sharkey1975
Jefferson1957
Stone1944
Benton1431
Choctaw1334
Franklin1242
Issaquena261
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 94827

Reported Deaths: 1674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12969243
Mobile9836206
Montgomery6609148
Madison531433
Tuscaloosa419073
Unassigned356061
Baldwin350224
Shelby326035
Marshall313035
Lee266045
Morgan236918
Etowah210431
DeKalb179813
Calhoun176113
Elmore171538
Walker152064
Houston138612
Russell13582
St. Clair132817
Dallas131823
Limestone131813
Franklin127020
Cullman122012
Colbert117113
Lauderdale115717
Autauga108621
Escambia107516
Talladega100913
Jackson9684
Tallapoosa85479
Chambers84038
Dale82723
Blount7884
Chilton7886
Butler75836
Coffee7566
Covington73420
Pike7037
Clarke6629
Barbour5735
Lowndes57124
Marion57024
Marengo55315
Hale47326
Bullock46311
Winston45011
Perry4404
Bibb4265
Wilcox42610
Monroe4194
Randolph39610
Pickens3929
Conecuh38810
Washington38612
Sumter36018
Lawrence3481
Macon33414
Crenshaw3143
Choctaw28112
Cherokee2707
Henry2593
Geneva2570
Clay2525
Greene25011
Lamar2202
Fayette2045
Cleburne1261
Coosa1012
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