Donald Trump's biggest fear

In ...

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: 117617

Reported Deaths: 3302
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds8011179
DeSoto721079
Harrison539884
Jackson469387
Rankin401686
Madison384394
Lee364082
Forrest309478
Jones296184
Washington260399
Lafayette253143
Lauderdale2499135
Lamar229138
Oktibbeha203755
Bolivar202877
Neshoba1861111
Lowndes181262
Panola170640
Leflore169188
Sunflower164049
Warren156056
Monroe153073
Pontotoc149020
Marshall147330
Lincoln142959
Pike140456
Copiah138736
Scott126229
Coahoma125537
Yazoo122734
Grenada122639
Simpson122349
Union119725
Tate119339
Itawamba115926
Leake115842
Pearl River115060
Holmes114960
Adams109344
Prentiss108320
Wayne102722
Alcorn102112
George101419
Covington98529
Marion95443
Tippah93123
Newton86827
Chickasaw86226
Hancock85928
Tallahatchie84626
Winston84621
Tishomingo82241
Attala80526
Clarke76353
Clay70522
Jasper69217
Walthall64127
Calhoun62713
Noxubee60117
Smith59816
Yalobusha55614
Montgomery55423
Claiborne53916
Tunica53617
Lawrence53414
Perry51223
Carroll49712
Stone48614
Greene47918
Humphreys44916
Amite42713
Quitman4216
Jefferson Davis41711
Webster37813
Benton3608
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32715
Sharkey28715
Jefferson27710
Franklin2483
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 160380

Reported Deaths: 2713
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23573377
Mobile16994316
Tuscaloosa10462140
Montgomery10352198
Madison942298
Shelby750465
Baldwin671269
Lee657165
Calhoun464761
Marshall442651
Etowah434151
Morgan422335
Houston419334
DeKalb349228
Elmore324653
St. Clair304042
Limestone293631
Walker283793
Talladega271437
Cullman255725
Lauderdale233842
Jackson219417
Autauga208231
Franklin206432
Colbert206032
Blount197225
Russell19603
Chilton190432
Dallas188127
Coffee180711
Dale178952
Covington175929
Escambia174931
Chambers136847
Clarke136617
Pike134514
Tallapoosa133987
Marion110331
Barbour10429
Marengo102622
Butler101241
Winston94013
Geneva9217
Lawrence86933
Pickens86918
Bibb85015
Randolph83516
Hale77730
Cherokee75614
Clay75312
Washington75112
Henry7236
Lowndes71628
Monroe65510
Bullock65017
Crenshaw60930
Perry5956
Fayette58913
Cleburne5739
Wilcox57012
Conecuh56513
Macon53920
Lamar5085
Sumter47421
Choctaw39312
Greene34616
Coosa2093
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