Live and Let Die

Writing in the New Yorker, Susan B. Glasser asks, Has Trump Reached the Lying-to-Himself-and-Believing-It Stage of the Coronavirus Pandemic? The reality—in both public-health and crass political terms—doesn’t look good for the President. After exploring this issue in some detail, Ms. Glasser concludes with these paragraphs:

On Tuesday, he flew to a mask factory in Arizona for a photo op, where he appeared not wearing a mask, as the Guns N’ Roses version of the song “Live and Let Die” blasted over the factory’s loudspeakers. …

In the past, when Trump has got too far away from what is actually happening and into his personal hall of mirrors, the press of events has forced him to abandon his position. He is adept enough at self-survival to make wild course corrections where necessary. This is a man, after all, who said in late February that coronavirus cases would soon be down to zero and, just two weeks later, declared a national emergency and vowed to wage war on the deadly “invisible enemy.” I’ve seen many possible explanations for Trump’s bizarre, reality-defying behavior in recent days. He’s bored. He’s clueless. He’s panicking about his reëlection. He doesn’t care about anything other than the stock market. He’d rather talk about his border wall or vanquishing the “deep state.” All of them might be correct. It’s also possible that Trump really is the greatest of all time at something: believing his own hype. On Sunday, he stared right into a Fox News camera and declared that he had been treated worse than Abraham Lincoln—while speaking at the national memorial to the slain President. Either Trump is the most brazen politician in the long line of brazen American politicians or he somehow had been brainwashed by his own B.S.

Still, Trump appears to me to be increasingly terrified at the very real prospect of losing in November, as both national polls and surveys in battleground states currently show him doing. Overnight Monday and again on Tuesday, he let loose about an ad being run against him by a group of Never Trump Republicans called the Lincoln Project. The ad, “Mourning in America,” shows haunting scenes of a devastated country, “weaker and sicker and poorer” after four years under Trump’s leadership. The President responded by calling the group “the losers project” and railing about its founders, among them George Conway, the Trump-bashing husband of the White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway. This did not exactly seem like a confident performance by the most powerful man on the planet. It seemed like the scared rant of someone who knows that, eventually, he might finally be called on his most bullshit of performances.

Even Corey Lewandowski—Trump’s 2016 campaign manager and as blustery a loyalist to the President as exists—is now publicly acknowledging that Trump has set an extraordinarily risky political course in declaring victory over a still-raging pandemic. “It’s a huge gamble,” Lewandowski said in an interview, released on Thursday, with Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody. He added, “If there is a resurgence . . . not just in the next four weeks or six weeks, but as the weather turns again, if, come the fall in September, in October, we see an uptick again in the COVID-19 pandemic coming back because we didn’t handle it right the first time—we still don’t have testing and we don’t have a solution—that is devastating as an incumbent President of the United States.”

More than three decades ago, in his as-told-to memoir, “The Art of the Deal,” Trump bragged about the sheer, addictive effectiveness of lying—he called it “hyperbole”—in service of his goals. Yet he also acknowledged, “You can’t con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.” On November 3rd, we’ll find out if they did. For now, the scary prospect is sure to keep Trump up for many more nights to come, hate-tweeting in the dark.

My own observations follow, in thenext post.