One of the chief selling points about Donald Trump in 2016, one that persuaded many initially dubious Republicans, was the argument that “he fights.” Some of us tried to counter that his battles nearly always concerned his own fragile ego, not the cause of conservatism, nor even the Republican Party, but these objections were swept aside. He was anointed the right’s champion, willing to do or say anything to get (back) at their enemies, or so they believed, and they were gratified.
Since January, we have witnessed a vivid lesson in the limits of fighting. There were ample reasons before now to recoil from Trump’s style of combat. It is so consistently cruel, witless, below-the-belt, and unhinged (e.g. his recent tweets implying that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough is guilty of murder), that it tainted by association any reasonable arguments that might be advanced for conservative ideas. But in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve witnessed that even when a dire emergency calls for traits other than bellicosity, fighting is all he knows how to do. This is proving to be a catastrophe for the nation, and also for Trump’s own self-interest.
Who doubts that if, in January and February, when his intelligence briefers were warning of a public health disaster, Trump had adjusted his style just a bit, he would now be enjoying the kind of approval boost that other world leaders have banked? If, instead of minimizing the threat, trusting Xi Jinping to handle it, and lashing out at Democrats for exaggerating the danger to harm him politically, he had attempted just a simulacrum of traditional leadership, he might now be coasting to reelection rather than bleeding support.
My comment: Yes, indeedy, he does love to fight. But he also knows how to cajole and flatter. Witness the infamous January 24 tweet, pictured above.
Trump’s current behavior is explained not by his lack of tactical flexibility, but rather by his psychotic delusional beliefs.