Donald Trump's biggest fear

In ...

Posted: Dec 11, 2017 7:13 PM
Updated: Dec 11, 2017 7:13 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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 300913

Reported Deaths: 5332
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion41330845
Lake26364448
Allen17299290
Elkhart16665212
St. Joseph16319220
Hamilton12459164
Vanderburgh9428112
Tippecanoe826727
Porter791279
Johnson6139164
Hendricks5807154
Vigo574474
Monroe525247
Clark495374
Delaware4789103
Madison4760119
LaPorte446894
Kosciusko446139
Howard325575
Warrick316072
Floyd306177
Bartholomew303262
Wayne295261
Cass293431
Marshall289944
Grant258747
Noble246846
Hancock243749
Henry237136
Boone235154
Dubois230430
Dearborn208829
Jackson206033
Morgan200643
Knox178017
Gibson177022
Clinton174920
Shelby174554
Lawrence171646
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Adams165219
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Wabash153018
Daviess152243
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Putnam118326
Wells118327
Randolph117819
White117421
Clay115621
Jefferson114214
Greene100253
Scott99818
Jay95012
Starke89221
Sullivan86615
Fulton81117
Perry80921
Jennings80514
Spencer8047
Fountain7378
Washington7176
Carroll66813
Franklin65925
Orange65728
Vermillion5832
Owen5816
Parke5416
Newton54012
Tipton53726
Rush5216
Blackford51211
Pike50218
Pulaski36810
Martin3485
Brown3263
Benton3251
Crawford2781
Union2621
Switzerland2473
Warren2352
Ohio2257
Unassigned0265

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 363304

Reported Deaths: 6020
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin49267665
Cuyahoga35214736
Hamilton29462371
Montgomery19636225
Butler14472144
Lucas14033409
Summit12962310
Stark8529197
Warren798975
Mahoning7068299
Lake662766
Lorain623697
Clermont563946
Delaware540335
Licking535875
Fairfield523763
Trumbull5159144
Greene510563
Clark501064
Allen460685
Marion457751
Wood4394107
Medina428654
Miami416465
Pickaway396448
Columbiana339597
Portage334471
Tuscarawas317557
Wayne314993
Richland306732
Mercer284737
Ross239259
Hancock232736
Muskingum231910
Auglaize223230
Putnam221449
Erie217165
Darke217058
Ashtabula215753
Geauga197351
Scioto193615
Union18658
Lawrence185436
Shelby184815
Athens18454
Seneca173118
Belmont158529
Madison156218
Sandusky152327
Preble148421
Huron147518
Defiance137921
Holmes137739
Logan123613
Knox122518
Fulton122025
Crawford119116
Ottawa118930
Washington116427
Clinton103414
Ashland102722
Williams10238
Jefferson10124
Highland99517
Henry98422
Brown9644
Champaign9345
Jackson90312
Van Wert8976
Fayette89217
Hardin86118
Morrow8552
Guernsey83313
Coshocton81413
Perry77012
Adams75012
Pike7261
Wyandot70516
Gallia70413
Paulding62710
Hocking61011
Noble59722
Carroll44310
Meigs37612
Monroe31021
Morgan2395
Vinton2105
Harrison1913
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