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.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 93012

Reported Deaths: 2040
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin26447926
Ramsey10697319
Dakota7354125
Anoka5935132
Stearns390924
Washington368955
Scott250033
Olmsted236728
Nobles195416
Blue Earth16476
Wright15737
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Rice13228
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Sherburne112514
Kandiyohi9722
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Waseca6128
Steele5332
Freeborn5323
Benton5303
Nicollet52116
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Todd4872
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McLeod4752
Chisago4711
Le Sueur4524
Otter Tail4224
Beltrami4055
Martin37210
Goodhue3519
Pine3090
Itasca30314
Polk2984
Douglas2862
Isanti2790
Becker2642
Carlton2561
Cottonwood2240
Morrison2221
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Meeker1942
Sibley1863
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Brown1822
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Cass1593
Murray1582
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Redwood1541
Unassigned15052
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Jackson1411
Faribault1360
Swift1271
Houston1210
Koochiching1213
Kanabec1178
Roseau1170
Pennington1161
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Norman530
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Marshall501
Mahnomen461
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Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 83644

Reported Deaths: 1294
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15697261
Woodbury526363
Johnson508627
Black Hawk443688
Linn3941110
Story340517
Dubuque310141
Scott292628
Dallas275138
Pottawattamie206838
Buena Vista197212
Marshall177034
Sioux15043
Wapello131457
Webster121614
Plymouth110420
Clinton109920
Muscatine109154
Crawford10655
Cerro Gordo101821
Warren9486
Jasper81732
Des Moines7647
Marion7536
Tama70431
Henry6854
Carroll6535
Lee6207
Wright5721
Dickinson5086
Boone5008
Bremer4837
Washington45311
Louisa42815
Mahaska39119
Delaware3833
Franklin34618
Floyd3363
Jackson3303
Winneshiek3246
Hamilton3223
Clay3164
Lyon3074
Benton3061
Hardin2951
Winnebago28913
Poweshiek2788
Butler2672
Buchanan2651
Clarke2643
Jones2643
Emmet26010
Shelby2581
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Kossuth2540
Chickasaw2470
Clayton2443
Sac2440
Guthrie2416
Cedar2381
Cherokee2352
Grundy2193
Madison2122
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Harrison2073
Iowa1981
Mitchell1880
Howard1866
Humboldt1843
Palo Alto1830
Calhoun1793
Hancock1772
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Cass1602
Monroe15710
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Union1283
Taylor1271
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