Did y’all see Jonathan Swan’s interview with Trump? Good God. Trump’s handlers should have staged a diversion to stop that disastrous interview. Pulled a fire alarm. Pumped laughing gas into the room. Set themselves on fire. Whatever it took.
“Train wreck” is too gentle a description. It was like a nuclear-armed jet crashed into a train, which then plummeted off the bridge and landed on a nuclear reactor, causing an explosion and meltdown that reached the earth’s molten core and triggered simultaneous eruptions of every volcano on the planet.
This exchange about statistics that prove how badly the U.S. (Trump) has bungled the coronavirus response in comparison to other developed countries:
.@jonathanvswan: “Oh, you’re doing death as a proportion of cases. I’m talking about death as a proportion of population. That’s where the U.S. is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, etc.”@realdonaldtrump: “You can’t do that.”
Swan: “Why can’t I do that?” pic.twitter.com/MStySfkV39
— Axios (@axios) August 4, 2020
This incarnate illustration of the word “churlish” that should appear in online dictionaries forever:
.@jonathanvswan: “How do you think history will remember John Lewis?”
— Axios (@axios) August 4, 2020
This babbling nonsense about voting by mail:
Trump raised new alarms about the alleged danger of election fraud in an interview with #AxiosOnHBO, warning that “lots of things can happen” with voting by mail if the presidential race isn’t decided on election night.https://t.co/u2fx7XrRTM
— Axios (@axios) August 4, 2020
Swan is being lauded for his interview skills, just as Chris Wallace was a couple of weeks back when his interview exposed Trump as an incoherent fool. Swan did better than most (including Wallace, IMO) by pushing back with some easily accessed facts to counter the lies and nonsense Trump predictably spewed. It ain’t rocket surgery.
The portion of the interview with the COVID-19 charts (first embed) unmistakably revealed why we’re in the mess we’re in for all who haven’t figured it out. It’s a Biden campaign ad and fractal portrait of Trump all in one clip. Trump’s people spend all day creating colorful, misleading charts to puff up the boss’s fragile ego, and Trump spends all day watching TV and throwing himself a pity party because no one else is praising his efforts. That’s the White House’s pandemic management strategy.
The comments about John Lewis are of a piece because they’re all about Trump’s feelings too. Lewis, a giant of a man — a central and inspiring figure in the ongoing struggle for civil rights — is dead, but Trump felt snubbed when Lewis didn’t attend his inauguration or state of the union speeches, so that’s the only noteworthy thing about Lewis in Trump’s solipsistic view.
Same with the vote-by-mail thing — there is no coherent strategy except ego protection. Trump’s donor/Postmaster General will try to use the levers of power to turn the situation to their advantage, but I’m convinced it began not as strategy but as a preemptive excuse for a possible election loss.
The Peppered Moth
Somewhat related, Politico has an article up about how Trump’s usual bag of tricks doesn’t seem to be working this time. The discussion isn’t about doing the actual job of the presidency, of course, since no one is doing that. It’s about campaigning.
The article notes that Trump’s “untamed political instincts, once treated by Republicans with an almost mystical revery [sic], look increasingly unlikely to stave off defeat.” Ya think?
Republicans have been bombarding Trump with advice, arguing that his insistence on stoking the same divisive issues — white resentment of minorities, the culture wars, and “LAW & ORDER” — that worked so well for him in 2016 appeal only to the Trump diehards and have turned off a broad majority of the country.
“It used to be that he would do five rallies a day and say whatever came off the top of his head and he thinks that won him the election,” said a senior GOP congressional aide, echoing the sentiments of a still-intact class of Republicans appalled by Trump and how he is turning vast swathes of Republican-leaning suburbs into Democratic territory. “It’s like when a 25-year old gets drunk and shows up at a family engagement. That can be cute. But if you’re a 50-year-old and you show up at the gathering drunk and embarrassing, that just hits a little differently. It’s not cute anymore.”
The analogy would work better if the 50-year-old showed up drunk at a funeral for a person he’d killed in a drunk-driving accident. You could see why the family wouldn’t find it cute anymore. But he won’t change — can’t change:
“I think it took several months [for the campaign] to realize that all the tools that worked brilliantly for four years were not in tune with where the country was,” according to Newt Gingrich…
But Giuliani suggested that Trump didn’t see things that way. “It’s worked before for him,” he said. “He believes it’s going to work again.”
Of course he does. Trump is a peppered moth:
The peppered moth, which is native to the United Kingdom, comes in two variants. One is black and white. This is perfect for camouflaging itself on lichen-covered surfaces. Another variant is mostly black. This version of the moth is much easier to spot under normal conditions so predators eat it more often. As a result, it makes up a tiny fraction of the peppered moth population.
But in the 1850s, something happened. When the industrial revolution kicked off, buildings and trees became covered with soot rather than lichen. The black version of the moth had come into its own. Effectively invisible and invulnerable to predators, it accounted for 98% of city-dwelling peppered moths by 1898.
But then things changed again. As air quality began to improve in the mid-20th century, buildings and trees became less soot-covered and the black version of the moth lost its advantage. Today, peppered moth populations in cities have returned to what they were in 1850 and the black peppered moth is, once again, rare.
The key point here is that the black peppered moth did nothing to earn its incredible success. It did exactly what it had always done. But a new ecosystem niche appeared that suited its “talents” and allowed it to thrive. When conditions changed again, the black moth did not adapt to these new conditions, no more than it had “adapted” to the old ones. A creature of instinct, its success was entirely because of dumb luck.
Now, there are seriously evil and crafty folks with hundreds of billions of dollars on the line in this election who will stop at nothing — and I mean NOTHING — to shape the outcome. And there are tens of millions of our fellow citizens for whom the past three-plus years have been a Golden Age — they’ve gloried in letting their racist, sexist, xenophobic freak flags fly and seeing their own bigotry and self-pity reflected in the president.
The former group will find it extraordinarily difficult to prevail unless Trump changes his tune and quickly, and the latter will be demoralized if he does. But Trump cannot and will not change, no more than an individual peppered moth can alter its hue. To mix metaphors and paraphrase Nora Desmond, Trump is still small; it’s the problems that got big.