Inside The Trump Implosion

Things aren't pretty inside the House of Trump these days.

Donald Trump Victory

The New York Times Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman have today’s must-read in the form of a behind the scenes look at what appears for all the world to be a floundering Trump campaign:

Donald J. Trump was in a state of shock: He had just fired his campaign manager and was watching the man discuss his dismissal at length on CNN. The rattled candidate’s advisers and family seized the moment for an intervention.

Joined by his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, a cluster of Mr. Trump’s confidants pleaded with him to make that day — June 20 — a turning point.

He would have to stick to a teleprompter and end his freestyle digressions and insults, like his repeated attacks on a Hispanic federal judge. Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey argued that Mr. Trump had an effective message, if only he would deliver it. For now, the campaign’s polling showed, too many voters described him in two words: “unqualified” and “racist.”

Mr. Trump bowed to his team’s entreaties, according to four people with detailed knowledge of the meeting, who described it on the condition of anonymity. It was time, he agreed, to get on track.

Nearly two months later, the effort to save Mr. Trump from himself has plainly failed. He has repeatedly signaled to his advisers and allies his willingness to change and adapt, but has grown only more volatile and prone to provocation since then, clashing with a Gold Star family, making comments that have been seen as inciting violence and linking his political opponents to terrorism.

Advisers who once hoped a Pygmalion-like transformation would refashion a crudely effective political showman into a plausible American president now increasingly concede that Mr. Trump may be beyond coaching. He has ignored their pleas and counsel as his poll numbers have dropped, boasting to friends about the size of his crowds and maintaining that he can read surveys better than the professionals.

In private, Mr. Trump’s mood is often sullen and erratic, his associates say. He veers from barking at members of his staff to grumbling about how he was better off following his own instincts during the primaries and suggesting he should not have heeded their calls for change.

He broods about his souring relationship with the news media, calling Mr. Manafort several times a day to talk about specific stories. Occasionally, Mr. Trump blows off steam in bursts of boyish exuberance: At the end of a fund-raiser on Long Island last week, he playfully buzzed the crowd twice with his helicopter.

But in interviews with more than 20 Republicans who are close to Mr. Trump or in communication with his campaign, many of whom insisted on anonymity to avoid clashing with him, they described their nominee as exhausted, frustrated and still bewildered by fine points of the political process and why his incendiary approach seems to be sputtering.

He is routinely preoccupied with perceived slights, for example raging to aides after Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, in his re-election announcement, said he would stand up to the next president regardless of party. In a visit to Capitol Hill in early July, Mr. Trump bickered with two Republican senators who had not endorsed him; he needled Representative Peter T. King of New York for having taken donations from him over the years only to criticize him on television now.

(…)

Sitting with Mr. Rove in the Manhattan apartment of a mutual friend, the casino magnate Steve Wynn, Mr. Trump said he would compete in states like Oregon, which has not voted Republican since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide. Mr. Rove later told people he believed Mr. Trump was confused and scared in anticipation of the general election, according to people who have heard Mr. Rove’s account.

A few weeks later, when Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey brokered a meeting at Trump Tower between Mr. Trump and governors from around the country, Mr. Trump offered a desultory performance, bragging about his poll numbers, listening passively as the governors talked about their states and then sending them on their way.

Mr. Trump never asked them for their support, three people briefed on the meeting said.

More at the link, where the authors paint a picture that sounds strikingly similar to historical descriptions of Richard Nixon’s last days in office when the President surrounded himself with supporters and yes men who did little but reinforce his own paranoia and belief in the correctness of his actions. Also, keep this article in mind the next time you hear that the Trump campaign is telling reporters that we’re going to see a “more disciplined” Donald Trump. Clearly, such a thing is basically impossible at this point. Instead, we’re likely to see a repeating pattern of outrageous statements and efforts to reset the campaign that will ultimately prove to be fruitless when Trump once again goes off on his own. With Trump’s apparent refusal to follow anyone’s advice, including advice from his family members and close associates, it’s clear that he’s not going to change, and that means we’re in for another three months of Trump saying outrageous things, retreating after his campaign once again tries to right the ship, and then reemerging to say something else entirely outrageous. I have to assume that it’s quite frustrating for the campaign professionals that have signed on to Trump’s campaign since he clinched the nomination. After all, there have been numerous opportunities over the past two months alone during which the campaign could have build a message around a message, whether it’s the economy, or Clinton’s untrustworthiness, or the state of the world that President Obama and  former Secretary of State Clinton have left us with, but they are unable to do so because their candidate quite simply won’t change.

The more interesting thing about the article, of course, is what it reveals about Trump himself. As long suspected, this is a person who is not apt to listen to the advice of others, even when they clearly know more about a given subject than he does. Instead he is more inclined to trust his own instincts even when they are woefully misinformed and quite obviously destined to lead to disastrous results, This is hardly what we need or want in a President of the United States and should be sufficient to disqualify him in and of itself. On a daily basis, Presidents are called upon to deal with situations that they clearly aren’t going to be the primary experts on. That’s why they have Cabinet members and advisers around them to assist them in making important decisions. A President who isn’t willing to listen to advice isn’t likely to be a very good President at all, and may well be a considerably dangerous one. At least for the moment, the voters seem to be recognizing that fact.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Fiction writer’s truism: it always comes down to character.

    Trump isn’t just a racist, misogynist, psychopathic pig; he’s a stupid racist, misogynist, psychopathic pig. Stupid. Stupid. Stoooooopid.

    The only people more stupid are the alleged “professionals” who thought they could wrangle this jackass into acceptable shape.

    Hillary can take the next 86 days off and go to the beach. You don’t need to fight this clown, just sit back, keep mum, and watch the dumb bastard lay waste to his party and everyone who’s been corrupt and spineless enough to support him.

    I’d say it’ll be fun watching him go down, but the mere fact that he was a major party candidate is a black mark on American honor. This should never have happened. It is nauseating. Depressing. A national humiliation we won’t soon live down.

  2. Steve Verdon says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I want to agree with you, but there is still something that makes me pause and think he isn’t stupid. I beginning to wonder if the reality is Trump never expected to win the nomination, never expected to have to go through the general election and he can’t figure a way to get off the train without looking like a loser and nothing more than a poseur. As a result he is tanking his own election. This would fit with his narcissism and psychopathy in that he doesn’t care what it does to his supporters the Republicans (who he probably doesn’t even really agree with but were a convenient vehicle for his PR campaign) or anyone else. And all this rhetoric about cheating and rigged elections is an attempt to protect his own ego and being a narcissist he is right and everyone else is wrong.

    But, irrespective of you being right or me being right; either way this is NOT a guy we want with the amount of power inherent in the office of the Presidency.

    Edit: I agree with you, Hillary can basically moonwalk into the Oval Office at this point. Just play it cool. I’d even suggest she not respond directly to Trump, pretend he is inconsequential and is not a threat. That will likely drive Trump nuts and further goad him into saying and doing stupid things.

  3. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Steve Verdon:

    Hillary can basically moonwalk into the Oval Office at this point.


    Trump gave up on New Jersey,
    and now Indiana is in play, according to leaked state Democratic internal polling (with the usual caveats about leaked internal polls).

    It’s going to be a slaughter.

  4. CSK says:

    Trump isn’t exactly stupid. He’s an ignoramus, true, as well as a misogynist, racist pig, and a psychopath, but he has a certain native shrewdness (or survival instinct) that’s enabled him to stay afloat all these years. Call it an overdeveloped lizard brain. He’s by no means a successful businessman.

    The certainty that he’s going to be faced with a landslide defeat–and by a woman!–could well send him over the edge into gibbering lunacy. So what does he do? Develop a mystery illness and bail now? Or just hope his fan club believes him when he says the election was rigged, and that’s why he was defeated in a landslide?

    As for HRC, I’ve thought ever since it was clear that Trump was going to be her opponent that she could phone in the rest of her campaign. And if she does go to the beach, Michael, she can sit on the sand and watch the captain of the Good Ship Trump steer it into a reef.

  5. charon says:

    @CSK:

    Trump isn’t exactly stupid.

    If he is not stupid, why does he talk the way he does with a 4th grade vocabulary? He talks stupid all the time, not just to voters.

  6. Jim "Prup" Benton says:

    I have given up trying to figure out what Trump REALLY wants — at least until I see how he uses responses to the dog whistles about ‘second amendment remedies’ and the statement about the founding of ISIS, as well as the more subtle dog-whistle he sent by listing ‘sheriffs’ as the first type of law enforcement he wanted at the polls. (WaPo has a good piece about how that could be a breaking of a consent decree going back to an earlier Republican example of racist voter intimidation — dating to the early 80s or 90s.)

    He has, lets face it, lost an incredible amount of money, reputation, respect, and ‘brand value’ for his name by this Quixotic quest — and yes, couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. But will he try and slink silently away, play out the hopeless farce until the end, or risk everything on an authentic (not Bernie-type) revolution. (Or will we suddenly hear that because of some medical condition, he has to drop out? No one suggested this to my knowledge, but it seems like the most likely and least damaging ‘face saver.’)

    If he chooses that one he should make it soon, before one of his Second Amendment Heroes decides to act on his dog whistles.

    As for those dog whistles, remember that his friends, Jones and Stone have both claimed that Obama was actually a founder of ISIS in the literal sense, and has funneled money directly to it, as he himself claimed. As for the sheriffs, seems an obvious call to the Constitutional Sheriffs group, as well as the OathKeepers, and the Sovereign Citizen crowd.

  7. steve says:

    Now that we don’t have mandatory retirement ages, I sometimes end up needing to fire people who refuse to retire. They reach a point where they have trouble with the job. What is interesting that they can often do the old parts of their job well, they just can’t adapt well to new stuff. I also find that their personality quirks bemuse more exaggerated as they near the point where i need to let them go. If they were impatient from 30 to 60, when they get in their 60s they may become intolerable impatient. Occasionally a jerk at 40 becomes often a jerk at 65. This is what Trump has become at age 70. He can probably still do real estate. New stuff? Not so well.

    What is worrisome to me is that I think we have been seeing the real Trump here. If for some reason he was well behaved for the next few months, I think that would just be him acting out a part. Once elected, he reverts.

    Steve

  8. The more interesting thing about the article, of course, is what it reveals about Trump himself. As long suspected, this is a person who is not apt to listen to the advice of others, even when they clearly know more about a given subject than he does. Instead he is more inclined to trust his own instincts even when they are woefully misinformed and quite obviously destined to lead to disastrous results..

    The interesting thing here is that many of the same people who treat Trump as a god were also making fun of Obama for claiming he knew better than all his advisors. A lot of real Conservatives did the same. Thing is, it looks like O listens to at least a few people in his inner circle, who may still not know better, but, he listens. He surely listens to at least some of his other advisers and military and intelligence professionals.

    of course, #NeverTrump and #We’reNotSureTrump will be to blame when he is utterly destroyed in a blowout to one of the worst candidates the Dems have ever nominated. Trumpites will refuse to accept the blame for what they have wrought. They’ll just keep calling us traitors and RATs and stuff.

  9. Steve Verdon says:

    @charon:

    As John Oliver once put it,

    “I love how the biggest word in that speech is the word ‘words’.”

    Yes, Trump is not gifted in terms of vocabulary, but his most incendiary comments have been spoken in such a way that one could dispute that the incendiary view was intended. I am not defending Trump here, just noting that an impartial (hahahaha, yeah I know) reader could draw a different conclusion. That he keeps doing it is uncanny and makes me wonder…is he that…shrewd…..no….more like cunning?

  10. CSK says:

    @Steve Verdon:

    Yes.That’s it. He speaks gabble that his fans can interpret as an incitement to violence–but he can later claim that he was misunderstood.

  11. DrDaveT says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    and now Indiana is in play

    As an aside, am I missing some obvious explanation for why Indiana typically votes more like Oklahoma than like Illinois, Ohio, or Michigan?

  12. Fel Jones says:

    @Steve Verdon: You may be right, Steve, but I don’t think that changes the calculation that he is a stupid man. Perhaps quantitatively, a bit, but certainly not qualitatively.

  13. DrDaveT says:

    @CSK:

    As for HRC, I’ve thought ever since it was clear that Trump was going to be her opponent that she could phone in the rest of her campaign.

    No no no. No.

    What she can do is shift her primary efforts to two specific things:
    1. Maximize the number of people who vote
    2. Staple Donald Trump to the forehead of every incumbent Republican Senator and Representative.

    The focus of the message needs to be that Donald Trump really does represent what Republicans want, and your not-so-bad GOP congressperson is just a better actor.

  14. grumpy realist says:

    @DrDaveT: 1) Chicago is much bigger than Indianapolis and affects a huge chunk of the state. 2) Since the states are right next to each other and the rural parts are very similar, the ones who insisted on living in a red state moved to Indiana, and vice versa for people who wanted to live in a blue state.

  15. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. We have areas like Fermilab and the setups around Urbana-Champaign, which also means a chunk of high-tech companies.

  16. grumpy realist says:

    It’s not Trump right now that I’m worrying about. It’s the people who follow him. Trump is imploding because he’s an old fart who knows how to do nothing more than be a grifter and has never practiced any of the skills necessary to actually act as a leader. The only thing he knows how to do is scream at someone or sue someone. He’s managed to project an image of success with his blustering, his hiding all the bad stuff, and the glitter. Up to now, no one’s bothered to scrape the surface off and discover it’s all dog sh*t.

    Trump’s Chumps, on the other hand, will still be milling around next election ready for anyone who tells them what they want to hear, even more resentful, even more gullible, and even more ready to burn everything down.

  17. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Sure. The Trumpkins are the former Palinistas, only now they’re ten times as angry and irrational because Palin chose to become a reality tv starlet rather than fulfill their dreams of a restored white Christian nation.

    Now they’ve fixated on a reality show star to do that.

    Palin: Politician turned reality tv star.

    Trump: Reality tv star turned politician.

    God knows what’s to follow.

  18. JohnMcC says:

    @grumpy realist: Your closing sentence is something that gives me misgivings. I think I can see out of the corner of my eye a much smoother and more adaptive person lurking and weighing just how he is going to take the raging demographic that Mr Trump has coalesced. FSM only knows how high a really clever demagogue could ride or what the chances are for a deeply hidden Svengali to take the rag-tag remnant of the Republican party and really really show us how fascism could come to America.

    To me, that possible turn of the Trump Train is the best reason to get out and knock on doors for the Dem’s; nothing but a total crushing defeat will do.

  19. Neil Hudelson says:

    @DrDaveT:

    What @grumpy realist said is certainly true. Nearly every blue state has a majority urban population, every red state majority rural, and every purple an even split. Indiana reached urban/rural parity last year or the year before. All the major cities are pretty liberal (relative to the rest of the state), but the rural parts have outsized power in the state legislator due to geographic realities and gerrymandering. That and the state Dem party is kind of a clusterf*ck. So the same urbanization and millenial boom that is fueling the leftward lurch of North Carolina, Virginia, now Georgia, and to a lesser extent Alaska and Arizona is also at play in Indiana. We just got started on the trend later, and the effects will take longer to show.

    But to expand on your question even more, it goes to how Indiana was settled compared to all the rest of the Midwestern states. Ohio, Michigan, Illinois were settled by Northeasterners moving east. Go further north and the states were settled by waves of German and Scandinavian immigrants. Indiana though? It’s the only Midwestern state to be settled from the South–Virginians, Kentuckyians, and Tennesseans, and Appalachians using riverways to navigate up the state. That southern culture is just now starting to die after just 150 – 200 years.

  20. JohnMcC says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Little historical fact: Back in the 1920s when the KKK had a huge resurgence, Indiana Klansmen had the largest numbers of any state.

  21. michael reynolds says:

    1) I don’t buy the idea that any of this is deliberate. Narcissists do not set out to lose. Narcissists will absolutely blame everyone else for defeat, but they would never deliberately engineer defeat.

    2) Assuming (1) is correct, then stupidity seems one of a couple non-exclusive explanations. If one sets out to win, and then fails spectacularly, and fails to adapt to that reality, stupidity is the Occam’s explanation. Smart people adapt, dumb people don’t. There is no stupid-like-a-fox explanation for going to Connecticut to look for votes. It’s just plain stupid.

    3) Trump’s skill set is that of the psychopath: he identifies a target, identifies weakness, and attacks the weakness – low energy Jeb, little Marco, lyin’ Ted. This can appear at first glance to be intelligence, but it’s instinct. Sharks are not intelligent, but they get the job done with instinct. It also explains things like running off to Connecticut – it probably feels to Trump like a clever surprise attack. “She won’t expect this, hah hah!”

    4) Trump compounds his innate stupidity with (I believe) dyslexia and related learning difficulties. He clearly reads very little. He is incapable of focus. He can’t pay attention while being briefed. I’d bet a dollar he’s got dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder. I suspect he’s used other people to cheat for him and insulate him from the need to acquire actual learning skills. He’s never learned how to learn.

    5) I do worry about a smarter Trump coming along, but not overly much. He represents a declining demographic base. George Wallace did not spawn Wallace II. Nixon did not get a sequel.

    6) That said, I think we could well be going into a period of some domestic terrorism from the NRA/racist/male panic crowd. But this isn’t Yemen or even Belgium. The FBI’s pretty good at its job.

  22. CSK says:

    Highlights from Trump’s speech in Fairfield, Connecticut:

    1. He made fun of Dannel Malloy’s first name.

    2. He said the New York Times was a “garbage paper.”

    3. He spoke extensively of Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress and how good it was she had saved it.

  23. CSK says:

    Another highlight from Fairfield:

    “I’m not running against crooked Hillary; I’m running against the crooked media. That’s what I’m running against. I’m not running against crooked Hillary.”

  24. Davebo says:

    @CSK: A Republican candidate complaining about the media isn’t exactly a new strategy.

  25. CSK says:

    @Davebo:

    Sure, but in the past they usually knew who their actual opponents were.

  26. JWH says:

    He is routinely preoccupied with perceived slights, for example raging to aides after Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, in his re-election announcement, said he would stand up to the next president regardless of party.

    Missed opportunity here:

    “I, Donald J. Trump, endorse Marco Rubio for senator from Florida. He’s not afraid to stand up to any president. [Knowing smirk] Including me!”

  27. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “That said, I think we could well be going into a period of some domestic terrorism from the NRA/racist/male panic crowd”

    The good news is that it won’t actually be terrorism as long as it’s white guys doing it!

  28. Andrew says:

    @CSK:

    God knows what’s to follow.

    The way this group of suckers is going, they may wander into a Jim Jones type character the next time around.

  29. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: Followed by whining about how nobody in the media reports how wonderful his speeches are when he immediately steps on said speech by saying something outrageous.

    It’s as if Trump HAS to be the bratty little kid that everyone is looking at in shocked disbelief.

  30. Matt says:

    @grumpy realist: Without Chicago Illinois would be a pretty deep red state.

  31. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Steve Verdon:

    …is he cunning?

    Indeed. There are many types of intelligence. His lack of vocabulary may be due to his lack of interest in reading. The ghost writer of “Art of the Deal” popped up recently, and reports the man has the attention span of an ADD afflicted nine year old. His intelligence is in the ability to sense what people near him wish to hear and crafting the correct con-job for those “marks” in a heart beat.

    His polar opposite? If Shakespeare had Asperger’s Syndrome, perhaps??