The Self-Serving Presidency: Trump and Covid-19

In his own words (Alternative title: Narcissist-in-Chief III)

“Coronavirus Press Conference” by The White House is in the Public Domain, CC0

I started a different version of this post that I realized needed a preface, and this is that preface, so more to come.

I have noted in several posts Trump’s poor response to the current global health crisis. For example (here, here, here, and here). What has made all of that worse is that he is now trying to convince us all that he has been on top of this from the beginning and that his administration acted swiftly and appropriately.

For example:

This, of course, is blatantly untrue. Not only is it untrue, it is easy to demonstrate and hard to spin. While supporters may still rationalize away his behavior, the more time that passes the harder it will be to see anything other than one of the most incompetent and self-serving presidents of all time.

Just for the record, this post serves as a repository to this fact that I plan to expound on later.

First, some videos that clearly, and dramatically, illustrate the point:

If one prefers print see the NYT: The President vs. the Experts: How
Trump Downplayed the Coronavirus
or David Leonhardt’s column A Complete List of Trump’s Attempts to Play Down Coronavirus.

If one watched today’s press conference, one would have noted a clear theme of how awesome this administration has been that one could use to augment the evidence already on the table.

It is a truly remarkable display of what happens when an incompetent, insecure, narcissist is put in a position of significance and power.

More to come.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, COVID-19, Health
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Just today…he is saying that, despite invoking the War Powers Act, that it’s not the Federal Governments job to get companies to produce more ventilators. But the Governors don’t have that power. He does…because of the War Powers Act.
    He is unbelievably incompetent.
    Not too long ago, 52 senators though leaving him in office was a good idea.
    I wonder how many have changed their minds?

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  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Asha Rangappa, Lawyer, former FBI Special Agent, and current CNN Analyst:

    I think it’s time for the media to address the elephant in the room: Trump may be incapable of understanding the problem. It involves data, graphs, projections, connecting dots, conceptual thinking. I think he fundamentally cannot mentally grasp it.

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  3. reid says:

    We are all paying such a huge price for one man’s mental illness and incompetence. And still, what percent of the country cheers him on?

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  4. gVOR08 says:

    President* Trump has always been at war with the Eastasia virus. It’s kind of fun watching FOX and the rest grinding gears trying to make this shift. On the other hand Dana Bash, after waiting three years, seems still eager to declare this the moment when Trump became presidential.

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  5. @gVOR08:

    President* Trump has always been at war with the Eastasia virus.

    That was pretty much my Twitter response to his statement at the time. Just f’n crazy.

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  6. Slugger says:

    Oh, and those navy hospital ships that were ordered to NYC are going to be delayed.
    https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/18/coronavirus-response-navy-hospital-ship-wont-be-ready-to-help-ny-for-weeks.html
    The words out of his mouth are just not credible.

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  7. Jen says:

    I can’t stand listening to him, but friends continue to issue forth some of his more rambling quotes from these briefings. He is so ill-suited to this task, and spends a fair amount of time self-congratulating.

    The correct response to “I always thought it was a pandemic” is, “WTF didn’t you do something about it three months ago then?”

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  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Slugger: For weeks at least. I would bet it’ll take better than a month.

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  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jen: To which he will reply, “I did. I did this, I ordered that, I streamlined something or other. In fact, I single handedly saved the country from the Yellow Peril. Me! Only me!”

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  10. Kingdaddy says:

    Leadership requires empathy. For example, see Keegan’s The Mask Of Command. If you’re a narcissistic psychopath, all you know is how you sound to yourself. How you sound to others is literally unimaginable, except when you have a crowd giving you immediate feedback (applauding, chanting, booing, etc.). The millions of Americans, and billions of human beings, on the other side of the camera during these press conferences might as well not exist for him.

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  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I wonder how many have changed their minds?

    I’ll go with zero. He’s out of power, they don’t get what they want.

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  12. mattbernius says:

    Let’s not forget PoTUS’s habit of attacking anyone — including his own party members — who dare contradict him. On potential effect of that was Republican Law Makers talking about the virus very differently in private than they did in public:

    https://www.npr.org/2020/03/19/818192535/burr-recording-sparks-questions-about-private-comments-on-covid-19

    Aside, I’d love to have someone pull the names of the attendees to this meeting and see how many of them pulled money out of the stock market ahead of the crash.

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  13. Steve V says:

    Why does he say things like this? Does he think it’s important to come across like a used car salesman in times of national crisis? Seriously, I need someone who groks this guy, like Guarneri, to explain it to me.

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  14. Pylon says:

    His press conference yesterday was 90% just babbling. 5% defensive/offensive rhetoric, 5% actual information about what was happening.

    Then Pence took the podium and spent 5 minutes telling me what the president has been doing, with Trump standing beside him.

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  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @mattbernius: On potential effect of that was Republican Law Makers talking about the virus very differently in private than they did in public:

    There oughta be law. Really. People are gonna die, and some of them simply because these weasels are too gutless to tell the truth.

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  16. Kathy says:

    Can you imagine if Apollo XI had happened on Trump’s watch?

    By July 21st 1969, he’d have claimed to be the one who took the giant leap.

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  17. de stijl says:

    I tried to watch today’s press conference.

    Bailed after 10 minutes. Just cannot watch that person bs, ramble, and bloviate. It hurts too much to subject myself to unecessary pain when I could read a write-up later.

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  18. EddieInCA says:

    @Steve V:

    Steve V says:
    Thursday, March 19, 2020 at 14:05

    Why does he say things like this? Does he think it’s important to come across like a used car salesman in times of national crisis? Seriously, I need someone who groks this guy, like Guarneri, to explain it to me.

    Steve –

    My wife is a therapist, and when Trump was running she said “Close to 100% of therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists won’t vote for this guy because he has the worst case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder I’ve ever seen.” She has said, from Day 1, that Trump is not capable of even the most basic level of what other people call “stable management.” His brain just can’t do it. While things were going smoothly due to Obama’s economy, his behavior was easily glossed over by too many (like Palin before him). Now, his disorder is on plain view for all to see and he cannot tweet his way out of it.

    But at this point, it’s no longer about Trump. It’s about those around him who enable and excuse the bad behavior, lack of knowledge, lack of true leadership, and lack of understanding how big the moment actually is.

    And it won’t get better.

    Here is the Mayo Clinic definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

    Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

    A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. People with narcissistic personality disorder may be generally unhappy and disappointed when they’re not given the special favors or admiration they believe they deserve. They may find their relationships unfulfilling, and others may not enjoy being around them.

    I would say that fits Donald J. Trump perfectly.

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  19. de stijl says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Trump combines classic signs of rampant NPD along with a mentorship under Roy Cohn.

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  20. Gustopher says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    He is unbelievably incompetent.
    Not too long ago, 52 senators though leaving him in office was a good idea.
    I wonder how many have changed their minds?

    He wasn’t impeached for incompetence.

    He was impeached for violating laws and obstruction of Congress. The Republicans rightly considered the facts in that relatively narrow range, then decided facts don’t matter, and voted to acquit.

    Incompetence wasn’t on the table.

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  21. Steve V says:

    @EddieInCA: Thanks for that. I also want to know what his supporters see when he blurts out stuff like that. I mean, I don’t think it’s possible to see anything other than a guy who’s out to defraud people. He talks like a guy who approaches you on the street trying to sell you a watch, or something. What do his supporters see when he talks like this?

    If I supported Trump, I would prefer for him to keep his mouth shut and when he said stuff like this it would push me closer and closer to just wanting him gone. But the supporters obviously don’t see that.

    There are tremendously talented and smart people who work in government, in both parties. When Trump goes up there and says “durr I’m smarter than all these people in government” all it does is make him *and* the government look stupid. What is a supporter’s explanation that it *doesn’t* make them all look stupid?

    When Guarneri swings by he tends to just accuse everyone here of being psychotic and then bail. I want him to explain how this is awesome.

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  22. EddieInCA says:

    @Steve V:

    When Guarneri swings by he tends to just accuse everyone here of being psychotic and then bail. I want him to explain how this is awesome.

    Steve –

    When Trump won in 2016, it was a gut punch to me. Not because he won, really. But because so many of my “fellow-Americans” supported him enthusiastically. I get voting against Clinton. I get voting for your party if your a Republican. I even understand voting against any Democrat.

    What I don’t understand is how, after three years, ANYONE still supports him. But all you have to do is go to the comments sections at Hot Air, The Resurgent, The Federalist, or National Review to see how many people are still ENTHUSIASTICALLY supporting Trump. Not “I’m gonna hold my nose because Dems suck” voters. No. These are “Trump is the best president of my lifetime and there is nothing he can do to pull me away from him” voters. It’s sick. It’s a cult.

    Even Rod Dreher seems to finally have reached his limit, finally admitting that many judges and Tax Cuts aren’t the be all end all.

    But it’s no longer about Trump. It’s about Trumpists and Trumpsm.

    I’m genuinely curious what McConnell, Rubio, Cruz, Cornyn and their ilk think comes after Trump? How does the GOP go back to being a sane party? How does it make that change?

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  23. An Interested Party says:

    Not too long ago, 52 senators though leaving him in office was a good idea.
    I wonder how many have changed their minds?

    Remember, if it had been a secret ballot, a lot of those senators would have voted to toss his fat orange ass out onto the street…the only reason they didn’t is because they want to remain senators and are scared of his tweets and followers…

    We are all paying such a huge price for one man’s mental illness and incompetence.

    And to think, these are the same people who are trying to say that Biden is senile…

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  24. Jax says:

    @EddieInCA: Can you ask your wife a question for me, please? It has to do with treatment of NPD…if a person is in therapy for it, what happens when they are told they have narcissistic personality disorder? How do they generally take that news? How do therapists work with a person diagnosed with it?

    I ask because my daughter’s Dad is just like Trump, only he appears to be developing a side helping of paranoid delusional schizophrenia. So nobody is smarter than him, richer than him, tougher than him, etc etc, but there are also “people after him with guns” because they just can’t stand his perfection….it’s batshit crazy reading some of his facebook posts. There will come a time when the delusions end up with police involvement, and I assume some kind of psychiatric treatment. I cannot imagine him ever taking an NPD diagnosis well, he would totally twist the blame to someone, anyone, other than himself. How do therapists deal with that?

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  25. mattbernius says:

    @mattbernius:

    Aside, I’d love to have someone pull the names of the attendees to this meeting and see how many of them pulled money out of the stock market ahead of the crash.

    Update, apparently Burr himself cashed out ahead of the crash:
    https://www.propublica.org/article/senator-dumped-up-to-1-6-million-of-stock-after-reassuring-public-about-coronavirus-preparedness

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  26. Jax says:

    @mattbernius: Erm…..there are laws against that, aren’t there?! Holy shit!!!

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  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jax: Ironically enough, no, not for members of Congress. Even the one who was prosecuted a while ago was not prosecuted for his own trades. He was prosecuted for telling his relatives to sell. His own actions are exempt from insider trading restrictions.

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  28. charon says:
  29. charon says:

    @EddieInCA:

    It was once merely NPD plus ASPD.

    He now is incapable of anything but habitual behaviors as the personality disorders are now overlaid with severe cognitive impairment from senile dementia.

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  30. Lounsbury says:

    This is damning, truly damning: https://www.npr.org/2020/03/19/818192535/burr-recording-sparks-questions-about-private-comments-on-covid-19

    —–
    On Feb. 27, when the United States had 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19, President Trump was tamping down fears and suggesting that the virus could be seasonal.

    “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle. It will disappear,” the president said then, before adding, “it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens.”

    On that same day, Burr attended a luncheon held at a social club called the Capitol Hill Club. And he delivered a much more alarming message.
    “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history,” he said, according to a secret recording of the remarks obtained by NPR. “It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”

    The luncheon had been organized by the Tar Heel Circle, a nonpartisan group whose membership consists of businesses and organizations in North Carolina, the state Burr represents. Membership to join the Tar Heel Circle costs between $500 and $10,000 and promises that members “enjoy interaction with top leaders and staff from Congress, the administration, and the private sector,” according to the group’s website.

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  31. An Interested Party says:

    @Lounsbury: Oh, but wait! There’s more

    Senator Dumped Up to $1.6 Million of Stock After Reassuring Public About Coronavirus Preparedness

    …what an appropriate piece of news in a thread about someone who is self-serving…

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  32. Scott F. says:

    Not only is it untrue, it is easy to demonstrate and hard to spin.

    This is the dynamic I just can’t my head around. There is tangible, easily available evidence in the form of tweets and video that demonstrates and documents Trump’s multitude of lies, yet still he is able to successfully gaslight his supporters and get away with lying with everyone else.

    For the life of me I don’t understand how every reporter and opposition politician doesn’t stop his lies mid-sentence and say “Nope, that’s BS! Try again,” until he says something verifiable true.

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  33. Kathy says:

    @Scott F.:

    IMO, Orwell got it wrong. The Outer Party did not swallow all the lies and propaganda from the Inner Party because failure to do so would incur horrible consequences, but because they wanted to.

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  34. Teve says:

    I had a customer today who is a nurse. She said they’re having problems getting gear like masks.

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  35. dazedandconfused says:

    This spawned a thought:

    Perhaps the press, given the critical role of informing the public during emergencies and given the nature of the clown currently occupying the office of POTUS, should suspend the practice of disseminating information from that particular known and obviously unreliable source.

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  36. DrDaveT says:

    @Lounsbury: In a work of fiction, characters this transparently venal and evil would be criticized as unrealistic cardboard caricatures.

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  37. mike shupp says:

    @Steve V:

    What strikes me is many people — most of his supporters perhaps — view Trump as a very common, ordinary, type of person: The Blowhard Boss. Loud, opinionated, even belligerent, inobservant, often selfish or miserly, never modest, never in doubt of himself, but usually revealed as well-intentioned in the last reel, types such as he have been the lynchpin of virtually every American comedy since early radio days. Think of Jack Benny, of Colonel Klink in Hogan’s Heroes, of Principle Conklin in Our Miss Brooks, or Perry White giving instructions to the newly hired reporter Clark Kent. And available for observation in real life at countless small town banks and insurance agencies and real estate firms.

    Such people are not always loved and respected by everyone they encounter, but they’re instantly recognizable to most Americans as authority figures. I think that’s one big thing Trump has going for him.

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  38. mattbernius says:
  39. An Interested Party says:

    In a work of fiction, characters this transparently venal and evil would be criticized as unrealistic cardboard caricatures.

    Cutting back to the science fiction discussion…imagine you lived in an alternate universe where none of this shit, with Trump, the GOP, Covid-19, all of it, ever happened and you read a book about it…what would you think…

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  40. Monala says:

    @Jen: That’s a nasty question.

    /snark

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  41. An Interested Party says:

    @mattbernius: From your link…

    “Appreciate today’s briefing from the President’s top health officials on the novel coronavirus outbreak,” she tweeted about the briefing at the time.

    Well of course she did! It allowed her to do some…financial planning…I’m sure Doug Collins will really want people to know all about this before the November election…sadly, I’ll bet a lot of Republicans won’t see what she did as bad…she was merely being smart with her finances…

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  42. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @charon: I have been thinking 2 months, tho I try not to be too pessimistic with others.

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  43. An Interested Party says:

    This is how a real leader speaks to a nation…

    To Americans, Merkel’s appeals to democracy, and her sadness at having to use the full weight of her authority, come as a welcome shock. No German could listen to her calls for self-policing without recalling that she grew up in East Germany under the eye of the Stasi. “For someone like myself, for whom freedom of travel and movement were hard-won rights,” she said, “such restrictions can only be justified when they are absolutely necessary.” No American could hear that statement and fail to contrast it with our own leader’s ringing words: “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

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  44. Kathy says:

    @An Interested Party:

    I’d probably think: “I liked the movie version of Idiocracy better.” Or maybe, “This so does not work as a prequel to The Marching Morons.” Or even, “1984 with idiots.”

    ReplyReply
  45. Pylon says:

    @mattbernius: Add Ron Johnston and Inhofe to the list.

    ReplyReply
  46. Scott O says:

    @Steve V:
    I also want to know what his supporters see when he blurts out stuff like that.
    Watch Fox news for a few hours or listen some talk radio. Or visit a conservative website.

    @EddieInCA:
    When Trump won in 2016, it was a gut punch to me. Not because he won, really. But because so many of my “fellow-Americans” supported him enthusiastically.
    Big gut punch indeed. I never imagined so many of my fellow countrymen would embrace someone like this.

    How does the GOP go back to being a sane party?
    Why would they want do that. Going all in on the crazy is a winning strategy for them. I thought that what happened in 2006 and 2oo8 would be the incentive for them to change but instead they doubled down on the crazy and it paid off.

    @Scott F.:
    This is the dynamic I just can’t my head around. There is tangible, easily available evidence in the form of tweets and video that demonstrates and documents Trump’s multitude of lies, yet still he is able to successfully gaslight his supporters and get away with lying with everyone else.
    I have some relatives, intelligent successful people, that believe absolute bullshit. I was visiting one them at Christmas 2016, after the election but before inauguration day. At the time I was hopeful that Trump was going to realize that being the president was serious and that he would start acting like an adult. I was so naive. I mentioned to my relative that I was willing to give Trump a chance but that I thought comments like “thousands and thousands of Muslims were cheering in the streets of NJ on 9/11” was false and very harmful. Stirring up hatred. My relative insisted it was true, he remembered it. I asked him to show me some news reports of it, to search Google. He tried, then said they must have taken it down. Nothing I said to him could convince him otherwise because he remembered it. He’s not gun nut or someone who drives an obnoxious vehicle. He’s a great Dad and husband. He didn’t vote for Trump in the primary and voted 3rd party in the general since he lives in a very blue state. A guy you would be happy if your sister married. But he believes lots of BS that confirm his preconceived notions.

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  47. Scott O says:

    @Steven L. Taylor
    What I find most disturbing about these daily briefings is the others on the stage who all feel the need to praise Trump while making their statements.

    ReplyReply
  48. @Scott O: Agreed. It is disconsonant and disturbing.

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  49. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Agreed. It is disconsonant and disturbing.

    It’s how you behave when you work for Kim Jong-Un. ‘Nuff said.

    ReplyReply
  50. Matt says:

    @EddieInCA: I know quite a few non rabid right wingers who voted for Trump because “what do I have to lose?” they saw Hillary as a continuation of the system that fcks them over. To them Trump was the successful businessman outsider who was going to give them better health care, bring the jobs back and make everything magical. If you look past the race baiting and narcissism Trump promised a lot of things that the Democratic party usually fights for. Only one of those Trump voters still supports Trump and he stopped talking about Trump last summer. The rest of them have awakened to the reality of Trump and have turned on him. Even some of the 2nd amendment loving right wingers I know are criticizing Trump. I don’t expect them to suddenly vote Democratic but if they don’t show up to vote that’s good enough for me.

    On the flip side the “true believers” believe more than ever that Trump is the messiah. Of course if Trump loses it’ll be everyone else’s fault or they’ll pretend they never supported that loser!!

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  51. An Interested Party says:

    On the flip side the “true believers” believe more than ever that Trump is the messiah. Of course if Trump loses it’ll be everyone else’s fault or they’ll pretend they never supported that loser!!

    That will hardly be surprising considering most of those same people did exactly the same thing with George W. Bush…

    ReplyReply

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