Trump’s capacity to promise and not deliver on his promises — and not pay a price for not delivering — is a staggering phenomenon, a mild form of collective insanity.
Donald Trump has kicked off his reelection campaign in Orlando, Florida, at a massive rally with an endless stemwinder of Fidel Castro length. Let us not forget as we review the spectacle that, despite a wealth of solid evidence that he’s an ignorant buffoon, the man has a touch of genius.
He occasionally reminds critics of the ostensible proof: “I’m president, and you’re not.” Which, of course, is an irrefutable argument; becoming president is not an easy thing to achieve. The question raised by Trump’s Orlando MAGA fest is whether his genius, such as it is, is sufficient to pull off a four-year-long encore.
At stake for Trump is far more than surrendering the pleasures of power, the attention he finds at the center of the universe, which even though is endless can never sate his unquenchable narcissistic thirst. Trump does not need Democratic candidates vowing to prosecute him should they capture the White House to understand that, even with the Mueller report behind him, he remains in jeopardy.
Congressional and New York investigators are bearing down on him for impeachable malfeasance and a multiplicity of possible crimes. Even if he does not go to prison, he might well be ruined. Another four-year term in the White House is an essential reprieve.
Right now, Trump seems to be at a distinct disadvantage in the Electoral College. But surely his first campaign was more of a long shot. Descending a golden escalator in Trump Tower to call Mexicans rapists and murders, Trump and his candidacy were taken as a tasteless joke. But Trump had the last laugh and now he is the incumbent in the White House, with vast powers to set the agenda, to control the news cycle, and to preside over an economy that, whatever clouds lurk on the horizon, is red hot.
If Trump’s odds were terrible the first time around and he still managed to win, surely the second time around, the odds have improved.
So has Trump’s stage presence. Despite its inordinate length, Trump’s Orlando performance was, in comparison to innumerable past rallies, remarkably hinged. He veered off the teleprompter at times, but only to stick to crowd-tested riffs, like Hillary Clinton’s alleged “acid-washing” of her emails and the “fake media’s” alleged failure to report on the massive size of his crowds.
Although droning on far too long, on the whole Trump kept to a reasonably well-crafted script, offering a touch of nationalism — “a nation must take care of its own citizens first” — and emphasizing the economy that he said was “prospering, thriving, booming and soaring to incredible new heights.”
If Trump’s capacity to improve as a public speaker was in evidence in Orlando, his greatest political skill is to conjure up, via brazen falsehoods, an alternative reality, a reality he himself seems to enter, bringing along his almost hypnotized chanting followers. His reelection slogan, “Promises Made, Promises Kept,” is a prime example. In the real world, his promises to build a wall on our southern border, to repeal Obamacare, and to restore the depleted military and American standing in the world have not been kept.