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By now, just as he planned by an historically early campaign announcement, pretty much everyone knows Donald Trump is running for president again. An unusual third attempt.
As you may have noticed these past seven years, Trump covets and cherishes attention, all the attention he can get, any way he can get it. Even if it damages his own goals.
Media loves that too and is happy to accommodate. It’s been a tumultuous, but mutually successful process that benefits both sides, provides endless political entertainment and controversies for the rest of us, and actually produced numerous positive benefits for the country during his 48 months in office.
That’s all fine and good.
But there is something we don’t know yet. Something very important. We may never know for sure. Trump may not even know it either.
Does Donald Trump really want to be president again?
We’ve always assumed presidential candidates want the job. All politicians have egos; shy folks need not apply. If other candidates don’t crave public attention as much as Trump, they all need it and the focus to get their face and message out to draw money and votes.
That assumption seemed a safe one. Why would any normal person put themself, their family, their staff, donors, and supporters through the stress, uncertainties, anxieties, endless days, short nights, and, yes, dangers of a two-year national political campaign if they didn’t really want to become chief executive of the United States?
That would be a crazy endeavor.
And yet we don’t know that about Donald Trump in 2022. Yes, he and his PACs are running major fundraising and merchandising operations.
But so far, he’s been consistently doing exactly the opposite of traditional politicians seeking public support for an election victory. We know he’s not a traditional politician, a major attraction the first time around against 16 traditional Republican opponents in the 2016 cycle.
Traditional politicians, generally established government and business types with stage presence and experience, are rarely good listeners. Good talkers for sure, especially in front of television cameras about policies and official matters, the kind of stuff that permeates the air of all our government capitals. That is a real skill. I’ll give them that.
But they’re not really good listeners. Have you ever really watched a congressional session thanks to C-SPAN, our national media treasure? They’re called “hearings.” But there’s no hearing going on. No one person in that room, not one single individual is really listening, except the guy silently typing the transcript notes.
Those sessions should actually be called “talkings.” Everyone is talking at each other. The tedious opening statements are prepared. The questions are prepared. The answers are prepared — and anticipated. So, the follow-ups are also prepared. It’s the biggest waste of expensive time since my ninth-grade tutor tried to explain Latin conjugations.
With the vision of a real estate developer sniffing for the profit line, the rookie politician Trump cut through all that normal campaign blather to the visceral frustrations and anger of Heartland voters. He alone voiced them out loud with refreshing sincerity to get his cherished cheers and applause — and votes.
And later, unbelievably, Trump delivered on those promises unlike the unresponsive establishments of both parties in the Swamp for too many years. That explains the stubborn loyalty of his base, now showing signs of “herosion.”
Donald Trump is like a political comet. He was right and bright about so many things. But in year four, Trump’s political persona was no longer refreshing.
He still can’t believe this, but by November 2020, the excesses of his ego were wearing heavily on the no-longer novel political personality.
The drama of his needless fights and outbursts, the name-calling and punching back over every single perceived slight or insult, his betrayal and firing of once loyal staffers and their reciprocal betrayals created a cloud of toxic turmoil that was, well, tedious and unpresidential.
All that made even an addled zombie like Joe Biden seem a familiar and benign alternative. After all, what could — and what would — that forgetful old geezer possibly do to disturb the nation’s life worse than Trump’s distasteful daily dramas?
Yes, the pandemic and its destructive effects lingered. But using a standard business incentive called guaranteed market, Trump in record time got pharmaceutical giants to develop a vaccine deemed the top national priority. All Joe Biden had to do was have Americans roll up their sleeves. He messed up even that.
No president in his right mind would destroy the hard-earned energy self-sufficiency Trump created, the vast Strategic Petroleum Reserve he’d nearly filled at cheap prices, the messy but relatively secure southern border processing immigrants outside the country, the negotiated end to NATO’s troop presence in Afghanistan.
Yet, true to Barack Obama’s prescient warning about his irrelevant vice president, Joe Biden has managed to, using a more polite word, screw up pretty much everything he touches, plus give away sufficient trillions of newly-printed dollars to ignite historic levels of inflation, causing an ongoing round of Fed interest rate hikes likely to launch a recession.
Systematically driven by his extreme ideological agenda, Biden has intentionally demolished Trump’s energy independence.
His self-destructive policies helped drive up oil prices that not only fuel domestic inflation and discontent, but have filled Vladimir Putin’s war treasury with billions in new oil revenues from new customers. Biden has drained nearly half of the nation’s emergency oil reserves.
This president has opened the southern border to millions of illegal immigrants and even helped transport them to scattered inland cities where they will become immense drains on government school and welfare budgets and prove impossible to track down.
An open border also admits potential terrorists and tons of illegal drugs causing record numbers of overdose deaths across the country.
Biden delayed the Afghan troop withdrawal first to match a 9/11 anniversary and then to August, peak fighting season in that godforsaken land. Without consulting or even informing allies who’d fought side-by-side with Americans for two decades, Biden pulled out all U.S. troops one night. He ignored Pentagon advice and the need to evacuate thousands.
As in South Vietnam in 1975, such an abrupt abandonment set off panic, causing a complete military collapse and total Taliban victory. Asked about the international spectacle of Afghans clinging to the outside of US planes, then falling to their death, Biden responded, “That was four days ago.”
While Joe Biden methodically disassembles the idea of a constructive presidency, Donald Trump is running a campaign that does not appear aimed at conquering a primary field of GOP challengers and then the 2024 election.
With the target-rich 23 months of Biden’s reign of error and an inviting opportunity to outline his future plans without competition, Trump insists instead on looking backward and whining still about the 2020 results.
He endorsed midterm candidates based on their election denying too, not on vetting their campaign skills. Most of them lost, which damaged Trump’s adopted party in Congress and his reputation for acumen and leadership.
Without explanation or apology, he dined recently with a known anti-Semite and white nationalist.
Instead of going after Biden and his party, Trump is attacking fellow Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, who engineered Trump’s conservative Supreme Court majority, McConnell’s wife, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a possibly strong primary challenger.
Voters don’t expect politicians to get along with everyone. They do, however, seek those who can work with others to get things done, like a determined Trump did driving his business and income tax cuts through a fractious GOP House caucus his first year.
Bizarrely, Trump recently called for suspending the Constitution to reinstate him in office. That sort of act has caused some mega-donors to back away, and polls show even his once-staunch evangelical support has slipped.
I’m not a shrink, though I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. But such counterproductive activities, each repeated and amplified by hostile media, suggest a strong self-destructive behavior not conducive to becoming the second incumbent president to lose an election and then win another.
Teddy Roosevelt, in 1901, became the youngest president at 42 (by assassination). He left office voluntarily in 1909, but being bullheaded, ran again in 1912 in the Bull Moose Party. He lost, of course, but split the Republican vote to defeat his hand-picked successor William Taft and elect progressive Woodrow Wilson.
Democrat Wilson introduced the income tax, took the U.S. into World War I, and had a stroke in office that left his wife largely in charge.
Americans historically want to see candidates who want to be president. It’s something to earn each time, not an award or something you should get because it’s your turn. Ask Hillary Clinton. Or because you’re not someone else. That’s how we got this No. 46.
Trump does have a strong record of policy promises kept to offer America. He had long workdays, short sleep cycles. Biden has short work days in short work weeks.
Americans will get their say. No one who’s watched Donald Trump’s business and political careers and admired his numerous policy accomplishments should ever count him out of a competition.
Unless he continues to campaign like this – without self-discipline against his natural allies toward the past.