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Arrested Development

Can't stop, won't stop.
May 7, 2020
Arrested Development
Donald Trump answers questions in the press briefing room with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force April 3, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump announced that Americans in virus hot spots should wear a mask when out in public as the death rate caused by coronavirus has nearly doubled in three days in New York City while the nation continues to reel from the impacts of COVID-19. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

We’re seven days into May, and here we are, arguing among ourselves about killing grandma, sexual assault, 33.5 million lost jobs, murder hornets, a pandemic that has killed more than 73,000 of us, and wondering why the secretary of the Treasury is having a twitter fight with Axl Rose.

Let’s start wit the least important item first since that seems to be the president’s style. Steve Mnuchin is mixing it up with Axl Rose, from Guns’N’ Roses. Rose started it.

Despite presiding over an economic meltdown, which presumably keeps him somewhat busy, Mnuchin felt impelled to respond. Via the Daily Beast.

Moments later, Mnuchin chimed in: “What have you done for the country lately?” He deleted a previous tweet, which reportedly featured the Liberia flag instead of the U.S. Stars and Stripes. Rose then responded after midnight: “My bad I didn’t get we’re hoping 2 emulate Liberia’s economic model but on the real unlike this admin I’m not responsible for 70k+ deaths n’ unlike u I don’t hold a fed gov position of responsibility 2 the American people n’ go on TV tellin them 2 travel the U.S. during a pandemic.”

These are, of course, the kinds of debates we deserve in 2020. We can look forward to the months that lie ahead for more of what has been aptly dubbed “trickle down Trumpism,” in which we are all made dumber, coarser, and more dishonest, one tweet at a time.

There will be attempts to make some sense of all of this, perhaps even to ascribe it to some deep four dimensional chess strategy. But the reality is that we are now all held hostage by the president’s juvenile impulses. And there is no method to his madness.

To be fair, Trump himself is not solely responsible for our national pandemic of juvenalia, which is obviously a pre-existing condition. But he has become the central vector of our arrested development.

On occasion, though, Trump’s id backfires spectacularly.

Consider his post-midnight Twitter rant about our friends at the Lincoln Project. “A group of RINO Republicans who failed badly 12 years ago, then again 8 years ago, and then got BADLY beaten by me, a political first timer, 4 years ago, have copied (no imagination) the concept of an ad from Ronald Reagan, ‘Morning in America,’” he tweeted. His obsession slopped over into the next day, and the next, drawing more and more attention to the Lincoln Project’s video.

Before Trump’s tantrum, their 60-second spot, “Mourning in America,” was probably seen by thousands.

It has now been seen by millions.

In his ineffable genius, the master showman turned the spotlight on . . . his harshest and smartest critics. Brilliant.

Once again, we’re reminded how easy it is to goad Trump’s petulance into reaction; and how simple it is to take up space in his head.

And once again, we are reminded that Trump’s narcissism is his most dangerous weakness. Writing in the Washington Post, George Conway explained why Trump had reacted with such self-defeating rage:

Now it all matters, painfully and concretely. Trump’s lying, his self-regard, his self-soothing, his lack of empathy, his narcissistic rage, his contempt for norms, rules, laws, facts and simple truths—have all come home to roost. Now he sees his poll numbers fall accordingly, and lashes out with ever-increasing anger. For deep in his psyche he knows the truth. Because he fears being revealed as a fake or deranged, he’ll call others fake or deranged. Because he fears losing, he’ll call them losers instead.

Losers? Thanks to Trump, the Lincoln Project had its best day, evah.

The Lincoln Project, which is run by Republican operatives who oppose President Donald Trump, raised $1 million after the president ripped the group on Twitter this week—marking it the super PAC’s biggest day of fundraising yet.

We eagerly await the 10,000th hot take about the irrelevance of Never Trump and the enduring, underrated political craftiness of the Orange God King.

Charlie Sykes

Charlie Sykes is a founder and editor-at-large of The Bulwark and the author of How the Right Lost Its Mind. He is also the host of The Bulwark Podcast and an MSNBC contributor.