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Elder Abuse at the White House

Tuesday’s Rose Garden press conference was . . . something else.
July 14, 2020
Elder Abuse at the White House
(Hannah Yoest / Photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)

What did we just see? And who thought this would be a good idea?

Donald Trump is sinking in the polls, failing spectacularly at the worst crisis of his presidency, dogged by recurring scandal, betrayed by his closest aides and family members.

And amazingly, in the midst of this, someone suggested he give this press conference.

Watch live: President Trump gives a press conference at the White House

Summaries do not suffice.

The president of the United States, ladies and gentlemen, was in full Mad King mode, rambling, confused, disjointed, parading his grievances with barely a wave from afar at coherence. It was as if a hive of buzzwords exploded in his head: statues, boats, vandalism, socialism, suburbs.

It is hard to write this display without using the word “impaired.” Because it wasn’t just the disjointed word salad. It was the delivery. Trump was somnolent, as if he’d pulled an all-nighter watching Fox & Friends or maybe his VCR tapes of Shark Week.

Imagine the covfefe tweet come to life.

The Rose Garden event was ostensibly about China, but quickly disintegrated into something between one of his improvisational stump performances, a stream of broken consciousness, and a rambling oppo dump. Perhaps the president really misses campaign rallies. Or maybe he just got confused.

Someone on his staff gave him a summary of horrible things that he might someday be able to craft into a campaign attack on Joe Biden . . . and so he just stood there and read the whole thing.

Here are some things the president of the United States said, in his weird, halting inflections:

But if we had listened to Joe Biden, hundreds of thousands of additional lives would have been lost. And if you look at the job he did on swine flu, I looked at a poll. They have polls on everything nowadays and they got very bad marks on the job they did on the swine flu. H1N1, he calls it N1H1. H1N1 got very poor marks from Gallup on the job they did on swine flu. And they stopped very early on, testing. They totally stopped it. They just said stop. And frankly, if we didn’t test, you wouldn’t have all the headlines because we’re showing cases.

There was more. Biden wants to “abolish the suburbs.” The Wall was “so timely” because it stopped people coming in “from heavily infected areas of Mexico. If we had that we’d be in trouble like you wouldn’t believe. You wouldn’t believe.”

“Fake news.”

And so on.

After the rant ended a reporter noted that he had just spent an hour railing against Biden. Did the president see himself as an underdog?

“No,” Trump said. And then he explained:

“I think we have really good poll numbers. They’re not suppression polls, they’re real polls. You look at the intercoastal in Florida, you look at the Lakes, you see thousands of boats with Trump signs, American signs, you’ve got the Trump-Pence sign all over.”


But we had in 2016 something even more so, but we got in and we had 306 to, I guess, 223, which was a tremendous margin of difference. You remember, they all said, “He cannot get to 270.” I went to Maine a number of times, where we just freed up lobster fishing and fishing. They took away 5,000 square miles from Maine. I just opened it up and I just got rid of tariffs in China. And we’re working on European Union, which charge our fishermen tariffs, and I said, “You’re not going to do that.” So we freed it up for Maine, but if you take a look, we went up there recently. There were crowds; thousands of people lined up going over to a factory where we were opening up for . . . We’re making swabs. A beautiful big, new factory making swabs.

Just one point, in case you got lost in there with the “suppression polls” and Maine lobsters and China and the beautiful big new factory making swabs:

In 2016 Donald Trump got 304 Electoral College votes and Hillary Clinton got 227.

Odd that he can never seem to remember these numbers even though they’re so important to him.

The reviews were not stellar:

But here’s the thing. The election is 112 days away and this is what Americans are seeing in their White House.

We have zoomed past embarrassing and into territory that is genuinely alarming.

There was no reassurance that Trump was on the case; no sense of either empathy or a plan.

Imagine being Cory Gardner, or Susan Collins, or Martha McSally—or any Republican on a ballot beneath Trump this fall—and watching this shit show. You have tied your political career to this man. You made compromises and sold out your values because you believed that he had some magic political powers that you couldn’t access that would pull you across the finish line.

You didn’t like it. It wasn’t your first choice. But better to win with dishonor than lose with your integrity intact.

And this is what you get.

You must now realize that what you have coming is defeat, but with dishonor. And the guy in the White House couldn’t care less.

As one Republican operative texted Rick Wilson: “Fuck me. Seriously. REDACTED needed this like a hole in the head.”

The Trump campaign has signaled that they intend to spend a few hundred million dollars talking about the cognitive decline of Joe Biden.

Good luck with that.

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.