MADISON, Wis. — President Trump is becoming a self-contradiction: He both dominates national life and is, increasingly, becoming irrelevant to it.
Those of us in the press are drawn to him like moths to a porch light. Is he really taking an anti-malaria medicine that might kill him? Is he going to withhold federal funds from Michigan? Will he wear a mask when he visits a Ford plant?
We can’t take our eyes off of him. At the same time, we fret that what he says seems to have little to do with what is really happening. For example, he is scheduled to visit a Ford plant to triumph the resurgence of the American automobile industry – but Ford announced Wednesday it is closing two plants because Covid-19 infections have been detected in them.
But, what epitomized the whole thing for me was a “tweet” he issued a few days ago about Fox News, the cable network that stands behind him no matter how bizarre he becomes. It seems that one of the Fox hosts took issue with the president’s recommendation of the anti-malaria medicine, warning his viewers that “It will kill you!”
That was too much for the president: “Fox news is no longer the same. We miss the great Roger Ailes. You have more anti-Trump people than before. Looking for a new outlet!”
One insider note: The idea that Fox is a Trump “outlet” is the kind of slur levied against it by the network’s critics. News organizations like to think they are unbiased. The Fox motto is “We report, you decide.”
Some people think the president wants to be “king.” That’s not quite true, I think. What the president wants is to be God; he wants to be the determinant of truth.
Hence, he knows more about war than the generals, more about the economy than the economists, more about science than the scientists.
And, when even a sycophant like a Fox News hosts looks at this would be emperor and notes that he is not wearing clothes, Trump erupts with fury.
So those around him spend their time trying to placate him. The New York Times Thursday reported that intelligence agencies have hired consultants to help them learn how to provide briefings that the president will consider. Trump’s new national security director is working part time. His real job is ambassador to Germany.
The government spent millions of dollars buying anti-malaria pills because Trump, almost alone, declared they are valuable in fighting the Covid-19 virus.
Fact checkers have estimated Trump has told more than 18,000 lies in public since he took office. The problem is that, since the president’s position is that his word is truth, then the term “lie” is not only irrelevant but blasphemous.
In the meantime, the government, which really has a lot to do these days, has to find a way to maintain its functions while convincing the president that he is still in charge.
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