TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE — To understand the pressures President Donald Trump has been dealing with all year, we need to see the world as he sees it, through his mind’s eye. And to do that, we must start by following the timeline footprints of his two most tormenting demons.
After all, their tracks have converged until Trump must be convinced they have been tag-teaming him all year. And it happened just when he was probably feeling he had finally secured his place atop the most glittering pedestal in America’s presidential history.
Trump’s first demon has long been the prospect that he might be defeated for reelection and end up branded in history books as a “loser.” He fears and hates the thought of it, big time. We forget that 2020 began with the Senate about to start Trump’s impeachment trial, and still more revelations about possible scandals that now seem more like mere news briefs.
But Trump felt confident he could handle that because he had a firm grip on his ultimate reelection lifeline: the roaring Trump Economy. People felt they were better off than they were four years ago. No wonder Trump kept reassuring the guy in his bathroom mirror: It’s the economy, genius!
And that leads us to Trump’s second demon. No surprise, it is everyone’s nightmare these days.
It began in China as the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19, and swiftly spread its death and fear around the world. And it forced us to deploy our only defense — the total shutdown that has given us the devastated COVID-19 Economy.
As it shattered productive economies around the planet, the COVID-19 Economy has shredded that lifeline that gave Trump his prime political reelection security. And that has left us with a panicked and visibly insecure president.
Never before have we seen a president so blatantly and transparently lie, deceive and distort. The result has been Trump’s bumper car presidency — a series of starts and stops, crashes and reverses like nothing we have ever seen in U.S. presidential history.
Everything Trump has said or done during the coronavirus crisis has been based upon his realization that his lifeline of a strong economy no longer exists. That is the pressure that has forced his pronouncements that he will soon end the shutdown and open up the U.S. economy.
Or maybe not. But he, as president, has total authority over every state. Or maybe not at all.
Remember how Trump’s 2020 began: On New Year’s Eve, China disclosed that a novel coronavirus had been discovered in the city of Wuhan. But Trump was understandably focused on his own presidency’s health, as the Senate was about to begin its impeachment trial.
Then Team Trump was shaken by news that former national security adviser John Bolton was suddenly willing to testify, if subpoenaed, at the Senate trial. Trump knew what Bolton could disclose and raced to block his testimony.
While that stuff remains minor by today’s standards of COVID-19 life-or-death, earlier this year it made Trump want to do everything possible to push for stronger economic ties with China. Never mind that Trump’s inner circle was being warned that COVID-19 was more dangerous than China was admitting.
That was Trump’s mindset on Jan. 24, when he tweeted his bizarre praise of the economic partner he was pursuing with pent-up teenaged passion: “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. ... I want to thank President Xi.”
Earlier this year, World Health Organization officials offered to give the United States and other countries test kits so they could test their people for COVID-19, then trace those who tested positive and slow the disease’s spread. Many countries, including South Korea, used the tests to great benefit.
But Trump’s administration said no thanks, because the WHO tests weren’t up to U.S. standards. That was the reason the United States initially fell way behind much of the world’s industrial countries in COVID-19 testing, a testing gap that has certainly had tragic consequences in our country.
Fast-forward to this month for a very different revelation of what Trump thinks about such effusive praise of China’s “transparency.” On April 14, Trump strolled into his Rose Garden and with all the sternness he could muster announced he was halting U.S. funding of the WHO, pending a U.S. investigation of the organization’s failure to “call out China’s lack of transparency.” Trump complained that WHO officials “defended the actions of the Chinese government, even praising China for its so-called transparency.”
There are no words. We are witnessing a shakiness of leadership that should concern even the most faithful Trump supporters.
Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency. © 2020 Tribune Content Agency.