At a minimum, his words lately follow a logic that is opaque even to many supporters. Take, as an example that is no longer much of an anomaly, his discursive interview last week with Rush Limbaugh. In the closing days of a presidential campaign in which he is running behind, Trump used the time to keep talking about his 2016 opponent (“She deleted 33,000 emails, she should be in jail for that”); LeBron James (“He’s a hater”) and the NBA (“I can’t watch it … I just don’t have any interest in it anymore”); New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman (“I haven’t seen her, I haven’t spoken to her, in a year and a half”); and the alleged anti-Trump drift of Fox News in recent years, perhaps due to the fact that former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan is on the board (“You watch this Fox—it’s a whole different ballgame.”) Even accepting that Trump is following a strategy of mobilizing the committed, rather than persuading the one or two Americans who are genuinely torn between Biden and Trump, do these comments advance his self-interest?
In other recent moves, Trump has thrown barbs at his attorney general for not indicting Joe Biden, Barack Obama and others for their role in a “TREASONOUS PLOT” ; claimed that Kamala Harris is a “monster” and a “communist”; asserted that he is “a perfect physical specimen”; retweeted a QAnon-linked account that posted a conspiracy that Osama bin Laden is still living; and at a Johnstown, Pa., rally pleaded: “Suburban women, will you please like me? Please. Please. I saved your damn neighborhood, OK?”
At this late date, many people sniff and sip these remarks as though they are new vintages at a wine tasting (“full-bodied with overtones of smoke; more tannins than usual”) but no one finds them especially shocking. Supporters, no less than foes, accept that Trump just isn’t a normal politician. But we are so used to discussing him clinically (“a disrupter,” in a generous mood; “unbalanced,” in a censorious mood) that neither side typically pauses to ponder that even a non-normal politician must still somehow—even if way deep down—be a normal person.