Tuesday, June 30, 2020


How to Protect Your People Against Maskless Morons
The science may be unequivocal--masks saves lives--but the issue has now become politicized. For business owners, keeping employees safe from Covid-19 now means keeping them safe from unruly customers.

General managing partner, G2T3V and Chicago High Tech Investors @tullman

CREDIT: Getty Images

The medical professionals unanimously tell us one simple truth. We need more masks on our faces, not more people in our faces, in order to stop the spread of Covid-19 and protect ourselves. And it's basically up to all of us because the maskless narcissist in chief and his sidekick, who until recently also denied the science, refuse to accept the shameful reality that things are once again getting worse while they run around the South holding largely unwelcome rallies for super-spreaders. Shame on us for sitting back and assuming that our leaders would do all the heavy lifting.
Deciding how to handle your team's concerns about your customers' social issues, and how to navigate the pre-election cultural wars without cratering your company, is going to be excessively challenging. And as the boss, these issues are likely to land right in your lap. Not that it's fair, especially with everything else on your plate right now, but honestly, who else would you rather have working on the difficult problems? You need make a plan and take some prompt action to try to stay ahead of the curve, if and when the world returns.
The squabbles in Starbucks and the stink eyes on the subway are just the beginning. You can't talk or turn around in the elevator. You can't stick your head too far into the salad bar (as if that was ever okay) and, of course, there's no double dipping. You can't really interrogate the driver at length from the curb before you grab your next Lyft or Uber. And what are you supposed to do when you walk into an important business meeting and no one else in the room is wearing a mask?
At the same time, you can check out a new confrontation or 10 every day. Seniors screaming at seniors, shoppers yelling at store clerks, cranky crusaders lecturing us about their medical problems, and phony First Amendment protesters carrying fake "exemption" cards telling us not to pounce on their rights with our stinkin' masks. Your team members - especially the critical front liners - are all going to be stuck right in the middle of these scenes.
For the moment, let's start with something pretty simple: how do we make sure that everyone has a mask on and that no one spends their days trying to get up in other people's faces? And, most importantly, how can you be sure that your team and your people have a clear and concise understanding of your position, the new rules of engagement, and who's gonna explain and enforce these new behaviors for your customers. Because we're all going to be stuck with these new realities for quite a while and everyone is going to have to be part of the process and the solutions rather than part of the problem.

As we've discussed this with a wide variety of business owners and operators, there are a few common things to keep in mind.
Take a stand.  Write it out. Distribute it widely.  Stick to it.
If your message isn't clear and simple, your people are going to try in their own ways to express, explain and justify the new rules, meaning it will be a mess regardless of how sincere their efforts. Consistency is far more important than correctness right now. As "inhuman" as it seems in these complex times when basically there are no right answers, it's actually better to have them simply repeat the rules, respond politely to whatever they're told, and plan to escalate disputes with problem customers to the appropriate managers. You can't do business with debates raging all over the store and you don't want to have new issues arise because the message gets muddled or the customer claims to have been told something else.
Protect your people and your property.
Even your most well-intentioned and charitable team members are going to quickly tire of being screamed at, tormented, and otherwise abused -- and their reactions are perfectly understandable. Businesses can't live without customers, but you're going to have to put your people first in these situations if you want to stay in business and you'll need to step in to protect them when necessary. The customers are always right except when they're not and you have to be the one who draws the line. Ultimately, this is critical because - just like with our kids - you're never any happier than your least happy employee. And it's those front-line employees who drive and dictate how your business looks to your customers.
Don't take it personally and give even the bozos the benefit of the doubt.
As Little Steven always says, there's nothing more personal than your politics, but mixing your business and your politics is a prescription for heartache and disappointment. It's beyond sad that wearing a mask has now been transformed into a political statement by our thin-skinned President, who says people are doing it just to aggravate him. Of course, everything is always about him. But remember, notwithstanding his bluster, that it's never really about you. So, don't take it personally, don't get hurt or upset, and try to remember that there are undoubtedly some decent, if deluded, people who think that wearing a mask is some kind of intolerable imposition on them and their inalienable rights. If you look around, you'll quickly find that some of these folks are family members, relatives or neighbors and not just nut cases. There really aren't two sides to any discussion with them - just like the anti-vaxxers - or the idiots who are vaping their lungs away. So, it's best to leave them be and simply encourage them to get in, get out and move on. It's not your job to change their minds.
Bottom line: your job is to take care of your team and your business. Give them masks and the tools and other information they need to be successful. And just as they tell you on every airplane (in case you've understandably forgotten), "put your own oxygen mask on first." You can't help others if you're helpless yourself.  


Monday, June 29, 2020


Coronavirus reality is clobbering Trump

Opinion by 
June 29, 2020 at 3:24 p.m. CDT

Perhaps no single action better epitomizes President Trump’s narcissism than his decision to relocate the Republican National Convention from North Carolina to Florida, a state that would allow him to flaunt anti-coronavirus protection measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing, and expose his own followers to a deadly pandemic in the pursuit of TV optics. Now, he might not even get that.

The Post reports: “Jacksonville, the largest city in Florida and host of the Republican National Convention in August, announced Monday that masks will be mandatory in public and indoor locations, as well as in ‘other situations where individuals cannot socially distance.’ ” It seems Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican, finally saw the necessity of following expert advice. Whether the measure will apply specifically to the convention — or rather, whether Trump will get a specific exemption from a measure necessary to protect the health of others — has yet to be determined. However, if conditions persist, it may be politically untenable for Jacksonville’s political leaders and even Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a reliable Trump lackey, to allow the potential super-spreader convention to assemble.

Trump tried to run away from a responsible governor in North Carolina — Democrat Roy Cooper — but he may not be able to outrun the pandemic. Likewise, he can goad Republican governors from Texas, Arizona, Georgia and other Sun Belt states to open their states prematurely, recklessly exposing thousands more to the virus. But the virus catches up.

In Arizona, The Post reported Monday, “coronavirus cases have been increasing in Arizona, with more than 3,800 cases reported Sunday, the highest single-day total since March, according to Arizona Republic data.” In addition, “Arizona’s seven-day rolling average for new cases is 12 percent higher than it was a week ago, according to Washington Post data. The Copper State also hit a new high for hospitalizations, which has risen by 30 percent from Sunday, according to Washington Post data.”

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is now under siege in Texas for his reopening orders. “The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Texas surpassed 150,000 Sunday,” the Houston Chronicle reports. “Cases across the Lone Star State went from 147,374 to 151,507, an increase of 4,133 cases (or 2.8 percent). . . Texas also saw 12 new deaths, bringing the statewide death toll to 2,400 statewide (a 0.5 percent increase).” Houston’s caseload is now more than 40,000.

Denial, obfuscation, lying and conspiracy-mongering are ineffectual tools in fighting a global pandemic. Trump argues that more testing makes for more cases when, obviously, more tests simply reveal the extent of his failure to address a national health-care crisis. The result of Trump’s mishandling of the crisis is continued erosion in confidence in his pronouncements.

poll from the Pew Research Center finds: “Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults (64%) say the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and other public health organizations get the facts right ‘almost all’ or ‘most’ of the time when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak, while about half as many (30%) say the same about President Trump and his administration. Instead, a solid majority of Americans (65%) say the White House gets the facts right only ‘some of the time’ (29%) or ‘hardly ever’ (36%).” While Trump continues to sway gullible Republicans, fewer Republicans are buying into his spin than one would expect from a president whose party approval ratings are still higher than 80 percent. (“54% of Republicans say the White House gets the facts right at least most of the time. . . . The share of Republicans who trust the information they are getting from the administration is similar to the share in the GOP who say the same about the CDC and other public health organizations (51%).”)

Trump can neither govern competently nor absorb and articulate reliable scientific data. In other contexts (e.g., impeachment), he can bluff and bluster his way through the backlash over his failures. A virus is different. The coronavirus pandemic is a constant reminder that facts matter and that objective reality cannot be wished away. And that is bad news for Americans and for the incumbent president.


Sunday, June 28, 2020

Trump’s Napalm Politics? They Began With Newt

Trump’s Napalm Politics? They Began With Newt
Gingrich wrote the playbook for it all. The nastiness, the contempt for norms, the transformation of political opponents into enemies.

Opinion columnist
·         June 28, 2020

Approximately one billion news cycles ago — which is to say, on June 9 — a businesswoman named Marjorie Taylor Greene finished first in the Republican primary in Georgia’s deeply conservative 14th Congressional District, northwest of Atlanta, which means that after a runoff she’s all but assured a seat in the House of Representatives next year.

Unfortunately, she is a cheerful bigot and conspiracy-theory fluffernutter. She subscribes to QAnon, the far-right fever dream that says Donald Trump is under siege from a cabal of deep-state saboteurs, some of whom run a pedophile ring; she says African-Americans are being held back primarily by “gangs.” (She’s left behind a contrail of unsavory videos through cyberspace, if you’d care to Google.)

The House Republican leadership is trying to distance itself from this woman, as if she belongs to some other party from a faraway galaxy. She doesn’t. Her politics are Trumpism distilled. And Trumpism itself isn’t a style and philosophy that began in 2016, with Trump’s election, or even in 2010, with the Tea Party. It began 40-odd years ago, in Greene’s own state, with the election of a different politician just two districts over.

I’m talking about Newt. You really could argue that today’s napalm politics began with Newt.

The normalization of personal destruction. The contempt for custom. The media-baiting, the annihilation of bipartisan comity, the delegitimizing of institutions.

“Gingrich had planted; Trump had reaped,” writes the Princeton historian Julian Zelizer in the prologue to his forthcoming book, “Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of a New Republican Party.”

I recently read Zelizer’s book with morbid fascination. My first real job in journalism was as a reporter for the The Hill newspaper the year it launched, in 1994, which happened to be the same year Republicans won control of the House, overturning four decades of Democratic rule. (I wrote nothing memorable that day, but I did come up with our banner headline: “It’s Reigning Republicans.”)

Gingrich became speaker the following January. It was a stunning development. Previous speakers, no matter how partisan they were, tended to work, lunch and even drink across the aisle. The only kind of cocktails Gingrich was partial to were Molotovs.

He conceived of governing as war. Democrats were not merely to be defeated ideologically. They were to be immolated.

Even as an inexperienced kid, I could see his ascension was bad news. Looking back, the parallels between then and now couldn’t be clearer.

Democrats were devastated that a man with so much malignity and anger in his heart could suddenly be at the helm; but in Republicans, Gingrich had a cult.

Gingrich despised the mainstream press, breaking with tradition and giving valuable real estate over in the Capitol to conservative, nativist-populist radio hosts who spoke loudly and carried a big schtick, just as Trump gives coveted space to the servile One America News Network.

Gingrich was my introduction to Orwellian newspeak. He had this tic of starting every other paragraph with “frankly” and then telling a lie; it was his poker tell. Falsehoods and hyperbole came as naturally to him as smirking. He freely trafficked in conspiracy theories. His PAC circulated a pamphlet for aspiring politicians who wished “to speak like Newt.” It advised them to repeat a long list of words to describe Democrats, including sick, pathetic, corrupt.

Like Trump, Gingrich was a thrice-married womanizer who’d somehow seduced the evangelicals. He too had a skyscraping ego, nursed grudges as if they were newborns, and lacked impulse control. In 1995, Bill Clinton made him sit in the back of Air Force One; he responded with a tantrum and shut down the government, prompting The New York Daily News to run a cartoon cover of him in a diaper under the headline “Cry Baby.”

Gingrich turned the politics of white racial grievance into an art form. They may have started with Nixon’s Southern Strategy, but Gingrich actually came from the South. He intuited the backlash to globalization, to affirmation action; the culture teemed with stories about white men under siege. (Including the Michael Douglas movie “Falling Down,” about a divorced, unemployed defense contractor’s descent into armed madness.) It wasn’t long before 1994 became known as “The Year of the Angry White Male.”

Most of Zelizer’s book is about Gingrich’s Javert-like quest to bring down the House speaker, Jim Wright, for his shady ethics. (Gingrich succeeded, only to later be reprimanded and fined for his own ethical breaches.) Zelizer never mentions individual parallels to Trump once he starts telling Gingrich’s story, which is clever, because there’s no need. They hop off the page like frogs.

But the one that stands out, the one that goosepimples me even as I type, is this: Gingrich was the first true reality TV politician. He understood that the C-Span cameras didn’t have to be a passively recording set of eyes. You could operatically perform for them. Early in his career, Gingrich staged a coordinated attack on House Democrats that drew so much fury from Speaker Tip O’Neill it earned him time on the evening news. “I’m famous,” he crowed.
“Conflict equals exposure equals power,” became one of his favorite sayings. Which may as well be the motto of reality television. And Trump.

Assuming she wins in November, Marjorie Taylor Greene will likely be relegated to the margins of her caucus. But if Gingrich — and Trump — have taught us anything, it’s that there’s no telling where the last exit is on the loonytown expressway to extremism; we know only that the guardrails get lower with each passing mile. “These are the depths to which we’ve descended,” Zelizer told me in a phone call. “No one ever thinks that an outlier will one day be the party’s future.”





What Do You Tell Your Kids When the Leader’s a Liar?

What Do You Tell Your Kids When the Leader’s a Liar?
Everyone Else (Spouses, Parents and Peers) Wants Answers Too.

General managing partner, G2T3V and Chicago High Tech Investors
The old laugh lines and Catskills zingers aren’t that funny any longer because these days the joke’s on us and it’s a situation that’s beyond sad. We have a liar for a leader and there’s just no other way to put it. In the face of such horror, humor is impossibly hard. But we need to say something to our kids and everyone else in our lives who are trying to make sense out of this cynical charade. As numb as we all are at the moment, it’s dumb to stay quiet any longer.
We once said that you could tell when a politician was lying to you because his or her lips were moving. Today we have a leader who lies the way (and just as easily) as most people breathe. It’s beyond second nature to him; it’s in his very DNA. He doesn’t merely lie to secure a certain objective or interest (apart from his reelection); he lies because he enjoys it, because he can’t help himself, and because it’s a central part of his deeply-flawed character - whatever that may be. And because he intuitively believes what Thomas Jefferson said so many years ago: “A continual circulation of lies among those who are not much in the way of hearing them contradicted will in time pass for the truth”.  If Trump has a credo, this is it: A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth.

We laughed that the difference between a car salesman and a computer salesman was that the car salesmen knew he was lying to you. The computer guy barely understood what it was that he was selling. Trump knows he’s lying and knows as well exactly what he’s trying to accomplish. To scare us, to turn us against each other, to always blame the “other”, and to incessantly aggrandize himself. It actually seems to be getting worse. His brief and quickly aborted attempt to declare himself King wasn’t very different from the claims in ancient France of Louis XIV that “l’etat c’est moi”. Trump thinks saying makes it so and claimed that: “when somebody’s the president of the United States, his authority is total”.

This embarrassing, baseless, and arrogant assertion couldn’t even survive a single news cycle before the petty braggart had to back it down. When tin-pot dictators (and wanna-bes) lose the people’s trust, confidence and belief, they seize upon authority as their final claim of support. The truth is that no one ever believed in Trump – he was a cartoon and a joke from the get-go – but unfortunately too many people – each acting in their own self-interest – saw him a weapon and a vehicle to secure their own aims. They held their collective noses, looked elsewhere, and let the clown run wild. We have only one person to blame for this mess and that’s each other.

Lies often reveal who and what the liar wishes he could be, and Trump has desperately sought the approval of the powerful and the media since his earliest days. He was by his own account always the biggest, the best, the loudest, but he was never taken seriously. He has been a farcical caricature and, as he berates the press to their faces in the White House (and forever soils the place with his venom), we see just how bent and bitter he truly is. It’s pathetic and beyond embarrassing to see this out-of-control reality show character singling out and slandering the press and, by extension, the public’s interests which they attempt to represent. The press may deserve a fair amount of criticism and contempt for its own shortcomings and failings, but his actions are simply beyond the pale.  

Now the Cheerleader in Chief thinks he’s gonna unilaterally adjourn Congress so he can jam through a further bunch of mediocre nominees and know-nothings using recess appointments. This stupid ploy is equally doomed - even head Senate flunky Mitch McConnell already rejected it - but it’s also very reminiscent of an old Hollywood quote from Samuel Goldwyn about his employees which couldn’t be more fitting and timelier for our current circumstances. He said: “I'll take fifty percent efficiency to get one hundred percent loyalty”. And boy, don’t we know that and see it every day in action. Lying may be an essential part of politics but lying to yourself (as Trump does every day) and believing your own lies is pathological.

To make things worse, Trump’s ego’s so fragile and sensitive and so easily offended that, for the slightest perceived slights, he pummels the press and even his own people and rubs things in their faces (especially the medical professionals) on a daily basis right before our eyes. He’s an overbearing bully, a mini-martinet, and a Twitter-retweeting weasel to boot. Samuel Goldwyn’s most famous observation fits here too.  He famously said: “I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their job”. Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up.

            The humorous definition of a “gaffe” once was when a politician accidentally told the truth. President Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that he subscribes to that great rhetorical line from the War Dogs movie: “When does telling the truth ever help anybody?”  Inconveniently for him, the truth is confusing, detailed, messy and ill-suited for sound bites and storytelling. It’s especially challenging for someone with an infant’s attention span, not a drop of patience, no desire to learn, and no interest in detail or accuracy. Trump’s a lazy man who hides from the truth, hears only what he wants to hear, and ignores/disregards the rest. 

So we’re left in this ongoing and immoral morass with the question of what explanation, what excuse, what rationalization, or even what justification can there be for tolerating the daily circus we’re subjected to on TV by this narcissist who believes that the sole truth lies within him (in his infinite wisdom and fact less judgment) and who, at best, pays only fleeting lip service to the data, the experts, the professionals and to anyone with a view other than his.  And, more to the point, how do we fairly describe for our families just what is happening to our government and our country and why we can no longer in good conscience believe its duly elected, but clearly deranged and dishonest, leader.      

            This is no easy task or conversation to have with people (young or old) who have been raised (as we all have) to respect the office of the president, to err on the side of goodness and give any occupant the benefit of the doubt in terrible circumstances, and to believe that anyone in such a position of trust and responsibility would act – not in his own selfish interest and for favored special interests - but for the good of the country as a whole.

But it’s just not happening as anyone would expect (because this character has no soul and no shame) and it couldn’t be a more critical and timely topic when the facts, the relevant timeframes, and the gross and inappropriate behaviors are fresh in mind, when the most critical choices and decisions still remain to be made, and before the history is rewritten to create and promote the success stories and the celebrations of Trump’s “triumphs” which are sure to occupy far more of his time and attention going forward than the continually mounting numbers of sick and dying people across the country.

So, what do you tell your kids today? Start by telling them what it takes to be a real leader.

(1)  Leaders can cast shadow or light. Everything about Trump is dark and divisive.

(2)  Leaders must understand that they’re part of something greater than themselves. Trump actually believes that he’s the king of the world.

(3)  You’re not a leader until others believe that you are putting them first. Trump is about nothing but Trump.

(4)  A leader never blames his people for his failings. Trump is utterly incapable of accepting either blame or responsibility. He blames everyone but himself.

(5)  Leaders can either swell or grow. We can only hope, as the swelling and bloat continue, that Trump bursts one of these days.


The Unwelcome American

I’ve hardly been ignoring our country’s loss of stature during the Trump presidency, but still a bit of news that The Times broke yesterday afternoon left me stunned.
“European Union countries rushing to revive their economies and reopen their borders after months of coronavirus restrictions are prepared to block Americans from entering because the United States has failed to control the scourge, according to draft lists of acceptable travelers,” Matina Stevis-Gridneff reported.
“That prospect, which would lump American visitors in with Russians and Brazilians as unwelcome, is a stinging blow to American prestige in the world and a repudiation of President Trump’s handling of the virus in the United States, which has more than 2.3 million cases and upward of 120,000 deaths, more than any other country,” she added.
What a mess we’ve devolved into. What an embarrassment. I know that’s blunt. I know that’s depressing. I also know how badly such censoriousness can come across — how it can smack of condescension or seem to carry a perverse touch of “I told you so” glee.
But that’s not at all what I feel. I just feel deep, deep sadness, twinned with anger about how much of our national good fortune we’re throwing away.
I say and mean “we” because the sum of us opened the door to Trump and haven’t been able to sweep him back out of it, at least not yet. But he of course deserves special, outsize credit for our country’s diminution and disgrace.
It’s not that all of his complaints in the realm of international relations were or are bogus. It’s fair of him to ask whether our trade agreements were serving us well, fair of him to ask whether our allies are pulling their weight, fair of him to ask whether there’s sufficient cause for our troops to be deployed where they are. Those questions are even important. And he has posed them, under his “America First” banner.
But the fashion in which he has done so — the egregious bullying, the epic bellyaching, the obvious desire to assert dominance and nurse grievances rather than work toward constructive improvements — yielded these “America Last” results. And his corrupt approach to diplomacy and chaotic stewardship of domestic affairs certainly hasn’t helped.
America’s old friends around the globe don’t trust and respect us as they once did, and America’s new friends are a lesser lot. Vladimir Putin? Kim Jong-un? Viktor Orban? “Trust” and “respect” aren’t even in their vocabularies.
And now, fittingly, this: the contemplation of a de facto barricade against Americans in some of the Western democracies that have, over the past half century, been most tightly aligned with us in terms of liberal ideals and human rights.
It’s a sort of full-circle thing, isn’t it? We’ve gone from Trump’s call for a Muslim ban to our allies’ mulling of an American ban, from his fixation on a physical wall to their flirtation with a metaphorical one.
He hasn’t fulfilled all of his campaign pledges. But his promise to redefine America’s place and role in the world? Check.

Saturday, June 27, 2020


Trump, Not So Statuesque
Things are looking down for the Donald.

Opinion Columnist
·         June 27, 2020, 2:30 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — For a long time, Republicans have brandished the same old narrative to try to scare their way into the White House.

Their candidates were presented as the patriarchs, protecting the house from invaders with dark skin.

With Nixon, it was the Southern Strategy, raising alarms about the dismantling of Jim Crow laws.

With Reagan, it was launching his 1980 campaign on fairgrounds near where the Klan murdered three civil rights activists.

With Bush senior, it was Willie Horton coming to stab you and rape your girlfriend.

With W. and Cheney, it was Qaeda terrorists coming back to kill us.

With Donald Trump, it was Mexican rapists and the Obama birther lie.

For re-election, Trump is sifting through the embers of the Civil War, promising to protect America from “troublemakers” and “agitators” and “anarchists” rioting, looting and pulling down statues that they find racially offensive. “They said, ‘We want to get Jesus,’” Trump ominously told Sean Hannity Thursday night.

But Trump is badly out of step with the national psyche. The actual narrative gripping America is, at long last, about white men in uniforms targeting black and brown people.

In the last election, Trump milked white aggrievement to catapult himself into the White House. But even Republicans today recognize that we have to grapple with systemic racism and force some changes in police conduct — except for our president, who hailed stop-and-frisk in the Hannity interview.

The other scary narrative is about our “protean” enemy, as Tony Fauci calls Covid-19, which Trump pretends has disappeared, with lethal consequences. With no plan, he is reduced to more race-baiting, calling the virus “the China plague” and the “Kung Flu.” Nasty nicknames don’t work on diseases.

The pathogen is roaring back in the South and the West in places that buoyed Trump in 2016. Texas, Florida and Arizona are turning into Covid Calamity Land after many residents emulated their president and scorned masks and social distancing as a Commie hoax.

Is Trump’s perverse Southern Strategy to send the older men and women who are a large part of his base to the I.C.U.?

The president showed off his sociopathic flair by demanding the repeal of Obamacare — just because he can’t stand that it was done by Barack Obama. Millions losing their jobs and insurance during a plague and he wants to eliminate their alternative? Willful maliciousness.

And this at the same time he has been ensuring more infections by lowballing the virus, resisting more testing because the numbers would not be flattering to him, sidelining Dr. Fauci and setting a terrible example.

The Dow fell 700 points on the news that Texas and Florida are ordering a Covid-driven last call, closing their bars again, and the virus is revivifying in 30 states.

In 2016, the mood was against the status quo, represented by Hillary Clinton. But now the mood is against chaos, cruelty, deception and incompetence, represented by Trump. In light of our tempestuous, vertiginous times, Joe Biden’s status quo seems comforting.

It is a stunning twist in history that the former vice president was pushed aside in 2016 by the first black president and put back in the game this year by pragmatic black voters.

Bill Clinton was needy; he played a game with voters called “How much do you love me?” Do you love me enough to forgive me for this embarrassing personal transgression, or that one?

But Trump has taken that solipsism to the stratosphere, asking rallygoers in Tulsa to choose him over their health, possibly their lives, recklessly turning a medical necessity into a tribal signifier. I wasn’t surprised that so many seats there were empty, but that so many were filled.

In a rare moment of self-awareness, Trump whinged to Hannity about Biden: “The man can’t speak and he’s going to be your president ’cause some people don’t love me, maybe.”
It’s not only the virus that Trump is willfully blind about. A Times story that broke Friday evening was extremely disturbing about Trump’s love of Vladimir Putin.

American intelligence briefed the president about a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offering bounties to Taliban-linked insurgents for killing coalition troops in Afghanistan, including Americans. Yet Trump has still been lobbying for Putin to rejoin the G7.

Trump had a chance, with twin existential crises, to be better after his abominable performance in his first three years. But then, we’ve known all along that he is not interested in science, racial harmony or leading the basest elements of his base out of Dixie and into the 21st century. Yes, the kid from Queens enjoys his newfound status as a son of the Confederacy.

Wall Street Journal editorial Thursday warned that he could be defeated because he has no message beyond personal grievances and “four more years of himself.”

But Trump has always been about Trump. And the presidency was always going to distill him to his Trumpiest essence.

I asked Tim O’Brien, the Trump biographer, what to expect as the man obsessed with winning faces humiliating rejection.

“He will descend further into abuse, alienation and authoritarianism,” O’Brien said. “That’s what he’s stewing on most of the time, the triple A’s.”

Good times.

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