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Tulsa takeaways: undersized crowd, absurdly long excuses about West Point videos …

President Donald Trump speaking at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday.
REUTERS/Leah Millis
President Donald Trump speaking at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday.

I don’t claim to know what kind of “message” from Donald Trump might energize his base to rally round for the 2020 election and recruit new members to his fan club, but if the crazy show he put on Saturday night in Tulsa helps him with his base or with swing voters, I’ll be shocked.

Of course the whole Trump phenomenon has been full of surprises, to me at least. And I am not a member of the target audience for his bizarre almost-two-hour love-fest with himself and his undersized crowd. But I did watch it and will pass along a few reactions and a bit of a recap.

Empty seats

First, recap: The live turnout was way below Trumpian expectations. He was prepared to fill the arena and pipe the feed to thousands more outside, who Trump expected would be unable to fit into the arena. In fact, there was no overflow and many empty seats in the upper deck of the arena. COVID-19? Trump losing his grip on his former multitude? I don’t claim to know.

Those who attended seemed to like the show.

Trump decided to devote an absurdly huge portion of his time on stage to explaining away two bits of embarrassing video that his detractors were obsessed with, one showing him seeming to struggle to shuffle down a ramp while being assisted by a general, and one showing him needing two shaky hands to get a sip of water up to his mouth.

Personally, while I saw video of both of those small embarrassments, I attached no importance to them and made no mention of them in my scribbling. But some media outlets, I gather, suggested that they were signs of physical frailty, perhaps signs of Parkinson’s disease. 

Our macho septuagenarian commander in chief wanted — beyond wanted, apparently felt an alarming or pitiful need — to refute any rumors of physical frailty. So he devoted many, many minutes, I kid you not, more than 12 minutes of his rally speech, to explaining away the bad video of him struggling to get down the ramp and drink the water.

If you can stand it, I’ll briefly tell you what he said, but I must repeat that I had previously attached no importance to the video and could not believe how much of his rally Trump devoted to this matter. I would call it the single matter on which he devoted the most time during his often rambling remarks. 

Too much COVID testing

True, he mentioned COVID 11 times, but mostly to complain about how little credit he is getting for the “phenomenal job” he has done with it, and to complain that he wished they would stop doing so much testing, because that makes him look bad when they find more COVID cases. 

He found 41 occasions to mention the name “Biden” during his remarks, not all of the references completely flattering. Just 12 references to China, including one in which he said “Biden is a puppet for China.”

But there was no topic to which he devoted more time than to clear up the matter of why he needed to use two hands to drink that water, and why he looked so unsteady going down that ramp. Here’s his “explanation”:

According to Trump, on that fabled day that he attended the West Point graduation, he was wearing shoes with slippery leather bottoms. Very slippery. So slippery that he was afraid of falling. So he proceeded very carefully. 

Also, he was wearing a silk tie, which he feared might be ruined if he spilled water on it. So he used both hands and extra caution while drinking. 

Now you know.

Twelve minutes. 

Perhaps more harm than good

He justified the long tale of excuse-making for why he used two hands to drink the water and why he needed help getting down the ramp by saying the “fake media” will use any excuse to make Mr. Macho Trump look weak, or ill, or silly. But if his goal was to redeem his dignity or his manhood, 12 minutes explaining this may have done more harm than good.

He did not mention George Floyd’s name during his hourlong discussion of things that matter, nor the names of Ahmaud Arbery., Rayshard Brooks nor Tony McDade, and, although he did discuss the protests that have roiled the nation, he expressed no regret for anything he has said or done  or failed to say or do, that might have been helpful.

But 12 minutes on how unfairly he had been treated by the “fake media” for his walk down the airplane ramp, and for needing two hands to take a sip of water. 

The rest of his big rally was typical Trump, self-glorifying, of little substance and full of questionable factual assertions. And, as I already mentioned, the main thing that was different from most Trump rallies was that he failed to fill the room.

Oh, and he continues to suggest that the country would feel a lot better about the pandemic if people stopped getting tested for the COVID virus, because – and this is unarguably true – the more tests, the  bigger the number of confirmed cases, the more people worry about it.

If you’d like to watch Trump’s Tulsa speech, this link will get you a video via the Tulsa World. If you decide to watch, you should skip ahead 34 minutes to where Trump makes his entrance.

Comments (24)

  1. Submitted by Chas Dalseide on 06/22/2020 - 10:28 am.

    Maybe Soros did it. Bought all the tickets and just trashed them.

  2. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/22/2020 - 11:01 am.

    Interesting piece in the Strib about Never Trumpers this AM:

    “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” Jason Lewis, the former congressman running for U.S. Senate this year, said of Trump’s Republican doubters. Jennifer Carnahan, chairwoman of Minnesota’s Republican Party, called them “a small few who are disenfranchised and dissatisfied.”

    You watch the “us or them” apocalyptic view of Saturday nights performance and then consider all the GOP-ers who like to pretend they represent a mainstream, inclusionary, non divisive political party led by Donald Trump and you can see them for what they are, or at least what they refuse to disassociate themselves from:

    Hate filled white supremacists/isolationists still longing for the world before 1954’s Brown vs. Board of Education and the fallacy of a “separate but equal” society.

    Never better exemplified than by the “very fine people on both sides” described by their leader after the Charlottesville Tiki Torch march chanting “Jew will not replace us”. Own it Lewis and Carnahan…

  3. Submitted by Marc Post on 06/22/2020 - 11:01 am.

    Trump is trying to cast Biden as old and feeble. His need for a walker and sippy cup undercuts that.

    Trump is now sending that very lie about Biden in text messages. I know, because he’s sending his unwanted lies to me.

  4. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/22/2020 - 11:28 am.

    The Republican Party oversold tickets to the event by several orders of magnitude (the venue holds 19,000, but they claimed to sell over 800,000 tickets) and had planned an event for the anticipated “overflow” crowd.

    Several groups, including, of all things, K-Pop fans, claimed to have bought up all the “ghost” tickets. (It makes sense, though, that people who are fans of music from a different culture would dislike Trump.)

    Since the seats were unreserved and on a first-come, first-served basis, no one who wanted to attend was prevented from entering the venue. There was no overflow crowd.

    Photographs of the attendees show boredom (checking cell phones) and a lot of folded arms, which body language experts consider an unconscious sign of rejecting what the speaker is saying. In other words, if you’re giving a speech meant to persuade a crowd, and large numbers are listening with folded arms, the crowd isn’t buying what you’re selling.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/22/2020 - 07:18 pm.

      Makes you wonder about the supposed electronic/social media competence of the Trumpites.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/24/2020 - 01:58 pm.

      I assumed they were lying about all those ticket requests. Typical ham handed Trump attempt to drive up excitement and enthusiasm. Problem is the brand is failing and it’s all he’s got.

  5. Submitted by Brian Simon on 06/22/2020 - 11:34 am.

    Comically incompetent

    • Submitted by Brian Simon on 06/23/2020 - 01:56 pm.

      In other news, Trump has now claimed he “doesn’t kid.” The problem, of course, is that his staff & administration regularly try to cover his erroneous statements as jokes. Now, as it turns out, he’s not at all a jokester.

      In this case, he was arguing for slowing down testing so we don’t find so many new cases of covid-19. F yi lly aware that this suggestion is pure idiocy, his admin called it a joke. But Trump, being a little slow on the uptake, insists he was serious.

      God help us all.

  6. Submitted by BK Anderson on 06/22/2020 - 12:28 pm.

    Mr Post has of course nailed it, since a major component of the Trump/Pence 2020 “strategy” is to paint Biden as feeble and frail. Which he is. But so is the out-of-shape, obese 74 year old Trump, as his pathetic “explanation” of his halting progress down a frickin’ ramp makes clear. Slippery shoes? Sure, Gramps….

    But another reason why Trump obviously obsessively felt he needed to dwell on the two physical capacity incidents is that Dear Leader has consistently imagined he presented himself as “strong”, a “strong” leader. And these incidents show his actual physical weakness and unsteadiness–his elderly reality. And that a reality that’s gotta be fought by our wannabe Trumpolini at every turn.

    Of course, no one with a functioning brain could actually think Trump is a “strong leader”. He is (first and foremost) a sadist, that I will grant him from his reprehensible treatment of helpless immigrant children and hapless asylum seekers. He is overawed by Putin, obviously, as well as Erdogan, as his incredibly cowardly ordering of the US military to precipitously abandon the Kurds made crystal clear.

    Trump also knows that China’s Xi has his number, as Trump’s futile retreat(s) on his failed Trade War demonstrates; not to mention his (newly revealed) pathetic pleading for China’s leader to buy US grain again to aid his “reelection”. Pleading with a dictator to economically help us, yep, that’s “strength”. If you think Trump can remotely be deemed a strong leader, you are a moron.

    As for the “conservative” OK know-nothings who thought it worth their time (and health!) to attend the Wizard of Trump’s Super-Spreader event, they got what they came for. For a Trump supporter in 2020, the “show” is all that is left, since the substance is imbecilic. Rock on, and see you at the next Rally, dude!

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 06/22/2020 - 12:39 pm.

      Doh! And I forgot to mention the picture of “strength” presented in cravenly retreating to the WH bunker in the face of protesting American citizens. Even Nixon[!] went out to confront the anti-war Hippies!

      And at least when the Fuhrer retreated to his Berlin bunker it was to evade Allied bombers and Russian tank divisions…

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/22/2020 - 07:25 pm.

      Biden is old —
      I’m not sure about frail.
      Compare the videos of Biden running with those of Trump stumbling and you can see who the sick old man is.
      In retrospect, that sudden trip to Johns Hopkins sounds like a stroke, which would account for the neurological deficits such as gait and grip problems. Only his doctors know for sure, and they think that Trump is still 6’3″ (see the pictures of him standing next to the 6’1″ Obama).


  7. Submitted by Roy Everson on 06/22/2020 - 01:03 pm.

    Could Trump fatigue finally be a thing?

  8. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/22/2020 - 01:30 pm.

    I highly encourage the Don Trump Campaign to keep Brad Parscale in charge.

  9. Submitted by Constance Sullivan on 06/22/2020 - 03:50 pm.

    Maybe nationally someone has come up with another partial explanation for why Trump’s rally was so under-populated–about a third of the available seats were taken, fewer than 7,000 out of more than 19,000.

    It’s that many of Trump’s supporters are the demographic targeted by this coronavirus: those over 60, and with any underlying health problem like diabetes or high blood pressure or obesity, etc. Those who may have thought of attending then looked at what considtions at the rally would be: No masks; no social distancing; Tulsa’s and Oklahoma’s covid-19 cases spiking in worrisome fashion; and the Trump campaign’s insistence that all ticket holders sign an affidavit swearing that they would not hold the campaign liable if they came down with the disease following their attendance.

    Duh. Would you go?

    Maybe Donald Trump wants this pandemic to not exist, but even his base knows that it’s out there, it’s serious, and going to one of his rallies is just not worth the risk, even for fanatics.

    Of course, too, there are all those teenagers who hacked the ticket site. . .

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/22/2020 - 07:17 pm.

      The ironic thing is that if the campaign had it together and properly diagnosed that turn out was going to be a problem they could have put on a big show about complying to social distancing and being forced to disappoint thousands of Trumpians dying (pun intended) to get in on SAT night.

      The campaign is run like the country: chaotic, helter skelter and without a clue of what to do next…

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/22/2020 - 08:47 pm.

      “Tik Tok, if you’re listening, I hope you find the missing Trump tax returns…”

      Much as the amateur US hockey team bested the Rooskies, let’s hope our amateur hackers can best Putin’s pro team.

  10. Submitted by Mike Chrun on 06/23/2020 - 08:02 am.

    Many are reveling in the optics of lots of empty seats and wondering just how much buffoonery will the cult tolerate. At the same time, his henchman Barr is attempting to kneecap yet another investigation involving Trump associates. Not to speak of handing out oil and mineral leases to big donors. And then there are those troubling reports that the CDC has been instructed to reclassify Covid deaths; (so we can get “a more accurate picture” and not drive the 120,000 total lower for you cynics.) That dovetails nicely with the confession we’re going to cut back on the testing so we don’t have as many cases of the virus. And we already have the rigged election campaign revving up. I could go on; but it’s too depressing, and almost impossible to chart, to really face how sinister and dangerous Trump is.

    Got to wonder what the breakdown of his 40% is. How many have cynically sold their souls for judges, big tax breaks, and less regulation and how many are still truly enthralled by this idiot’s re-enactment of drinking a glass of water?

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/23/2020 - 11:09 am.

      “Got to wonder what the breakdown of his 40% is”

      An interesting thing to consider.

      My guesses:

      10% Tax breaks and regulation
      10% Judges
      20% Trumpian “new” conservationism: trade and immigration
      60% Just like that he endlessly annoys folks they don’t like

      Which breaks down to 20% of his supporters thinking about things and 80% just reacting to things.

      BF Skinner would be proud…

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 06/23/2020 - 03:18 pm.

      “…truly enthralled by this idiot’s re-enactment of drinking a glass of water”.

      Great line! I almost couldn’t believe I was watching it. But there the Wizard of Trump was, drinking water to the cheers of the cultists.

      On the breakdown Trumpite support idea, almost all of his Evangelical support is there for the rightwing judges, specifically judges to effectively end abortion rights. And they will get their wish next week when Roberts’ 5 man “conservative” majority allows states to effectively regulate abortion out of existence.

      The rest of the white yahoos are there for the policies of hatin’ on (non-white) immigrants and helpless asylum seekers. (There could be some Evangelical overlap here, as that cohort seems not to understand the message of Jesus too well, no matter how many times they supposedly “read” or are “instructed in” the Gospels.)

      The tax cuts are for the .1%rs, period.

  11. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 06/23/2020 - 05:20 pm.

    Regarding the low attendance, it is a well known fact that 34 buses of die hard Trump fans were traveling to Tulsa but were stopped by a 75yo suspected Antifa activist standing on the shoulder of the road..

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/23/2020 - 10:54 pm.

      And a safe bet they did not lie down in front of the bus in peaceful protest: As that would lead only to road kill.

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