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Trump’s evening talk: an illogical mixture of braggadocio and self-pity

Watching his early-evening soliloquy to the assembled White House media about all the ways he has been done dirt during the election, I found myself torn between feeling sorry for him and for the country.

President Donald Trump delivering remarks in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Thursday.
President Donald Trump delivering remarks in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Thursday.
REUTERS/Carlos Barria

It’s beyond my powers to sympathize with the emotional needs of Donald Trump. He has recently mentioned that losing is very hard for him and I wish him well dealing with that in such time as remains to him, in office and on Earth.

As far as I understand the world, most people, when they compete, prefer winning.  Maybe this is neurotically or psychotically more intense for Trump and he just wanted us to know that. Thanks for sharing.

But watching his early-evening soliloquy to the assembled White House media about all the ways he has been done dirt during the election, I found myself torn between feeling sorry for him and for the country.

He had none of his usual power in this, his only public appearance of the day. His lies were only the normal level of illogic mixed with the usual prevarication, at the level of his usual inability to persuade anyone who was not already a member of his cult, and/or preferably on his payroll or in his family.

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But the tone was seriously pitiful as well as self-pitying, yet also frightening in that style that is now familiar to me. It includes his staggering ability to lie, although so blatantly that it’s hard to understand how he retains any credibility at all, wedded to an incredible ignorance of how the world (and especially the world of politics and government) works, topped off by a relatively rare glimpse of him in a moment of vulnerability and, if we needed one more reminder, the fact that everything on Planet Trump is about Trump.

He said, for example, with no explanation of how he’s defining “legal” vs. “illegal” votes that:

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us.”

That’s a pretty powerful illustration of how Trump actually sees things, or, at least, how he thinks he can persuade others to see things.

Then there’s that adorable braggadocio, wedded to an impressive ignorance of all matters historical (such as what a real landslide has looked like over the past two-and-a-third centuries of presidential election history), and then that alarming everyone’s-out-to-get-me paranoia, all of which he jammed into his statements, referring to the states that he had carried, which he said he had “won by historic numbers, and the pollsters got it knowingly wrong. They got it knowingly wrong.”

There is, of course, some truth to the suggestion that many polls showed Joe Biden winning states that he seems, at the moment, to be losing. But Trump didn’t offer a coherent or remotely rational reason why pollsters would have intentionally published erroneous polls, since, if they did so they would have known that their polls would be proven erroneous so soon after they were published.

I don’t wish to be overly snotty, nor to carelessly assume that the president is either out of touch with reality, or that he subscribes to an everybody-is-out-to-get-me belief system that would be above my power to diagnose. But the remarks are disturbingly paranoid. Or perhaps some other diagnosis applies.

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Trump did, I should acknowledge, specify several instances where the late polling badly under-predicted his strength in some states, like Florida, that were expected to be in play but that Trump carried by a stupendous colossal 51-48 margin.

And I think we all need to pay less attention to polling going forward, or to consume those poll results with much greater caution. To me, that would be a rational lesson to draw from the last few days. But the theory, which Trump specifically espoused, that the pollsters messed up on purpose, makes about as much sense as everything else he said in this alarming burst of self-pity…

which you can watch here

… or read in transcript form here.