Donald Trump is enough of a showman and TV performer that he’s learned to tailor his message and demeanor to the audience to whom he’s playing.
The difference between the somber Trump sometimes present at coronavirus press conferences — reading from prewritten scripts to avoid the outrage that his departures from the carefully vetted text invariably bring — and the unshackled persona that the president reveals in the comfortable confines of the Fox News airwaves — where he knows the audience will be his faithful supporters who revel in his angry, drunk uncle schtick — gives the president a Jekyll and Hyde dichotomy in his personality that flips between practically business-like and manic outrageousness.
In Trump’s hour-long phone interview with Fox and Friends this morning, the president unleashed the unhinged side of his public face to the welcoming audience, none of whom seemed to question why — during this crucial time in the largest national crisis of his presidency — Trump was spending so much time doing campaign PR rather than doing his day job.
That the entire exercise was a ploy to score political points among a base that may just be beginning to doubt Trump’s handling of a pandemic that is beginning to massively affect their families and friends was obvious from the president’s attacks on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Blaming Pelosi for the delay in passing the most recent economic stimulus bill — a delay due to the Democrats’ insistence that the bill contained provisions to oversee the distribution of half a billion dollars worth of aid to prevent it from being used to benefit the businesses of Trump and his family or go to his favored friends — the president lambasted the House Speaker using a description more aptly reserved for his own behavior.
“She’s a sick puppy, in my opinion,” Trump said. “She has a lot of problems… There’s something wrong with the woman.”
Mistakenly attributing responsibility for the management of the city that contains the district that Pelosi represents in Congress to the Speaker, Trump trashed San Francisco as a “slum,” surely knowing that it would please his rural right-wing base to insult the city that won’t be likely to provide many votes for his reelection.
Trump was apparently also angry about Democratic efforts to ensure that the health crisis and social distancing orders don’t interfere in the 2020 elections by attempting to include provisions in the stimulus bill to increase access to voting by mail at a time when showing up at a polling station could put one’s life at risk.
In a rare admission of truth from the president, Trump confirmed what most Democrats already suspected — that Republicans don’t really believe in democracy and want to exclude as many people as possible from exercising their voting rights to ensure their own hold on power.
“They had things, um, levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” Trump admitted, providing progressives with a dream for the future to hold onto for hope.
“They had things in there,” Trump continued, “you know, about Election days, and a, what you do,” the sub-literate president said of the Democrats’ efforts to ensure the November elections are run safely and smoothly despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump openly admitting if we made voting easier in America, Republicans wouldn't win elections
Trump: "The things they had in there were crazy. They had levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again." pic.twitter.com/x5HmX6uogo
— Lis Power (@LisPower1) March 30, 2020
The president also continued to contradict what non-Fox News viewers could plainly see with their own eyes and ears as the governors of the states hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic complain loudly and publicly about the poor performance of Trump’s federal response and delivery of aid to their states.
Creating his own reality distortion field, Trump simply denied that governors were unhappy — despite the plain evidence to the contrary — and blamed the media for spreading false reports — false reports backed up by video of the governors’ desperate pleas for help.
Trump’s narcissism was on full display as he tried to steal valor from Andrew Cuomo, the New York state governor who has been most highly lauded for his management of the crisis in his state and his accurate, informative, and compassionate daily press briefings to the public, to the kind of public acclaim that the president could only dream of receiving for his own misinformation-laden and emotionally-distant pressers.
“We’re giving him four hospitals and four medical centers and all of the things that we’ve done,” Trump whined. “One of the reasons he’s successful is we’ve helped make him successful,” he said, enviously.
Asked about a report in The Washington Post that revealed social media misinformation campaigns from both Russia and China aimed at America to take advantage of the chaos surrounding the pandemic, Trump dismissed the cyber-attacks as unimportant.
“They do it and we do it,” the president said. “Every country does it.”
As one probably heard from one’s mother, “if everyone jumped off a bridge, that doesn’t mean that you have to.”
Trump also went on one of his patented rants against the Democratic proposals for the Green New Deal — a proposal that could become the foundation of a significant jobs program that could help bring the American economy back from recession once the coronavirus outbreak is tamed — once again spreading lies about the contents of the proposal, falsely claiming that it would ban all airplane travel (something that has virtually happened on its own during the pandemic) and limit each American family to a single electric-powered vehicle, neither of which has been proposed by any of the Green New Deals’ sponsoring legislators.
Of course, no Trump rant about the environment would be complete with his quixotic tilting at energy-producing windmills that reduce the earnings capacity of his buddies in the oil, gas, and coal industries.
“Windmills all over the place to ruin everybody’s house and farm!” Trump warned, apparently forgetting to add in his usual false claim that they cause cancer as well.
Trump’s Fox and Friends propaganda spree certainly revealed the Mr. Hyde aspect of his bifurcated-persona. Likely this is the real Trump, with the sober teleprompter reader a mask that he dons only when he absolutely needs to.
While he may have given his supporters exactly what they expected of him, for the rest of America his interview this morning was just another reminder of why he needs to be removed from office as soon as possible.
Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.