To read Donald Trump’s Twitter feed is to see a man seemingly obsessed with finding some way, any way, to hold onto the presidency.
To watch what he does (or, more accurately, doesn’t do) in his waning days in the White House suggests that Trump has already folded his tent — effectively not even trying to do the job that he supposedly so badly wants to keep.
Trump’s behavior in the five weeks — to the day! — since the November 3 election evokes nothing so much as spring semester for a senior in high school. He’s only kind of, sort of, paying attention. He does the things he wants to do and ignores the rest. He settles scores. You know, the usual high school stuff.
In the 35 days since the November election, Trump has held a grand total of 11 events that were open to the press pool cameras, according to CNN Assignment Editor Jason Hoffman. That total includes Trump’s 2 a.m. speech on November 4 as well as the turkey pardoning on November 24.
And that’s it. Less than one pooled event every three days since the November election. Which is not, uh, what one might call a packed schedule.
So, what has Trump been doing?
For one, giving out awards to friends and supporters.
Last week he gave former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Trump described Holtz, who endorsed Trump in 2016 just before the crucial Indiana primary, “a friend of mine” as well as a “great gentleman.” On Monday, Trump gave the Medal of Freedom to legendary wrestler and wrestling coach Dan Gable. Of Gable’s pristine wrestling record, Trump said:
“He won 117 consecutive matches and lost only one. Well, you know, in politics, I won two, so I’m two and oh. And that’s pretty good, too. But we’ll see how that turns out.”
Not for nothing: Gable appeared onstage alongside Trump at a campaign rally in Des Moines in mid-October, telling the crowd of the incumbent: “This guy’s already a one-time champion. But because he’s open for learning and he’s already very competent, he’s going to be a multi-champion president of the United States of America.”
(There’s also this: Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported Monday night that Trump is considering a slew of pardons for friends before he leaves office. “Trump recently told one adviser he was going to pardon ‘every person who ever talked to me,’ suggesting an even larger pardon blitz to come,” wrote Swan. “As with most Trump conversations, the adviser wasn’t sure how seriously to take the President — although Trump gave no indication he was joking.”)
Trump has been active on the score-settling front as well. He fired Chris Krebs, the head of the government’s election security efforts, because Krebs said that there “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way.” He fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper. And he’s been decidedly vague about the fates of lots of other administration officials who he believes have somehow wronged him — from Attorney General Bill Barr to CIA Director Gina Haspel.
To be clear: Throughout his four years in office, Trump has demonstrated that there are a few parts of the job he likes (signing things, campaign speeches, personnel machinations) and a lot of the job he could care less about (pretty much everything else).
It’s just that where he might have tried to feign interest in those latter areas before, he has totally given up any pretense of interest in them now.
For example: Trump was never really big on the whole Covid-19 pandemic. He long dismissed the threat the virus posed to the United States and, once it arrived here, downplayed its virulence and the need to take active measures to mitigate it. He perked up, briefly, when he realized that he could command the attention of the nation with press conferences that were ostensibly to discuss the inner workings of his coronavirus task force but wound up being simply the Trump show.
But once people wised up to what he was doing and began to tune out, Trump, again, lost interest.
Unfortunately for all of us, Trump continues to be less-than-engaged in the whole worst-pandemic-in-a-century thing. His lack of a public schedule in the wake of the election has effectively rendered him silent as the virus surges across the country. And there are conflicting accounts about just how ready the Trump administration actually is to run the massive logistical challenge of the coming vaccination effort.
Trump seems to have forgotten that when he won in 2016, he was obligated to serve all the way through January 20, 2021 — no matter what the results of the November 2020 election were. His handling of the presidency post-election seems to suggest that his ongoing (and failing) fight to overturn the results is far more about him wanting to win than about his desire to keep doing the job to which he was originally elected.