Anonymous insiders are exactly the kind of journalistic sources that Donald Trump loves to decry when he accuses the mainstream media of being “Fake News,” despite the fact that the president’s own frequently tweeted conspiracy theories come from much less reliable narrators than the kind of lower-level White House aides who may be on friendly terms with a White House correspondent.
Vanity Fair‘s Gabriel Sherman is a gregarious, well-connected journalist with many contacts in the Trump administration — and much to Trump’s consternation, Sherman has little compunction in contacting those sources to get the latest insider scuttlebutt to enlighten the world on the president’s latest mood swings and most potent current grudges.
In his latest article, the Vanity Fair columnist painted a bleak portrait of the president’s Memorial Day weekend temperament as witnessed by White House insiders and people close to Trump.
It was a weekend where the president threw an extended cry-baby tantrum as he played the victim card to the full hilt — as if he himself was soon to be among the nearly 100,000 dead Americans, instead of merely a soon to be ex-commander-in-chief.
“’He was just in a fucking rage,’ said a person who spoke with Trump late last week. ‘He was saying, ‘This is so unfair to me! Everything was going great. We were cruising to reelection!”’ Even as the death toll neared 100,000 and unemployment ranks swelled to over 38 million, Trump couldn’t see the pandemic as anything other than something that had happened to him. ‘The problem is he has no empathy,’ the adviser said. Trump complained that he should have been warned about the virus sooner. ‘The intelligence community let me down!’ he said,” Sherman starts his article.
Those psychiatrists who have written of their diagnosis of Trump as suffering from malignant narcissism will recognize all of the symptoms.
The outburst was likely triggered by Trump’s growing realization that his con-man shtick is no longer working and that more than half the country hates his guts (or at least disapproves of his performance as president), as new polls show his popularity plummeting among older voters, women, and, frankly, anyone with half a brain and former Vice President Joe Biden leading by a significant margin in key swing states.
“Trump knows the numbers are bad. It’s why he’s thrashing about,” one Republican familar with the White House’ internal polling data told Sharman.
The beauty of having close White House contacts is that Sherman is able to get insider gossip like the fact that First Lady Melania Trump had more sense when it came to sussing out the early potential dangers of the pandemic than her husband did.
“According to a source, Melania Trump warned the president during their trip to India in February to take the virus response seriously. ‘He totally blew her off,’ the source said. Melania later told people that Trump ‘only hears what he wants to hear and surrounds himself with yes-people and family,’ the source added.”
It’s the ability to find juicy quotes like these that Sherman has built his reputation on and he does not disappoint in this most recent article.
He describes Trump’s moves to shake up his campaign operations today by naming former White House political director Bill Stepien as his new deputy campaign manager and Stephanie Alexander, his Midwest political director, to the position of campaign chief of staff.
According to Sherman:
“The moves are being seen by many in Trumpworld as a demotion for Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, who has been at odds with Trump for weeks over his spending and the president’s deteriorating poll numbers. ‘Trump has been screaming at Brad, ‘How many fucking times do I have to tell you I don’t like this! Are you fucking stupid?”’ said a Republican who’s overheard the conversations. (‘Your source is wrong,’ a campaign spokesperson said in an email. ‘The President never said that about Brad.’) ‘Once you get on the wrong side of the mountain with Trump, it’s hard to get back,’ said a Trump friend.”
A former White House official told Sherman that “This is a sign the campaign realized they needed to bring in the big boys.”
Still many people in the administration are beginning to realize that the problem isn’t with the campaign staff but with Trump himself.
“’Trump is doing it to himself by tweeting idiotic conspiracy theories about Joe Scarborough. Women are tired of this shit,’ said another former West Wing official. An outside adviser agreed. ‘Trump can’t pivot to a different strategy,’ the adviser told me. ‘He only knows one strategy—which is attack. It worked in 2016. But now it’s not what people are looking for.’ The adviser told me that Trump’s New York friends are planning an intervention to get him to stop tweeting about the Morning Joe cohost,” Sherman writes.
If they are planning an intervention, they had better start quickly since the president was digging that Scarborough hole even deeper today.
Sherman’s closing paragraphs show both the depths to which the president has sunk and that the race is now Biden’s to lose.
“And when he’s not feeling helpless or aggrieved, Trump continues to cling to magical thinking. ‘He lives in his own fucking world,’ the outside adviser said. Trump recently told a friend that the Moderna vaccine is going to be ready in months.”
“At this point many Republicans I spoke to said the only hope for Trump is that Biden implodes. As one prominent Republican put it: ‘Right now the only person who can change the dynamic is Joe Biden.’”
Trump is not only his own worst enemy, but he’s also the biggest danger that America faces — since his ego and incompetence prevents someone with actual management and leadership skills and a respect for science, process, and the rule of law from guiding the ship of state during these perilous times.
Even President Lyndon Johnson at the height of the Vietnam War had the sense to quit the race for re-election when it became clear that he had no path to victory in either the war or at the ballot box.
Donald Trump’s infinite ego won’t allow him to do that, so America will have to suffer through the next six months and wonder whether America’s democracy can survive Trump’s inevitable contention of the results that likely will see him losing by a landslide.
But hey, since when did the popular vote matter anyway? It does when a momentous landslide for Biden is the only way to pry the nuclear football out of Trump’s greedy and desperate hands.
Original reporting by Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair.