Mar-a-Lago search answers a huge question about how Trump operates.
To paraphrase Marco Rubio, “he knows exactly what he’s doing”
For years, a huge question I’ve grappled with has been: does Trump and his allies know what they are doing? Are they, in crass terms, lying to their audience because they know it is what they want to hear? Shrewd political operators doing everything they can to entertain voters. Or, do they actually believe their demonstrable lies? Are they naïve, genuinely dumb enough to think “our good air decided to float over to China’s bad air so when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move”?
My thoughts have evolved slightly. I think Trump is not the same as his allies, that’s partly what has made him so ‘successful’ in politics and the media. I’ve written before about how the likes of Tucker Carlson knowingly “feed the venomous algorithm that rewards fear, irrespective of whether they believe the comments themselves”.
I think that is still true. Carlson is a well educated man who has skills in being able to deliver a message and connect with an audience. Others, like Cruz, Rubio, Hawley, are similarly well educated and, at times, similarly skilful. It’s challenging to accept — because it forces one into a deeply negative view of human nature — but I cannot see how Carson etc. believe what they say.
While I do make a distinction between those characters and Trump, it is obviously wrong to suggest they don’t share commonalities. Trump, however, deeply reactive, obsessed with T.V. ratings, is an antithetical strategist.
In many ways he is the polar-opposite to someone like Mitch McConnell who is deeply strategic and disinclined to be distracted by shiny new objects like Trump is. Carson, Cruz, Rubio, Hawley et., al. all sit somewhere within that spectrum.
If you are being incredibly kind, Trump is the sort of extreme caricature of other global politicians, such as Boris Johnson. Bereft of interest in detail and accordingly likely to make major mistakes? Yes. But fundamentally “on your side” (that’s how their supporters see it, anyway). Their weaknesses suddenly become their defence. Trump, so the argument could go, is indeed too obsessed with self-image, TV ratings, and short-termism…