Column: Donald Trump’s pity party at Mar-a-Lago
Donald Trump, once the most powerful man on Earth, threw himself a pity party Tuesday night.
Indicted, booked and fingerprinted, the former president scurried home to his safe space at Mar-a-Lago where, surrounded by sycophants and other grasping hangers-on, he whined.
He lied about the conduct of the 2020 election. He lied about his efforts to overturn the result.
He lied about his mishandling of classified documents. He lied about Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney who brought the criminal charges he faces in New York City.
“I never thought anything like this could happen in America,” Trump waxed morosely. “The only crime that I have committed is to vigorously defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.”
It was a remarkable spectacle, capping an unprecedented day in American history.
It also underscored how the utterly self-absorbed Trump has become ever more disconnected from the lives of those he claims to represent and the needs of a nation he aspires to once again lead.
But not at all surprising.
Former President Trump returns to Mar-a-Lago after his arraignment on charges related to an alleged scheme to cover up a hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.
From the moment he entered the 2016 presidential campaign as a way to pump up his business brand, Trump has been a man singularly devoted to himself and promotion of his greater glory.
And to growing his bank account.
Never one to pass up a fast buck, the avaricious ex-president marketed T-shirts Tuesday with a made-up mug shot — a steely-faced defendant, the historic date and the words NOT GUILTY — and put them on sale as he prepared to be arraigned.
He offered a running all-caps commentary — “KANGAROO COURT,” “THIS IS NOT WHAT AMERICA WAS SUPPOSED TO BE!” — on his social media network.
It is rare, however, to see such a stark contrast between the humbled Trump facing justice Tuesday and the swaggering Trump — all toughness, cunning and hyper-masculinity — that he prefers to project.
His visage was grim and glowering as he walked into a dingy courtroom in lower Manhattan to answer charges that he falsified business records to cover up two alleged extramarital affairs, which threatened to end his 2016 campaign.
Trump loyalists such as Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and George Santos quickly flee chaotic protests
There were no television cameras allowed, as Trump and his legal team preferred.
The former president curates his image with a care and rigor that puts the most fastidious Instagram influencer to shame. (He once seriously considered tearing off his clothing to reveal a Superman T-shirt after being hospitalized and nearly dying of COVID-19.)
So the portrait of a chastened Trump, his conduct bound by legal decorum and a no-nonsense judge, was not a picture he wanted widely shared.
In all, he spoke barely more than a handful of words, including a plea of “not guilty.”
Hours later, addressing invited guests amid the marble and gold trim of his Palm Beach bunker, Trump seethed during a score-settling speech that amounted to a recitation of familiar gripes — about his two impeachments, Hillary Clinton and on — and a new list of supposed injuries.
“They can’t beat us at the ballot box,” said Trump, who failed to win the popular vote in either of his two presidential campaigns, “so they try and beat us through the law.”
How strong is Manhattan Dist. Atty. Alvin Bragg’s criminal case against former President Trump? The unsealed indictment provides new details.
A large part of his appeal in 2016 was Trump’s claim to be a champion of the overlooked and forgotten. But only the most willfully blind or gullible can still believe his tribune-of-the-people pose as Trump increasingly obsesses over his abundant legal troubles — the case in Manhattan being just one, and arguably the weakest, of several criminal investigations he faces — along with his persistent lies about the 2020 election.
“He’s no longer talking to, or about, the American people,” said Don Sipple, a political strategist who helped elect Arnold Schwarzenegger governor in California’s 2003 recall election. “He’s only talking about himself.”
As candidates, Sipple said, Schwarzenegger and Trump both enjoyed a level of fame that “made it easy to get people’s attention.” They succeeded, he went on, because once people were listening the celebrities spoke to their concerns and addressed issues affecting the lives of voters; it was not just about themselves or their grievances.
The country is facing some tough challenges, Sipple said, and Trump is “not focused on that at all. He’s just focused on getting even with his enemies.”
It’s foolish to predict the impact if Trump is indicted. But there’s reason to believe things have changed and his scot-free days may be over.
On Tuesday night, Trump spent 25 minutes talking, or rather grousing. The backdrop was harrowing: Inflation. Mass shootings. An American journalist held hostage in Russia. Deteriorating relations with China. An overwhelmed immigration system.
Those issues were mentioned fleetingly, if at all, in Trump’s doleful address. Most of his time was spent dwelling on a fairy-tale version of his administration, a lengthy woe-is-me lamentation about his supposed maltreatment and reckless attacks on those investigating his wrongdoing as well as — most egregiously — some of their family members.
Trump’s venting may have been a kind of self-medication, succor after a day of unaccustomed humility and painful humiliation.
But it only served to underscore, as Trump bids to return to the White House, how self-involved and out of touch he’s become.
It’s almost criminal.
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