Trump is increasingly behaving like a cornered wild animal

At the best of times Donald Trump does not present a picture of coherence and maturity. But lately he seems to have plumbed even greater depths of irrationality and I think that it is because his dysfunctional White House and his utter lack of a measured response to the Covid-19 crisis is being recognized and he is being called out on it. So far he has been able to overcome the dysfunctional nature of his administration by sheer bombast and demagoguery but in this virus he has met something that does not care about him in the least, affects everyone, and cannot be ignored or belittled, and he does not know how to respond.

Trump is a narcissist and is utterly incapable of taking responsibility for anything bad that happens but in this crisis, his patented efforts to lash out at critics and blame others are looking increasingly desperate. He is clearly looking like a cornered wild animal and losing it, though he never had much of it to lose. So we see him lashing out at one target after another. His favorite targets are of course the media, the Democratic party, and the ‘deep state’, all of whom he thinks are trying to discredit him.

But the last two days have seen him really over-reaching to find new ways of putting himself in a good light. The first was when he declared that as president he has the power to decide when the country should relax the measures that have been put in place to slow the spread of the virus, no doubt hoping to bask in the credit when people can try to live normal lives again. This was clearly not the case because the governors in each state have that power. When it became clear that he risked a humiliating defeat on this issue, he backtracked and said today that he would have a conference call will all fifty governors to discuss when and how each state could do so.

Then he announced that he was suspending US contributions to the WHO for its alleged missteps in the early days of the virus and for not being aggressive in its dealings with China for its slow response to the crisis within its borders, even though Trump himself had fulsomely praised China for its response earlier.

The US is the WHO’s biggest donor, with funding over $400m a year in both assessed contributions (membership fees) and donations – though it is actually $200m in arrears.

Theoretically the White House cannot block funding of international institutions mandated by Congress. But the administration has found ways around such constitutional hurdles on other issues – by simply failing to disburse funds or apply sanctions, for example.

The funding could be formally rescinded, but that would require Senate approval, or “reprogrammed” by being diverted to another purpose that the White House could argue is consistent with the will of Congress.

“Whatever form it takes, this is a deeply shortsighted and dangerous decision – at any time, let alone during a … pandemic,” said Alexandra Phelan, assistant professor at the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University.

The decision to stop funding the WHO at this time has received worldwide condemnation and even called a ‘crime against humanity’ because the WHO is the premier global agency that has the ability to collect data and provide aid and authoritative advice to countries around the world. It is madness to undercut its activities at this time. Even the US Chamber of Commerce, that would normally be a Trump supporter, is criticizing the decision.

Trump is clearly making a play for the support of his xenophobic supporters who see the UN as a sinister global agency that seeks to take over the US and also hate the idea of spending any money that should go to hard-working Merkins on foreign aid, even though that ‘aid’ is often a means of supporting US foreign policy and boosting sales of arms and other exports. The US also uses that aid as leverage with countries and organizations by threatening to withdraw funding if they do not obey US dictates

Once in a while, Trump will try to act ‘presidential’ but in his case that does not mean speaking and acting in a reasoned and measured manner. It merely means slowly reading from a prepared script on a teleprompter using a strange sing-song rhythmic cadence that suggests someone who is heavily sedated. But the media would swoon over this sign that Trump was maturing, until the next day when he goes off the rails again.

A few weeks ago, Dan Fromkin wrote that the media should stop giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, that he is actually struggling to do the right thing and that the problem is that he is not succeeding. He says that the evidence is clear that trying to do the right thing is the last thing on his mind.

The evidence is overwhelming that Trump’s only struggles are against the facts, and his only goal is coming out on top. As far as the coronavirus is concerned, everything he has said and done indicates that he simply wants it to go away, ideally with a “miracle.” He has lost any presumption of credibility or reliability.

One of the most devastating analyses, ironically, came well into Friday’s Baker and Haberman article with the horrible headline. It paints a picture of a president who has flat-out lost the ability to differentiate between reality and fantasy.

Jonathan Lemire’s devastating analysis for the Associated Press noted that Trump was “struggling for a solution, unable to settle Wall Street and proving particularly vulnerable to a threat that is out of his control.”

And most appropriately, Rucker, Parker and Dawsey wrote after Wednesday night’s debacle that Trump was “struggling to read words on the teleprompter.”

Trump clearly cares about two things, the stock market and his re-election.

Trump’s attempts at avoiding responsibility, shifting blame, pleading ignorance about key missteps (such as dismantling the White House pandemic response team), and instead boastfully preening about non-existent successes are becoming increasingly risible.

The buck never stops with Trump.


  1. says

    My working hypothesis is that Trump, like many adult Americans who support him, stopped maturing emotionally at age 13. Unfortunately, unlike most Americans, he had a very rich daddy and had everything handed to him on a silver platter (or as a friend likes to say “He’s a guy who was born on third base but thinks he hit a triple”). Trump has grown up in a bubble, completely insulated from the consequences of his actions, unlike typical folks. Basically, we’re dealing with a spoiled 13 year old boy who is not getting his way. In light of that, his behavior seems entirely predictable.

  2. lochaber says

    pretty much what jimf@2 said, except I think that not only did he stagnate, he got worse, because every dumb idea and desire he had was greeted with praise and adulation from the army of yes-people and sycophants he has been surrounded by for the past half century.

    He’s aggressively ignorant, and has been praised for it his entire life, and this is the end result…

  3. jrkrideau says

    @ 1 Marcus Ranum
    … and half of the country stands behind him. He’s not the only batshit loon in US politics.

    Given the outstanding level of quality of the US media and its reputation for veracity, one can see why he has a lot of supporters still.

    We might say that the real batshit loons are the economic elites who continue to support him financially, politically and the media support. They seem to have decided that short-term gains are worth more than long-term survival.

  4. jrkrideau says

    I just started wondering if Trump’s attempt to cut US funding to the World Health Organization what does backfire and see a lot of countries actually up in their donations a bit sort of as a discrete discrete “up yours” gesture.

    Someone could start a GoFundMe campaign. I noticed when Chelsea Manning was released from prison and still owed $250,000 and fines it took about 24 hours for GoFundMe to pass the target. Who might get an increase in budget.

  5. publicola says

    @2: I’ve been saying exactly this since he started his run for the Presidency. He is a spoiled adolescent in an adult’s body. If voters had done a bit of research in 2016 they would have realized that Il Duce cares for no one but himself, and will try to destroy anyone who gets in his way. There were so many clues to this, and yet so many chose to ignore them, or simply chose to hear what they wanted to hear. At first, I thought he was just a selfish, ignorant jerk. But now he seems to have descended into a serious pathology that makes him increasingly dangerous. I only hope that this country can survive his lunacy until the election. He’s even screwing his red-state supporters by trying to get them back into circulation. Remember in November!

  6. johnson catman says

    re publicola @7: November is (hopefully) when The Orange Toddler-Tyrant is voted out, but he still will have more than two full months to do as much damage as he can imagine until the inauguration in January 2021. If he loses, his unbridled rage at the US and the rest of the world will be a most dangerous thing to witness.

  7. bmiller says

    publicola: What is this “research” that the Trump cultists are supposed to do? They DON’T CARE. He makes the que%$rs a=nd the libtards and the smarty-pants mad. And he glibly praises Republican Jesus. Throw in the reality that the DNC gives us people like Senile Joe, the Senator from MBNA, and Trjump is what we get.

  8. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    Luckily Trump got 2 trillion dollars from the Congress for his re-election campaign. To make sure things go smoothly, he immediately fired the inspector who was supposed to oversee how the money is spent.

    The next step was to make sure the federal checks of free money will be signed by himself, as if the money came from his own purse. The checks must be really big. Trump has the greatest signature ever, at least when measured in square inches.

  9. lorn says

    If China really wanted to make propaganda points, and cause Trump to blow a gasket, or two, they would hold a press conference and make a point of how unfortunate and short sighted holding up WHO funding was and that China, being a wise and benevolent nation, would not only make good all that Trump has held back but double it. Faced with stupidity they will show generosity.

    That would stick in Trumps craw like month old gas station sushi.

  10. Mobius says

    Trump clearly cares about two things, the stock market and his re-election.

    I find it likely that his care about the former is rooted in the latter.

  11. fentex says


    I used to say Trump has the maturity of a six year old -- I’ve now revised that to a two year old. His ‘Me, me,me’ is indistinguishable from everyone’s Terrible Twos -- only he never learnt the lesson it isn’t all about him.

    He certainly never had the maturity of a typical thirteen year old.

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