I don’t think even Trump thought he would go this far, and I don’t even know that he wanted to, which is perhaps the scariest prospect of all. ~ STEPHANIE CEGIELSKI, Trump Super PAC honcho
The flavor of the moment at the presidential ice cream parlor is whether Donald Trump is intentionally trying to self destruct. Or putting it more starkly, whether he would prefer to be a quitter to being a loser.
As someone who suggested way back on March 12 that Trump would take himself out of the running at some point "because he hates losing more than he likes winning," I should be patting myself on the back for the possibility that I may have been so prescient and argue that he is indeed positioning himself to bolt after weeks of self-inflicted wounds, sundry embarrassments, and national poll numbers that become more dismal by the day.
Indeed, there are plenty of indications that Trump should drop out.
His campaign staff is said to be near mutiny. His campaign manager is complaining privately that he can't control him. He could care less that he's grievously hurting down-ticket Republican Senate candidates and has even dissed some of them. Paul Ryan is whispering "landslide." Conservative talk maven Joe Scarborough says that "it's as if he's trying to blow himself up." Some party leaders have given up and a few have withdrawn their endorsements, a trickle that could turn into a flood. The British prediction market Betfair gives the GOP a 25.8 percent chance of taking the White House but gives Trump only a 24.1 percent chance, which reflects the possibility that Trump will bail and an alternative candidate would stand a slightly better chance of winning.
But none of these are indicators that Trump will drop out.
His own public pronouncements are either outright lies or distortions -- or perhaps "strategically irrational," as one pundit puts it who thinks Trump is eyeing an exit -- so we're not left with a whole lot to go on beyond his current unscripted actions and his past history.
In the here and now, Trump has shown no indication of being even remotely interested in the mechanics of his campaign or in policy, there has been a revolving door of yes-men, and his fundraising success has been more accidental than by design.
In the past, his strategy for his business enterprises has been to milk them for all they're worth, declare bankruptcy, and then walk away, unapologetically leaving suckers to hold the bag.
There is a booming cottage industry in psychoanalyzing Trump, and it doesn't seem to matter if the analysts are rank amateurs or credentialed professionals, because they're all pretty much in agreement that the guy is his own worst enemy.
Stanley Renshon is a card-carrying Freudian psychologist who has done quite nicely writing books about what makes presidents tick. He even wears a sweater like Freud.
Renshon says this about Trump:
"He wants to be treated nicely, softly, with kid gloves -- he wants to be recognized for all the positives he brings to the table, but he's not so interested in the negatives. He wants to be liked, and it comes with a threat. . . .
"If he needs to be liked, why does he go after people in such an angry, hostile way? His need for validation.
"He wants to be known as the person he is, not the person you think he is. He's not a dumb person; he's not a clown. My guess is he truly resents those kinds of characterizations; and he wants to be known for his accomplishments in the business world, but also for his political success.
"My take on him is that he has been pretty surprised, personally, by his political success . . . I think he's surprised where he is and he's found a newfound source of self-respect for being where he is, but he doesn't have a clue of what he would do if he were to get in."
Dan P. McAdams is a psychologist and author of a bestselling book in which he put George W. Bush on the couch.
His view of Trump is more direct:
"Who, really, is Donald Trump? I can discern little more than narcissistic motivations and a complementary personal narrative about winning at any cost. It is as if Trump has invested so much of himself in developing and refining his socially dominant role that he has nothing left over to create a meaningful story for his life, or for the nation.
"It is always Donald Trump playing Donald Trump, fighting to win, but never knowing why."
Trump's Twitter tantrums this week can be interpreted as laying the groundwork for a departure. He claims that the debates are rigged because of Clinton, who would eat him alive in a one-on-one setting, and the election is being stolen from him because of courts overturning restrictive voter ID laws, which is ridiculous.
But in the end, this is what it comes down to for me: Poll numbers mean less to Trump than money, and as long as contributions pour in, he's probably not going anywhere. Still, although he likes the idea of being president, that doesn't mean he wants to be president. Being president means serving others and this little man with the big ego serves only himself.
POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968. CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS.
© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN
IMAGE FROM DONKEYHOTEY/FLICKR. USED WITH PERMISSION.