|ERIN SCHAFF / THE NEW YRK TIMES|
After an August during which Donald "Chosen One" Trump did nothing of positive consequence while taking his foul-mouthed Twitter rages and temper tantrums, trade warring, bizarre policy pronouncements and manifest craziness to dizzying new heights, a huge question looms that is inextricably linked to his reelection chances: Can Trump, already deeply unpopular, win a second term if he can't modify his behavior?
Even with the election 14 months out, it is a hugely consequential question. And the answer is that because Trump is pathologically incapable of modifying his behavior, which has grown even worse as his presidency lumbers through its third year, he cannot win reelection.
These are the facts, such as they are:
Political nihilism in the form of the chaos for which Trump's vaunted "base" supports him may hold that 35 percent of the electorate together and was a dark force that did much to propel him to the White House in 2016. But it is incapable of attracting new adherents in meaningful numbers in 2020.
As poll after poll shows, the remaining 65 percent of the electorate is determinedly anti-Trump, a reflection of his historically low approval ratings. A substantial majority of Democrats and Independents say that they will not vote for him no matter who the Democratic nominee is.
Trump is on the wrong side of the issues that matter to that 65 percent. These include gutting health-care reforms, environmental rollbacks, climate change denial, refusing to back gun control measures, bullying America's allies and fawning over autocrats like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un.
Not even a robust economy can save Trump, and virtually every economic indicator shows that the U.S. is sliding into a recession. The biggest reason is that the manufacturing sector -- and his jobs-creation promises helped him carry key states in 2016 -- is contracting because of his trade war with China.Beyond Trump's own malignant narcissism, the biggest reason he is incapable of curbing his own destructive behavior -- which in turn has visited a nightmare upon America for which there is no precedent -- is that he has spent his first 1,000 days in office sacking anyone who would dare tell him the truth.
Nearly 50 advisors, Cabinet officials and other key administration officials have departed as Trump spends less time working, with him an always malleable concept, and more time playing golf, a jaw-dropping 226 days in all. Eight months after he named Mick Mulvaney as his third chief of staff, he has so little confidence in him that he has not removed the title of "acting."
In the latest mindblower, Trump on Wednesday displayed a large map in the Oval Office of Hurricane Dorian's path modified with a line drawn with a black Sharpie pen (which he uses to sign bills and official decrees) to doctor the bubble and extend the storm's possible path into Alabama in a pathetically transparent effort to bolster his tweeted claim on Sunday that the state "will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated."
Alabama had never been in jeopardy, and Trump's pathetically clumsy effort to yet again cover his capacious ass was countered by the Alabama office of the National Weather Service, which quickly responded to Trump's claim by insisting that "Alabama will NOT see any impacts from Dorian."
Asked about the marking on the map, Trump told reporters that he did not know how it got there.
"I don't know, I don't know, I don't know," he stammered while insisting that his assertion about the dangers that Alabama faced had been right all along. "They actually gave that a 95 percent chance probability," he added, although neither the Weather Service or Federal Office of Emergency Preparedness reported any threat to the state. On Thursday, Trump doubled down on his claim as Dorian lashed the Carolinas.
While it is impressive that Trump was able to locate Alabama, it boggles what is left of our minds that he thought nobody would notice that the map had been altered to make him look right. Even by Trump's standard of cheap lies, this one was a Category Five.
If there is a mystery in all of this, it is why Democrats -- and the presidential wannabes in particular -- are remaining so quiet.
It would be comforting to think that they don't want to interfere with Trump while he implodes on his own. But that is giving them too much credit. A better explanation is that they're more interested in beating up on each other.