Donald Trump has been under the proverbial gun the entire time he’s been in the Oval Office. From the Mueller probe, to impeachment, to his consistently low approval rating numbers, he’s always been on the verge of ouster. But he’s always had hope that he would hang on – until now.
That hope may have been a contributing factor in keeping Trump from totally jumping the shark in terms of corruption. Put another way: if you’re a corrupt cashier and you think you can get away with stealing $50 out of the register each week but you’re afraid stealing $100 would get you caught and fired, you’ll probably just steal $50. But what happens when you find out you’re being laid off? You figure you have nothing left to lose by taking the full $100, or even more.
That brings us to Donald Trump’s current predicament. Even as delusional as he is, he’s surely figuring out that he has zero chance of remaining in office, and that he’s headed for prison and bankruptcy once he’s out. He knows his financial empire is a house of cards. He can read the headlines coming out of New York about civil and criminal probes closing in.
So what hope does Trump have at this point for any kind of happy ending, or any sort of life after this? Basically none. And that could be a problem, because the one thing that was keeping him (very slightly) in line is now gone. Or is it?
We’ve been expecting Trump to use the transition period to try to corruptly pocket every penny that he can, and to use some combination of pardons, bribes, and empty threats to try to give himself and his family a softer landing when it comes to criminal charges. Thus far we’ve seen some of that. But we’re also seeing Trump basically just sulking a lot and not even bothering to go through the motions.
It’s one thing for Trump to not bother to get himself vaccinated, even as his stooge Mike Pence is forced to go on TV by himself and pretend to be a leader by taking the vaccine. It’s another thing that Trump has become so uninterested in doing the job, he’s letting millions of Pfizer vaccine doses sit in a warehouse instead of distributing them, to the point that Pfizer is publicly sounding the alarm.
Now that Pfizer has gone public and the media is on the case, that kind of pressure should result in those vaccine doses being properly distributed in the coming days. But what was that all even about? Did Trump decide to sit on the vaccine because he no longer cares one way or the other? Was this just massive incompetence? Was Trump vaguely trying to hold the vaccine hostage, but couldn’t be bothered to announce his ransom demands? Just how far gone is this guy?
Keep in mind that even back when Donald Trump was sharper and still had hope that this all might work out for him, he was never what you’d call fierce. Trump has always been the kind of villain who makes the empty threat to blow up a building as a distraction, so he can steal everyone’s wallet and sucker punch his personal enemies while no one is looking, then lazily go golfing and then get back into bed. He’s not going to suddenly be a fierce villain now.
But Trump is playing some awfully petty games right now. In fact they’re so petty, his strategy is almost indistinguishably faint. Russia gets caught hacking us, and he (naturally) does nothing. Pfizer demands to know where to send the next doses of the vaccine, and he does nothing. Congress tries to figure out a stimulus package, and he does nothing.
Instead Trump threatens to veto the U.S. military budget while viciously attacking the Republican officials who are refusing to go along with whatever confusing dead-end loser endgame he’s playing. It’s pretty clear Trump has given up hope. He knows this will end badly for him. Now we’ll see if he cares just how badly this ends for him. The worse he behaves in office, the uglier his post-presidency prospects will become. Some of the Americans he’s screwing over right now will end up being on the juries that decide how many years he spends in prison.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report