When it comes to Donald Trump’s political strategy, he only really has two rules. First, when he’s facing an ugly scandal that he thinks might hurt him, he tries to distract everyone from it by creating a second ugly scandal that he thinks won’t hurt him. This is evil, but savvy. Second, if he manufactures the second ugly scandal and it does end up hurting him, he keeps doubling down on it. This is where he falters.
Thirty-six hours ago, Donald Trump decided that he didn’t want the House Judiciary Committee’s new impeachment inquiry to be the top headline. He must not have thought he could create enough of a controversy by attacking that committee’s chairman, Jerry Nadler. So instead he launched a stunningly racist attack on Elijah Cummings, the chairman of a different committee that’s also investigating him. Trump took things so far, he ended up enraging Cummings’ entire hometown of Baltimore.
It was an overreach on Trump’s part, one which brought silent yet visible cringes from his own allies in Congress, and Trump should have had the sense to quickly move on from it. But once Trump makes a mistake, his narcissism prevents him from admitting it. So Trump spent all last night tweeting increasingly horrible things about Cummings, as he tried to subtly reframe his message to where he was somehow defending the people of Baltimore against the evil Cummings. No one seemed to buy it.
That led Donald Trump to spend all morning today continuing to rant and rave about Elijah Cummings, this time insisting that Cummings is the real racist. Trump also decided to attack Nancy Pelosi for daring to defend Cummings, and then Trump attacked Pelosi’s hometown of San Francisco just for kicks.
Trump has been melting down on Twitter for the past thirty-six hours, digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself. Finally, Trump made the long-inevitable move of shoving the long-ago-neutered DNI Dan Coats out the back door, in a blatantly timed attempt at distracting everyone from the mess he made with Elijah Cummings. If the media does its job, it won’t let Trump get away with sweeping his racist attack on Cummings and Baltimore under the rug.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report