There’s a lot of mythos built up about the so-called Trump playbook. Much of the media spent four years trying to convince us that Donald Trump was some kind of secret evil genius who was always one savvy step ahead of us. In reality Trump was bumbling and fumbling the entire time, just barely above water. In spite of four years of being President of the United States, he couldn’t figure out how to successfully rig his own reelection or protect himself from criminal charges.
Yet even though the “Trump playbook” has ruined Donald Trump’s life, we still keep hearing about how this or that other politician is using (or is going to use) the Trump playbook in order to get ahead. Of course in the real world, those political figures using the Trump playbook keep managing to sink themselves with it.
Josh Hawley wanted credit in advance for the insurrection, and then tried to act like none of it happened after it went wrong. That’s straight out of the Trump playbook. And what did it get him? The latest polling has Hawley at zero percent in the 2024 Republican presidential primary race. That’s right, even Republican voters now think he’s damaged goods. But the most telling cautionary tale may be that of Trump ally Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu has known for several months that he was going to end up being ousted as Prime Minister of Israel. With each snap election, the opposition parties were coming closer to uniting to oust him. It was a matter of time. Netanyahu is facing criminal indictment. He had a window of time where he could have tried to trade his immediate resignation for an immunity or leniency deal. But he didn’t want to do it. Instead he wanted to cling to the false hope that he could somehow magically remain in power forever.
Now Netanyahu has been ousted the hard way. He’s lost what leverage he had. He has nothing left to trade away. If the Israeli legal system completes the indictment process against him, he’ll end up on trial and potentially in prison. He could have just walked away a few months back. But instead he stupidly used the Trump playbook of standing his crumbling ground and trying to incite violence at the end, and it cost him a lot – maybe everything.
It’s difficult to point to anyone who’s actually succeeded by using the Trump playbook, at least in the long run. Donald Trump himself managed to use it to accidentally fall sideways into the presidency, but as result he’s now sitting at home in an irrelevant stupor, waiting to be criminally indicted by New York State. And that’s the best outcome that anyone has managed to get from the Trump playbook. His allies and wannabes have fared worse.
Maybe it’s time we acknowledge that Trump really didn’t know what he was doing, and that his temporary success in politics was more about happenstance and luck than anything. After all, if his “playbook” were good for anything, he wouldn’t be stuck in his current predicament. But if Trump’s corrupt allies want to keep breaking themselves by foolishly following his path to self destruction, then so be it.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report