I don’t want to be nice or unnice, OK? But Donald Trump has never looked so pathetic. There’s an air of defeat about the president; the master of puff seems deflated. It has been another terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week for Trump. Unless something radical happens, the president is a dead man golfing.
Trump is mired in a number of potentially presidency-ending crises. First, there are the bombshell allegations that Russia offered cash bounties to Taliban-linked fighters for successful attacks on American troops in Afghanistan. According to the New York Times, Trump was briefed on this but did nothing – apart from offering to invite Vladimir Putin to a G7 summit. An allegation like this, as house speaker Nancy Pelosi has noted, is about “as bad it gets”. If Trump was told about the bounties, he betrayed US soldiers; if he wasn’t told, then his administration is murderously incompetent.
Trump has responded to the crisis in his usual manner: outraged tweets. On Sunday night, Trump called the story “another fabricated Russia hoax” and claimed he hadn’t been briefed on the bounties claim because it wasn’t “credible”. How, one might ask, did he ascertain the information wasn’t credible if it was never reported to him? His incredible intuition?
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany attempted to clarify matters on Monday. Trump hadn’t been briefed, she told reporters, because there were “dissenting opinions” about the veracity of the information. Which is a very different excuse from the one proffered by Trump. But consistency isn’t something the Trump administration seems acquainted with.
It’s not only accusations of treason that Trump is battling: there’s also the coronavirus. He has done his best to ignore the pandemic but, rudely, it hasn’t gone away. Quite the opposite: cases are surging in the US. And while the pandemic was initially clustered mainly in Democrat-controlled states, most of the new cases are coming from election battleground states, including Texas and Florida.
And then there are the anti-racism protests. Trump has been trying to posture as a “law and order” president, but his laziness keeps getting in the way. Last Friday, Trump grandly announced that he had cancelled a trip to New Jersey in order to stay in DC and ensure “order was enforced”. The next day he headed to one of his own golf courses in Virginia. According to CNN, this was his 271st visit to a golf course during his presidency; on average, he’s been golfing once every 4.6 days. This is not to say Trump spent his entire weekend on the links: he also retweeted and then deleted a video of one of his supporters shouting “White power! White power!”
Trump doesn’t seem to care about Americans dying. He certainly doesn’t care about racism or police brutality. But he does care about his ratings – and these are abysmal. Trump is polling so badly that even he, a raving narcissist, seems to realise he might lose. Last week he told Fox News that Joe Biden was “going to be president because some people don’t love me, maybe”. Trump went on to belittle Biden: “I don’t want to be nice or unnice, OK? The man can’t speak.”
Things are so dire that the possibility has been floated that Trump might not stick around for the election. A recent Fox News report claimed some (anonymous) GOP operatives reckon Trump’s current psyche is “fragile” and he could drop out of the 2020 race “if his poll numbers don’t rebound”.
I doubt Trump will throw in the towel: he would rather drink bleach than be seen as a loser. He may be trailing in the polls but he will do whatever it takes to win. While it is tempting to hope so, this is not the end of the Trump presidency. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
• Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist