Donald Trump became enraged Thursday morning when Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business Network brought up Hillary Clinton.
"Why isn't Hillary Clinton being indicted?!” the convalescing president roared from the White House residence as Bartiromo was clearly trying to end what already was a nearly hour-long telephone interview.
“She deleted 30,000 emails, illegally,” Trump said as he went on a tirade after being asked about how realistic it is to get Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett confirmed in the next 25 days. “If people delete emails in a real court case…”
Earlier, he had suggested voters should vote for him over Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden because the former vice president is either not long for this world or would quickly be ousted by the “communist” wing of his party, should he win the election.
Asked to simply critique Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris’ Wednesday night debate performance, Trump did what he does: He got personal.
“She was terrible,” he said. “Totally unlikeable.”
Then came the broadside apparently intended to, as always, fire up his conservative base: “And she’s a communist.”
Fact check: Harris is a former prosecutor and California state attorney general who has clashed with the progressive wing of the party she and Biden now lead. She also worked hard before dropping out of the Democratic primary to cast herself as more moderate on issues like criminal justice and healthcare than progressive champions Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, US senators both.
Eager to fire up his conservative base with endless warnings about “socialists” and “anarchists” and the “radical left,” Trump used his morning call-in to warn that his opponent would either die in office or be powerless to prevent a coup from the left.
“Joe’s not lasting two months as president,” Trump predicted vaguely.
The president verbally lashed China, former FBI Director James Comey and those infamous bureau “lovers,” Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Amazingly, just days before the 2020 election, it became obvious that it is 2016 in his mind, as he screamed into his phone about a roundly debunked conspiracy theory that the Obama administration tried to orchestrate a “coup” to end his first White House bid, then his presidency.
On any given day, the president can sound like a chief executive expecting to cruise to a second term, one who seems to realize he is headed to a potentially historic defeat, or one prepared to keep challenging the election’s outcome until a Supreme Court with perhaps three conservative justices he appointed hands him four more years.
On Thursday morning, Trump sounded like Option B.
His bombastic warnings about a leftist coup of a President Biden, or his death, and his attempts to make the 2020 election in large part about Hillary Clinton, whom conservatives hate so very much, suggest desperation. He seemed to be coming to uneasy terms with the fact that this is a race shifting towards the former vice president.
The president is a vociferous consumer of cable news and an avid student of polls. He was watching and studying both during his hospitalization from what his military doctor says is a case of coronavirus. So he knows full well that one new CNN survey puts Biden up by 16 points nationally with less than a month to go.
The president knows his rival has opened a 9.7-point lead nationally, according to RealClearPolitics’ average of several surveys. He sounded Thursday like a president very worried that his deficit in Pennsylvania has swelled to 7.1 percentage points in a matter of weeks, again according to the RealClear average. It had shrunk to just 3.9 points on 21 September.
The polls in Michigan, Nevada and New Hampshire are not moving in his favor. He trails in each by at least 6 percentage points. He’s even down in Florida by 4.5 points, despite leading there for most of the summer.
As he ranted and raved as the sun rose in a list of key East Coast and Rust Belt swing states, the president did not exert confidence about a November victory.
Even his own handling of his coronavirus diagnosis has reeked of desperation. He has essentially admitted treating himself at Walter Reed hospital, pushing his Navy doctor, Commander Sean Conley, to pump him full of experimental therapeutics he now calls a “cure” and a powerful steroid.
All so he could get back to the White House in a carefully stage-crafted Monday evening flight on Marine One. Trump’s every word, tweet and action since he was airlifted to the military medical facility suggests projecting the kind of strength a high school football coach uses to fire up teenagers on Friday nights. It is the last club left in his reelection golf bag.
Then again, maybe delusion, hysterics and desperation are just side effects of a coronavirus treatment cocktail 212,000 dead Americans – and likely thousands to follow – never had a shot in hell to get.