Cable news hosts, faced with this morning’s Trump tweetstorm, are gobsmacked once again at Trump’s inability to behave like a rational person. Despite the years-long accumulation of evidence, they seem not to have grasped that Trump’s monstrous, fragile ego simply cannot tolerate the least hint that he might be less than the all-powerful, superior, alpha male he imagines himself to be — and that his only coping skills are denial and attack.
Following Monday night’s less-than-stellar debate performance, a rational politician would have (1) begun preparing for next time, (2) ignored the Machado bait (or just apologized and moved on), and (3) avoided trying to slime Clinton with her husband’s past infidelities.
I don’t know why anyone is surprised. Trump’s behavior, culminating in this morning’s projectile tweeting, was perfectly predictable. His inflated sense of self cannot brook being impeded by those he regards as “lesser”: a Mexican-American judge, Muslim Gold Star parents, an Hispanic beauty queen, an African-American moderator, and, worst of all, a woman of his own age who is not, according to his schema, “f—able” and therefore should be a nonentity, not his formidable opponent.
Trump’s lifelong, seemingly impregnable ego wall appears to be developing hairline cracks. At some level, despite Trump’s protestations, the thought that he failed (and was seen to fail) Monday night must be seeping in. And he cannot stand it. Even the intimation that he might possibly have lost — and thus become that most despised creature, a Loser — must flay him like a cat-of-nine-tails, especially in the cold and dark of 3 a.m., when there is nothing to distract him from the terrible thought that he might be losing. Trump has to strike out; when denial fails, he has no other coping mechanisms.
As with Curiel and the Khans before her, Trump simply can’t let the Machado issue go. Doing so is simply beyond him. The idea that a (fat!) woman — an Hispanic immigrant, no less — would be the instrument of shaming the magnificent Trump! How dare she! And Clinton, who opened the door to Machado and is running “not nice” ads about him. How dare she!
So in the wee small hours, when Trump can’t quite escape the glimmer of self-awareness that he’s spent his life running from, he has to attack. He cannot do otherwise, whether it’s rational or not. He simply must attack and attack and attack and attack to try to plug the cracks in his ego wall — and he will keep attacking, however foolishly, until he can convince himself that equilibrium has been restored.
Oh, how I wish that the upcoming town hall debate were next week instead of another nine days out! Even absent Trump’s present state of disequilibrium, that debate will be SO HARD for him. His hated opponent, that woman who hasn’t been nice to him, will be there — and she might (he can’t admit the thought to his consciousness) defeat him again.
And the moderators! They won’t be friendly Fox News hosts, but instead Martha Raddatz (a woman!) who is ABC’s chief global affairs correspondent, and Anderson Cooper, who actually pressed Trump in previous interviews! Lesser beings, just like Holt.
And the audience! Its members will be chosen by Gallup to represent undecided voters, i.e., ordinary people who don’t yet understand how wonderful The Donald is and therefore are stupid, as he characterized Iowa voters when he was behind in that primary.
If Trump thinks ahead at all, he must be supremely irritated at the thought of having to put up with questions from Raddatz, Cooper, the common herd. And he must, in his heart of hearts, be just a little afraid of Clinton.
Like all narcissists, Trump believes he should have been crowned the victor without ever having to run the race. It must be terrifying not only to have to run the race, but for his only ego defenses, denial and attack, to fail, letting in glimmers of the possibility that he might not be the winner after all.