Politics

Who Donald Trump Should Blame for His Recent Collapse

Did you ever blow up a balloon until it’s ready to explode, then just let it go, and watch it take off in a powerful, flatulent burst, only to sputter erratically, then drop to the ground in a shriveled, spent pile of rubber? Meet Donald Trump – balloon man.

Prior to last week, Trump was on a roll.

The polls were tightening. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's 9/11 tribute disappearance and subsequent limo collapse played right into Trump’s “fitness” attack. And just to add to the drama, Clinton's collapse came just days after she followed it up with the accurate, though unfortunately phrased, reference to half of Trump's supporters as a "basket of deplorables." Suddenly, she was losing ground. And liberals were freaking out. Even if it was just pneumonia, it didn’t matter if she was having a real collapse. She was having an optical collapse, and Trump’s “I’m winning” bullshit started to seem frighteningly real. The bar for the first debate was set so low, as long as he didn’t literally expose himself on stage, some members of the media seemed ready to declare him Emperor Donald the First.

But, then, he exposed himself, and Clinton has retaken the lead in national polls. Not that he hasn’t been doing just that for the last 16 months, but this was a major choke, surpassing Nixon’s flop sweat, Ford’s “no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe,” and Romney’s “binders full of women” gaffes. Even the first 15 NAFTA minutes, which were declared either a rousing success or simply “not embarrassing,” depending on one’s political affiliation, were soon followed by intermittent sniffles/snorts, 51 interruptions, and a series of petulant, unhinged ravings, such as imploring the audience to call politically neutral Sean Hannity to confirm Trump’s stance against the Iraq War. Trump was on the biggest stage of his life, in the most important moment of his life, and he crumbled. Flamed out. He became the thing he despises the most – a choke artist.

Many wondered what the hell he was thinking, though it’s not a mystery when you realize that Trump’s never been about thinking. Trump doesn’t think. He reacts. From the beginning, all his cracks, insults, and personal shots, like the John McCain “I like people that weren’t captured” remark, should never have been taken literally. Trump’s language is, and always has been, in the service of his mania. Words are weapons in a battle. The battle is the moment. And Trump can never lose the moment. To lose the moment is to appear weak, so he says whatever comes into his head. He knows that if he wins the moment, there will be another moment right around the corner and no one will remember the previous moment. They’ll just remember that he didn’t lose it. It doesn’t matter if his comments have any basis in fact, or are in response to the question he was asked. It’s about getting the last word, because getting the last word means you won. Once you see the pathology, all you need to understand him is a Trump-to-English dictionary.

“Excuse me.” = ”Shut up, I’m talking.”

“UH, EXCUSE ME!” = “SHUT THE FUCK UP, I’M TALKING!”

“I never said that.” = “I said that, but I’ll never admit I said it.”

“People are saying.” = I’m the person. I’m saying it.”

“Everybody knows it’s true.” = “Nobody knows it’s true, but if I say it with authority, it’ll seem true.”

“Hillary started the birther movement.” = “Watch me weasel out of this one.”

“I won the first debate.” = “I only lost the debate if I admit I lost it.

“The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough.” = “I learned a new word.

When you realize that Trump only cares about the moment, even his post-debate sputtering makes sense. It explains why he fat/slut-shamed a former Miss Universe. It explains why he frantically defended himself against a New York Times story about his 1995 tax returns, which revealed a loss of $916 million in one year, which may have allowed him to write down those losses and avoid paying taxes for 18 years.

Trump choked. And somewhere in the dark recesses of his tiny, spiteful, deranged little brain he knows it. The balloon man is sputtering. He’s almost out of air, and is about to hit the ground.

As we head for the second presidential debate, Clinton's got the big momentum. Trump’s last line of defense is to dredge up Bill Clinton's marital affairs. I hope he brings it up in the debate. And I hope she says: “Oh, Donald. Can’t we just be adults? Marriage is tough. You should know; you’ve had three of them. I’ve only had one. Because marriage is something I take seriously. Like it says in the ceremony: “for better or worse.” And like it says in the Bible you’re so fond of: “He that is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.”

Being presidential is not something you can fake. It’s not something you can whip around your head and pretend is hair.

Trump can bitch that Lester Holt was unfair, or that his microphone was broken, but the problem wasn’t that the audience couldn’t hear what he said. The problem was that they could. And they will in the next debate. So, it won’t matter if the man with the military acumen and sound temperament of Captains Queeg, Kurtz and Crunch all rolled into one hot mess comes out guns blazing. It won’t matter if he doesn’t make the same mistakes he made last time. He’ll make brand new ones. Because for all the people he thinks are against him, there’s only one man conspiring to take down Trump, and that’s Trump.

Ian Gurvitz is the author of "Welcome to Dumbfuckistan: The Dumbed-Down, Disinformed, Dysfunctional, Disunited States of America."