Two columns and a Facebook post caught my attention this morning:
Obama Lives in Trump’s Head by Charles Blow (NYT)
This is why Trump is back to attacking Obama by Jennifer Rubin (WaPo)
Obama is a master of strategy by David Gerrold (Facebook)
The gist of all three is that Obama is still getting under Trump’s skin, and Trump is back to scratching an itch he can never get rid of. But David goes a bit further: Obama is now deliberately goading Trump to distract him from attacking Biden.
Trump has always hated Obama, partly because Obama is a successful Black man, who succeeded entirely on his own merits, and Trump simply cannot accept that. Trump also hates Obama because he is everything Trump has wanted to be: suave, intelligent, respected, admired, and competent. It’s a combination of Trump’s lifelong racism and his envy of those whom he knows, deep down, are better than him.*
Blow: Obama is everything that Trump is not: intellectual, articulate, adroit, contemplative and cool. He also happens to be a black man. The fact that he could not only ascend to the height of power but also the heights of celebrity and adoration vexed Trump.
Trump also wants, desperately, pathologically, to win re-election. This is only partly because there will be warrants waiting for him the day he finally leaves the Oval Office. Most of it is the fear his father drilled into him as a young boy: Never be a loser. Loser is the worst thing you can be. (A third factor may be that, as soon as he is out of power and people no longer fear him, they will all start laughing at him and telling the truth about just what an incompetent, bungling, moronic, all-around asshole he really is. After all, that’s what all those NDAs were about — but Congress and most of the executive didn’t sign any.)
And he knows he’s losing to Biden. So he and his surrogates are ramping up their attacks on Joe. But Trump has lately fixated once again on the man who haunts his nightmares by his mere existence: President Barack Obama.
Rubin: Even those critical of Obama’s presidency regard that era as akin to a Golden Age compared with the Trump calamity that brought us the Great Depression 2.0. And yet over the past week or so, Trump has rekindled “Obamagate,” a made-up scandal that has become a bumper sticker for Obama-haters. Trump’s claims are so thoroughly baseless and hopelessly convoluted that Trump cannot even explain it.
Blow argues that Trump is going after Obama again to stir up his racist base: “Trump is reaching past Joe Biden in his basement for an opponent who evokes a more visceral disdain from his base: Obama.” Rubin makes the same argument: “He remains convinced that if he just gets his rabid base sufficiently engaged, he can pull out another improbable win.”
David offers a different slant: Obama is baiting Trump in order to distract him from Biden. And Trump took the bait:
Attacking Trump, even indirectly, is deliberate. He’s taking fire now so Joe Biden doesn’t have to.Obama will continue to be visible right up until the Democratic convention — and with Trump directing all of his anger at Obama, he won’t be focusing as much on Biden.
David also adds that attacking Obama will solidify the Black vote for Biden more than Trump will solidify his racist votes. I think there’s some merit to this point, though Blacks have always been inclined to vote for Biden; it was the Black vote in South Carolina that restarted Biden’s campaign.
The Trump machine is continuing to attack Biden, the latest attempt being Junior’s baseless accusation that Biden is a pedophile. But that doesn’t have the same impact as when the holder of the bully pulpit does it. While I’m not sure that the tactic will be as effective as David thinks, I do agree that Obama is deliberately goading Trump into attacking him. I’ll add that it’s not just to take the heat off Biden. The former president remains enormously popular and respected. The more Trump (and McConnell) make baseless attacks against him, the more the country sees how ridiculous and contemptible they look.
On top of everything else, it’s fun to watch a master political strategist in action.
*For the grammar police (of which I admit to being a member): “he” and “him” are both correct, though “he” is more formal. But in this case, “him” is being compared to “whom.” Feel free to argue, of course!