The first, intimated here by Greg Sargent, is that the media is setting a low bar for Trump. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, political media abhors a boring story about a stale, predictable race. This made a comeback narrative necessary, and inflated reviews of bad performances inevitable.
But viewed from another angle, it’s a manifestation of the phenomenon I described in my article today, which is about how Donald Trump is actually a very bad politician, but bad in a way that creates the illusion of political talent if you’re too close to the campaign.
In truth, if Trump actually did make the kind of overnight transformation his supporters have been promising, it would be fairly horrifying. Jeckyll and Hyde is a great premise for a mystery thriller, but a very bad trait in a president.
By any usual-though-subjective standard of political theater criticism, though, Trump’s Great August Pivot speech was unremarkable. Better written than most of his prepared speeches, but still not very good. He mostly said a bunch of things he’s said before, while adding in a few tossed off lines about how, regrettably, he’s lashed out in anger over and over again this year due to the stresses of political life. Buckles under pressure. Great sales pitch!
In any case, the good reviews followed in part because of an undying belief in the political media that the connection Trump has made to superfan voters must have some correlation in the nuts and bolts of campaigning. If only he could stop traducing women, minorities and the Constitution, he’d be an unstoppable political force.
But Trump is just Trump. Pretty good at being a demagogue, very bad at doing politics. It is no coincidence that the day after the Great August Pivot, one of his two—two—campaign chairs (the corrupt one, not the white nationalist one) resigned amid a torrent of news stories about how he helped oligarchs plunder poor Ukrainians, in contravention of of U.S. interests, and probably federal law as well. Only a bad politician would find himself in a crazy situation like that. And that’s all Trump is.