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Outside the wall

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One thing that has to be making Trump very angry is that during the parts of the trial where he is able to remain awake he has to listen to ordinary people say what they think of him rather than the usual sycophants:

He seems “selfish and self-serving,” said one woman.

The way he carries himself in public “leaves something to be desired,” said another.

His “negative rhetoric and bias,” said another man, is what is “most harmful.”

Over the past week, Donald Trump has been forced to sit inside a frigid New York courtroom and listen to a parade of potential jurors in his criminal hush money trial share their unvarnished assessments of him.

It’s been a dramatic departure for the former president and presumptive 2024 GOP nominee, who is accustomed to spending his days in a cocoon of cheering crowds and constant adulation. Now a criminal defendant, Trump will instead spend the next several weeks subjected to strict rules that strip him of control over everything from what he is permitted to say to the temperature of the room.

“He’s the object of derision. It’s his nightmare. He can’t control the script. He can’t control the cinematography. He can’t control what’s being said about him. And the outcome could go in a direction he really doesn’t want,” said Tim O’Brien, a Trump biographer and critic.

As Elizabeth Spiers says, this will also be a reminder that he was never actually accepted into the New York elite whose approval he craved before crawling down to Florida:

In many ways Mr. Trump’s success outside of New York is a function of a characteristic he has that the city itself does not: an inferiority complex. Even when confronted with evidence of his wrongdoing, he insists that he is a victim, and now so are the people who vote for him. When he was indicted in Georgia, he told his followers, “They’re not coming after me. They’re coming after you — and I’m just standing in their way.”

Mr. Trump was successful in part because he projected his own anxieties onto the people who were loyal to him. When pressuring the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to help him overturn the results of the 2020 election, he said, “They’re going around playing you and laughing at you behind your back, Brad, whether you know it or not, they’re laughing at you.” Mr. Trump both fears and loathes being laughed at, and publicly seethed his way through the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011 when, as expected, he was the butt of some of the jokes. “He was pissed off like I’d never seen him before,” Chris Christie later said. “Just beside himself with fury.” The evening confirmed Mr. Trump’s suspicions that the elites were sneering at him and he wasn’t in on their jokes.

In this sense he’s a lot like Richard Nixon, who, as his former aide Tom Charles Huston said, understood “in his gut” when middle-class people “felt they were being put upon, because he felt he had been put upon.”

Mr. Trump also feels that he has been put upon not just by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, and the New York attorney general, Letitia James, but by all of the New York City liberals who did not take him seriously when he put on a faceful of makeup, donned a comically long tie and climbed into the clown car bound for Washington. There is some relief for New Yorkers who are witnessing the prospect of his comeuppance, though. The rest of the country is seeing a side of Mr. Trump that New York City residents have always been familiar with: the guy who’s angry that he hasn’t been accepted in the elite circles he admires and is outraged that others have.

The comparison to Nixon on this point is an apt one.

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