Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday July 20, 2021
“I’m Getting the Word Out”: Inside the Feverish Mind of Donald Trump
Seventy days had passed since Donald Trump left Washington against his will. On March 31, 2021, we ventured to Mar-a-Lago, where he still reigned as king of Republican politics. We arrived late that afternoon for our audience with the man who used to be president and were ushered into an ornate sixty-foot-long room that functioned as a kind of lobby leading to the club’s patio. A model of Air Force One painted in Trump’s proposed redesign—a flat red stripe across the middle, a navy belly, a white top, and a giant American flag on the tail—was proudly displayed on the coffee table facing the entrance. It was a prop disconnected from reality. Trump’s vision never came to be; the fleet now in use by President Biden still bears the iconic baby blue-and-white livery designed by Jacqueline Kennedy.
“Used to be” is not a phrase anyone dares use to describe the president inside his Palm Beach castle. Here, beneath the gold-leaf ceiling of winged griffins and crystal chandeliers, Trump still rules, surrounded day and night by applauding fans, obsequious courtiers, and dutiful servants. At the perfectly manicured Mar-a-Lago, none of the disgrace that marked the end of his presidency pierces Trump’s reality. Here, he and his aides work to maintain the gospel according to Trump, with the most important revelations being that Donald Trump was the greatest president of all time and was unjustly denied a second term.
Trump had invited us to Mar-a-Lago to interview him for this book. He had declined an interview for our first book about his presidency, and when A Very Stable Genius was published in January 2020, attacked us personally and branded our reporting a work of fiction. But Trump was quick to agree to our request this time. He sought to curate history.
As we sat for the interview, the former president’s press secretary presented us copies of a bound volume: 1,000 Accomplishments of President Donald J. Trump: Highlights of the First Term. On the back cover is an American flag, the presidential seal, and Trump’s thick, jagged signature. The book totals 92 pages and is organized with chapters dedicated to the economy, tax cuts, deregulation, trade, and so on.
Trump walked into the room flanked by a couple of plainclothed Secret Service agents, a much smaller detail than he once had as president. He wore his customary dark suit and tie, his face covered with bronze makeup. He sat in his preferred position, a plush armchair of ivory brocade facing the entrance where guests arrive, with us on a sofa to his right. Behind him was a huge window looking out to the Atlantic Ocean; in front of him, the patio facing Lake Worth.
“This is the biggest, the best, the most acreage, the most everything—the ocean, the lake, it fronts both,” the ever-boasting Trump said. “Mar-a-Lago is ocean-to-lake. Did you know that? Mar-a-Lago, ocean to lake. It’s the only place. See that window? That window, when that was built, is the largest pane of glass in the world, okay?”
Trump started the interview by pointing out his enduring and unrivaled power within the Republican Party. He explained that he didn’t intend to follow the path of former presidents, who largely bowed out of the nitty-gritty of party politics. He was proud to say he genuinely enjoys this sport he found so late in life, and believes he plays it better than anyone else. The parade of Republican politicians flocking to Mar-a-Lago all spring to kiss his ring had both energized him, he said, and proved the value of his stock.
“We have had so many, and so many are coming in,” Trump said. “It’s been pretty amazing. You see the numbers. They need the endorsement. I don’t say this in a braggadocious way, but if they don’t get the endorsement, they don’t win.”
But future elections were not front and center in his mind. A past election was. Trump was fixated on his loss in 2020, returning to this wound repeatedly throughout the interview.
“In a certain way, I had two presidencies,” he said. In the first, when the economy was roaring, Trump argued that he had been unbeatable, never mind that his approval rating was never higher than 46 percent in the Gallup poll during his first three years as president.
“I think it would be hard if George Washington came back from the dead and he chose Abraham Lincoln as his vice president, I think it would have been very hard for them to beat me,” Trump said.
Then, he lamented, came his second presidency: the pandemic killed his chances.
Trump seemed determined as well to convince us that he actually had won, and handily, had it not been for the many people who had wronged him—the “evil people” who conspired to deny him his rightful second term.
“The greatest fraud ever perpetrated in this country was this last election,” Trump said. “It was rigged and it was stolen. It was both. It was a combination, and Bill Barr didn’t do anything about it.”
Trump faulted not only his attorney general, but Vice President Pence for lacking the bravery to do what was right. (Continued: Vanity Fair)
A satirical depiction of the exile of the French Emperor Napoleon to the island of Elba in 1814. This was Napoleon’s first defeat by the Allied nations of the Sixth Coalition, including Britain, Prussia, and Russia. Less than a year after Napoleon was overthrown, he escaped from Elba and returned to France, forcing the Sixth Coalition to reform. The Allied armies marched against him, and Napoleon was finally and conclusively defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. Pub’d by J. Phillips, No. 32 Charles Street Hampstead road, May 1814. (Source: Age of Revolution)