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Trump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet

Less than four months before the presidential election, Team Trump seems dazed and confused. Held despite warnings from public health officials, the big rally in Tulsa, Okla., was poorly attended. Concerns over turnout factored into canceling a rally in New Hampshire. Revelations that White House staff, Secret Service personnel and members of the president’s entourage who attended recent events tested positive for COVID-19 embarrassed the administration. Most important, Team Trump’s response to this summer’s surge in coronavirus cases and the protests following the killing of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks by police officers has been inconsistent and incoherent.

On July 5, President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE bit Fox News, the hand that has fed him, for reporting on polls showing that Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot FireEye finds evidence Chinese hackers exploited Microsoft email app flaw since January Biden officials to travel to border amid influx of young migrants MORE has a substantial lead in battleground states. “We are leading in the real polls,” the president tweeted, without evidence. Declaring that Fox was “getting into CNN and MSDNC territory,” Trump recommended that his supporters switch to OANN, a far-right platform that has promoted false claims that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton brings up 'Freedom Fries' to mock 'cancel culture' Edie Falco to play Hillary Clinton in Clinton impeachment series White House defends Biden's 'Neanderthal thinking' remark on masks MORE is secretly bankrolling antifa, that California legislators want to ban sales of the Bible and that the coronavirus was created by the deep state in North Carolina (citing a “citizen investigator” who believes Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci: 'Very nice' that Trump told people to get vaccinated at CPAC Neanderthal museum weighs in on Biden mask comments Abbott defends scrapping mask mandate: It 'isn't going to make that big of a change' MORE personally funded the creation of the virus).

Team Trump fought a belated — and futile — fight to suppress publication of John BoltonJohn BoltonTrump offered North Korea's Kim a ride home on Air Force One: report Key impeachment figure Pence sticks to sidelines Bolton lawyer: Trump impeachment trial is constitutional MORE’s book “The Room Where It Happened,” alerting potential readers to the former national security adviser’s claims that the president always put his own personal interests ahead of national security. And apparently Team Trump didn’t learn. An ill-considered effort to block the release of a memoir by Mary Trump, the president’s niece, has helped propel her book to the top of the bestseller list. In “Too Much and Never Enough,” the clinical psychologist describes her uncle as “much as he was when he was three years old: incapable of growing, learning or evolving, unable to regulate his emotions, moderate his responses, or take in and synthesize information,” a man who values human beings “only in monetary terms,” subscribes to “cheating as a way of life,” and now “threatens the world’s health, economic security, and social fabric.”

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The administration’s apparent plan to urge Americans to “learn to live” with the coronavirus, complemented by the president’s false claim that 99 percent of cases are “completely harmless,” has not played well, especially with older voters, who provided the margin of victory for Trump in many states in 2016. According to recent polls, many Americans over 65 now find Trump coarse, disrespectful and divisive. Feeling at risk from COVID-19, they believe his administration has not prioritized public health over reopening the economy.

Trump has vowed to veto the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act — despite bipartisan support in Congress and from Pentagon officials — if the legislation authorizes the Department of Defense to remove the names of Confederate officers from military bases, ships, aircraft, streets and other federal property. And Trump has blasted NASCAR, the NFL, and the owners of the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians for succumbing to political correctness. That said, perhaps in a tacit acknowledgment that a substantial majority of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of race relations and protests, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany recently told reporters that he “was not making a judgment one way or the other” on flying the Confederate flag.

Asked by Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityPompeo not ruling out 2024 White House bid Grenell hints at potential California gubernatorial bid Cruz blames criticism of Cancun trip on media 'Trump withdrawal' MORE for his second-term agenda, Trump replied, “Well, one of the things that will be great — you know, the word experience is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience. But the word experience is a very important word. ... Now I know everybody, and I have great people in the administration. You make some mistakes, you know, an idiot like Bolton.” The president did not mention a single proposal policy, or priority. He did not indicate whether Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonLawmakers to roll out legislation reorganizing State cyber office New State Department cyber bureau stirs opposition Blinken tells State Department staff 'I have your back' MORE, James MattisJames Norman MattisRejoining the Iran nuclear deal would save lives of US troops, diplomats The soft but unmatched power of US foreign exchange programs The GOP senators likely to vote for Trump's conviction MORE, H.R. McMaster, John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsHow President Biden can hit a home run Former Trump intel chief Coats introduces Biden nominee Haines at hearing Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security MORE, Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule Restoring the EPA: Lessons from the past MORE, Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Interior finalizes plan to open 80 percent of Alaska petroleum reserve to drilling | Justice Department lawyers acknowledge presidential transition in court filing | Trump admin pushes for permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff Trump administration pushes for grazing permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff Interior secretary tests positive for COVID-19 after two days of meetings with officials: report MORE and Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceBiden health nominee faces first Senate test Focus on cabinet nominees' effectiveness and expertise, not just ideology Conspicuous by their absence from the Republican Convention MORE were great people or idiots.

Offered a redo by Sinclair Media’s Eric Bolling, Trump rambled for 380 words, the gist of which was “It’s very simple; we’re going to make America great again” (a campaign slogan he stole from Ronald Reagan). 

In one respect, however, Trump has been utterly consistent.

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As in 2016, and throughout his presidency, he is betting the ranch on a nasty campaign that will convince fearful and frustrated whites that protesters for racial justice, who have for the most part been peaceful, are Marxists, anarchists, looters, rioters and terrorists who, along with their Democratic enablers, pose an existential threat to “our” values and institutions.

This time around, it appears, far fewer Americans are buying what Trump’s trying to sell.

Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century.