Has Donald Trump outfoxed himself? In the past few days Trump has been lashing out at the network for publishing a poll showing that his popularity is in the doldrums and that a variety of Democratic candidates would administer a thrashing to him. ‘There’s something going on at Fox,’ Trump announced on Sunday.
‘Something’ is one of Trump’s favorite words when he wants to signify that there is some vast conspiracy out there. The hunt was on. In between bashing the turncoat Anthony Scaramucci — ‘nobody ever heard of this dope until he met me’ — Trump assailed Fox personality Juan Williams, calling him ‘so pathetic’ and ‘nasty and wrong!’ He piled on, claiming that Williams had beseeched him for a photo, which Williams says is baloney. Fox commentator Brit Hume has come to Williams’s defense, noting that he is ‘one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known’.
Trump also targeted Donna Brazile, asking ‘What’s she doing working for Fox?’ As it happens, this is the very question that liberals have been asking Brazile. This past March, Isaac Chotiner of the New Yorker posed it to her. Her response: ‘I am speaking truth to power.’
Trump, though, has never liked powerful truths. He lives in a realm of his own imagining where the power of positive thinking serves as his lodestar. The intrusion of unpleasant facts — Williams, for example, pointing out on Fox that his China trade policy is inept and ‘brutish’ — conflicts with his perception — or at least presentation — of himself as a business titan ending decades of American misrule. When Trump enters the foxhole, he wants soothing testaments to his percipience of the kind that Brian Kilmeade and Co. are wont to lavish upon him. He wants, in short, to be stroked.
But there may also be another reason that Trump currently resents Fox. It isn’t just that it’s supposed to be a cheerleader shaking its pom-poms for his re-election. Trump’s threats that he might deny Fox the ability to host a debate suggest that he keenly has in mind his ability to delegitimize the election. He may not show up for the debates. Above all, he wants to be able to argue — if he loses — that the results were rigged. In this regard, polls from Fox showing that he is indeed losing some 15 months before the election are distinctly unhelpful.
But perhaps Trump does have a secret backup plan. He’s just tweeted out a picture of a gold Trump Tower looming over a coastal town, vowing ‘I promise not to do this to Greenland!’ Don’t believe a word of it. His obsession with the island is a sign that he realizes that if he can’t even count on Fox any longer to aid with his re-election, it may be time to head for greener pastures.