MAGA begins to panic: Trump may not make it to the ballot

“It’s a real s**t show to consider”

By Brian Karem


Published April 25, 2024 9:00AM (EDT)

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he leaves court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 22, 2024 in New York City. (Yuki Iwamura-Pool/Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media as he leaves court during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 22, 2024 in New York City. (Yuki Iwamura-Pool/Getty Images)

Donald Trump.

Those two words spoken out loud can elicit an emotional response on par with the worst invectives, curses or insults you can conjure.

The man himself is capable of the same emotional outbursts under the proper stimuli. This week he finds himself cornered in a Manhattan courtroom, facing 10 counts of violating a gag order because he simply cannot control himself. 

His emails to his faithful include statements like “They can’t keep me off stage,” and “Trump Tower is mine,” along with cryptic threats such as “The bloodbath is 24 hours away,” along with even more outlandish claims that he’s just hours from being thrown in jail. 

I still do not think Trump will be on the ballot this November and this week in court shows why.

It’s all calculated to drive his followers mad, and by firing scattershot insults he hopes to convince his faithful followers who aren’t showing up in Manhattan to protest in the numbers that Trump wants. It’s also a projection of growing fear that he’s finally being held accountable for his actions.

While this was going on, President Joe Biden announced the U.S. had given missiles to Ukraine he’d previously denied sending and signed into law the latest Ukrainian arms package he helped negotiate past Republican extremists in Congress. Along with forcing China to divest itself of TikTok, the foreign aid package is a huge policy win for Biden that comes on the heels of a major union endorsement this week.  

Biden has largely steered clear of talking about Trump, trying to actually get his job done as proof that he deserves another term, but reminded everyone this week that “Trump is a toxic threat to planet earth.” 

Trump’s only response is to claim Biden is losing it. Biden seems to be rising to the challenge even as Trump falters. This week found the president playfully sparring with reporters. When asked what his legacy would be on abortion, Biden showed his cheek and replied, “What will your legacy be to be reporting?”

Yeah. Sleepy Joe, the cocaine-addicted mastermind – at least according to Trump – can still hold his own with a reporting pool that honestly looks like Middle School students at a pep rally.

Today the Supreme Court takes up Trump’s claim of absolute immunity – apparently ready to consider whether or not they will give Trump the power of a King and adjudicate themselves out of a job. No one believes the Supreme MAGAs on the court are intent on doing anything more than delaying the inevitable decision against Trump, while at the same time buying time so Trump can ride back into town and inflict upon the country his brand of dystopia and dyspepsia. Make no mistake; Trump has no coherent policy. The people who control him have an agenda, and maintain control over Trump by telling him what he wants to hear. Those who worship him love what he has to say. None of it makes sense. It’s all chaos in a blender designed to benefit those who control Trump to the detriment of the rest of us.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Trump’s coronation. In Manhattan, facing nearly three dozen felonies, Donald Trump’s thin veneer of competence is being stripped away by a guy named Pecker and Trump’s increasingly apparent mental decline. He is on a downward spiral caused by dementia, depression and derision.

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Speaking on Chip Franklin’s podcast, “Really Political,Dr. John Gartner, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, reminded us this week that we are currently seeing “The best Donald Trump – today.” In other words, he’s never going to be as good as he was the day before — no matter how bad that is. Dr. Gartner believes it is Trump who is suffering from a precipitous decline in mental health, and he’s never going to get better. With each day the former president’s mental acumen slips further and soon the rate of acceleration of mental decline will take Trump to a “mental cliff.” Once he falls off, watch out. Should Trump see a second term, Dr. Gartner compared it, potentially,  to a “Weekend at Bernie’s.”

As a comparison for how bad a second Trump administration could be, actor Tom Arnold asked me on that show what it was like during Trump’s first term. I came to the realization there are still many Americans who do not understand how truly dysfunctional Trump was and is. The fact is Trump’s first administration was extremely dangerous — and it had nothing to do with his politics.

The Trump White House was unlike anything I have ever seen — nor will likely see again. It was unprofessional, intolerable, idiotic, chaotic and filled with innuendo. It was a grade-B Hollywood production led by a self-loathing narcissist with delusions of adequacy.

No one in that administration seemed to even understand U.S. law. A quick example: Trump told us he was going to send U.S. troops to the Southern border. He was unaware of the fact that the Posse Comitatus Act precludes him from doing so — unless a congressional waiver is secured. This has been done in the past.

I remember speaking with one of Trump's assistants about this in the lower press offices with another reporter. "Is this like a rule, or a policy?" he asked. I explained it was a law — one heavily supported by Republicans historically. He was unaware. "That's a law?" he questioned. Then we asked a few other questions and at the end of the conversation the man turned to me and said, "I'll get back to you about that Hakuna Matata thing." 

A Trump administration official compared the Posse Comitatus Act to the “Lion King,” didn't know what the law was and never got back to me. The next day he seemingly forgot it, so I had to ask another Trump official about it. When I said it seemed like there was some really poor planning at the White House, he just laughed and said, "You give us too much credit. We don't have any plans."

It isn’t politics. It’s reality. Trump is incapable of serving another term as president.

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The good news is I still do not think Trump will be on the ballot this November and this week in court shows why. It’s not his sleeping. It’s not his reported flatulence (which I care little about). It is that Trump is showing undeniable signs of dementia. He seems to be melting into a puddle of his own makeup and sweat. The stress can be seen in the photos and the videotape from New York. If Donald Trump is this stressed out a week into his first trial, how could he possibly be expected to last through three more trials, or lead our country for four more years in what is probably the most stressful job on the planet? 

His decline combined with his narcissism are slowly consuming him. The trial in New York is also exposing the depravity of those in his inner circle. David Pecker is the colorectal cancer of journalism. The guy wanted to be the editor of Time Magazine. Thank God that never happened. His willingness to run a supermarket rag like the National Enquirer as a PR firm for Trump underscores not only his vacuousness, but how cheap Donald really is – not just monetarily, but spiritually. He's an empty suit of plastic emotions bound in hubris and anger. He’s screaming for thousands to show up at court and show their support, and even his rabble are growing weary of his constant whining.

Trump says we can’t keep him from the stage – but the trial is doing just that. For eight hours a day, four days a week, he has to sit in a courtroom while a jury of his peers scrutinizes his every move, his sleeping patterns, his doddering dementia, his flatulence, his grunts – everything. 

Trump made his grifting possible, in part, by a carefully staged persona seen in glimpses at private and public events. It’s why he didn’t do many press conferences and didn’t show up in the White House briefing room until the COVID crisis made his appearances a requirement. Those appearances were well known for his inane claims regarding the virus, ranging from there would be no deaths to suggesting the introduction of light into the body or injecting bleach could cure COVID. 

Being on a jury confined in close quarters with such a frightened, angry narcissist does not bode well for Drowsy Donny. The longer the trial takes in Manhattan, the more it becomes clear to the world, including his faithful minions, that Donald Trump has no more gas in his tank.

This opens up speculation as to what will go on in Milwaukee when the MAGA faithful descend like a horde of cicadas to choose their candidate for president. It is presupposed that Trump, no matter what, will become the nominee. But there are whispers, and growing speculation among the faithful and the faithless in MAGA land that Donald Trump may not be up for the job.

“For the first time,” I was told this week by a Trump organizer in Wisconsin, “I’ve started to think about what we would do if Trump isn’t our candidate. It’s a real s**t show to consider.”

If Trump is somehow rejected from the ballot or is incapable of serving, the Milwaukee convention could end up looking like the House of Representatives searching for a speaker after it expelled Kevin McCarthy. It could take several ballots, lots of smoke and drinks in backrooms combined with banshee-like wailing and gnashing of teeth. The whole Republican convention, always a circus show of pretense and populism, will more accurately resemble a hallucinogenic Barnum and Bailey event under the big top – or even more precisely  Mad Max under the Thunderdome.

Each day in court brings that reality closer. Trump can’t run. Trump can’t hide. Trump can’t do all the things that have enabled him to thrive as a despotic grifter his entire life. His mind is slipping, his grip on the world is weakening and at the end of the day Donald Trump recognizes it. You can see it in his eyes. His last cogent thought may well be the recognition that he’s the world’s largest loser and everything he’s done his entire life has led to utter failure.

Then again, his last cogent thought might be “I love hamberders."

By Brian Karem

Brian Karem is the former senior White House correspondent for Playboy. He has covered every presidential administration since Ronald Reagan, sued Donald Trump three times successfully to keep his press pass, spent time in jail to protect a confidential source, covered wars in the Middle East and is the author of seven books. His latest is "Free the Press."

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