What’s with Trump and crowds?
The President, concerned about the size of his Phoenix rally, removed the aide responsible, according to Bloomberg:
Donald Trump was in a bad mood before he emerged for a confrontational speech in Arizona last week. TV and social media coverage showed that the site of his campaign rally, the Phoenix Convention Center, was less than full. Backstage, waiting in a room with a television monitor, Trump was displeased, one person familiar with the incident said: TV optics and crowd sizes are extremely important to the president.
Apparently, the crowd was not adequate to meet the Chief Executive’s needs. More’s the pity.
The Hill noted:
Trump’s team reportedly informed George Gigicos, a contractor to the Republican National Committee, that he would not be hired in such a capacity again after the president was apparently left underwhelmed by the optics and crowd size of the event.
Bloomberg unraveled the chain of events:
As his surrogates warmed up the audience, the expanse of shiny concrete eventually filled in with cheering Trump fans. But it was too late for a longtime Trump aide, George Gigicos, the former White House director of advance who had organized the event as a contractor to the Republican National Committee. Trump later had his top security aide, Keith Schiller, inform Gigicos that he’d never manage a Trump rally again, according to three people familiar with the matter. Gigicos, one of the four longest-serving political aides to the president, declined to comment.
And what happened in Phoenix? If we may use the most diplomatic language, the President seemed to be no longer hinged to reality. The raving of Phoenix was full-tilt-a-whirl even for a man who made slander a political habit. This was the evening when the President mocked McCain and Flake, and threatened to shut down the government if they don’t build the wall—which is a thing that will really happen, a totally legitimate plan that Trump did not make up on the spot.
However, to be fair to the President, for the first time in his Presidency, he actually followed through on a pledge: he pardoned the famous Arizona night-terror Joe Arpaio. He took the trouble to sign a sheet of paper, and what a mighty effort that was. Arpaio had once faked his own assassination attempt; now here was a real pardon.
But what good did it do for Donald Trump? The poor President’s heart was broken. First his failure to win the popular vote, now this: a laughingstock in the desert. What a year it’s been.
Gigicos had staged the event in a large multipurpose room. The main floor space was bisected by a dividing wall, leaving part of the space empty. There were some bleachers off to the side, but otherwise the audience was standing — and the scene appeared flat, lacking the energy and enthusiasm of other rallies. ... Trump’s first words when he stepped to the microphone: “Wow, what a crowd, what a crowd.”
Trump raged at Gigicos. Many tweets were written and discarded that night, many television sets yelled at. God only knows how many McDonald’s ketchup packets were opened in blind rage. Bloomberg said that Trump was obsessing about the crowd size a week later. His distemper is understandable. However, the man is Commander-in-Chief. You think that would be enough to shore up the confidence of any man from Queens.
There are other factors at work. The Hill again:
Roughly 10,000 people were present when Trump spoke on Aug. 23, according to the Arizona Republic. But Trump saw TV coverage before he ever took the stage indicating the Phoenix Convention Center was less than full.
Like earthquakes, plagues, or tsunamis, most Americans came to know Trump through television, not in person. His obsession with the medium is understandable. Yet it occurs to me that the President may not be aware of how the see-box works. He may believe that physical rallies are literally the same thing as television.
A canny man would understand that the crowd size is irrelevant to the people watching at home. Most of us accept the chorus at Trump rallies as a given, and focus on what the man is saying. After all, the camera is not there for the crowd, but focuses on Trump. However, this does not mollify Donald. I have a theory why.
He is obsessed with whatever is in his field of vision: if he doesn’t see it, it isn’t real. This rule applies in every area of his life: Constitutional law, climate change, other continents, heads of state, healthy eating choices, you name it. Nixon spoke of the great silent majority that supported him; even when he was scribbling on legal pads in the dark of the Executive Office Building, he knew they were out there.
That kind of mathematical, rational assurance would never work for Donald. Trump is governed by the immediate and sensory. If the majority are silent, that would prove to the Orangeman they didn’t exist. At this moment, Trump may be convinced that the people who showed in Phoenix are literally the only people in America who love him. I’m halfway joking, but it’s the kind of playfulness that happens on a bar patio when there’s a car crash across the street: deadly serious about the seriously deadly. Whatever the contents of his reality-measuring apparatus, a paltry turnout at Phoenix was enough for Trump to eject one of his aides. That’s how much it matters to him.
The bigger the room, the harder it is to fill it. That’s Trump’s life in synopsis.
Gigicos, we are told, organized most of Trump’s big campaign events over the past two years, and certainly all the major ones since the Orangeman poured himself into office. Of course, the rally was thinner—that is beyond question. But honestly, what has changed? Did Gigicos suddenly lose all his skill at organizing? It seems unlikely? What has changed?
Could the President be losing his appeal? How terrible that would be! And how perfect that it happened in Phoenix. What a perfect name for the town for Trump to discover that he cannot be reborn at a rally. Even a practiced liar knows when he’s been sold shortened pants. Trump bragging about his crowds is like watching a child discover how to multiply by orders of ten: no matter how high you go, there’s always a trail of zeroes dragging behind the main figure. And so it is with the President: behind his back, there’s a lot of nothing. Trump began by tirading next to elevators, and that is where he will end.