It was two years ago this week that the New York Times reported on an interesting chat between Donald Trump and Republican leaders about the 2018 midterm election cycle. Party officials, taking stock of the available evidence, tried to warn the president that the GOP faced significant headwinds, though they came to realize that Trump did not "grasp the gravity" of the situation.
In fact, some Republican officials tried to tell the president that the party's House majority would almost certainly disappear once voters had their say. "That's not going to happen," Trump replied.
That's exactly what happened. In fact, the GOP suffered their worst midterm cycle since the immediate aftermath of Watergate, the president's bluster and optimism notwithstanding.
Almost exactly two years later, we're learning of a related conversation between Trump and his team about the 2020 election cycle. Once again, people close to the president are trying to warn him about electoral hazards ahead, and once again, he's reportedly refusing to believe the information he doesn't like. CNN had this report yesterday on Team Trump discussion from late last week:
Within moments, the President was shouting -- not at the aides in the room, but into the phone -- at his campaign manager Brad Parscale, three people familiar with the matter told CNN. Shifting the blame away from himself, Trump berated Parscale for a recent spate of damaging poll numbers, even at one point threatening to sue Parscale.
The New York Times had a similar report overnight, describing Trump as having "erupted" at Parscale after being presented with internal polling data showing him losing to Joe Biden in key states.
At one point, Mr. Trump said he would not lose to Mr. Biden, insisted the data was wrong and blamed the campaign manager for the fact that he is down in the polls, according to one of the people familiar with the conversation. Mr. Trump even made a threat to sue Mr. Parscale, mentioning the money he has made while working for the president, another person familiar with the call said, although the threat did not appear to be serious.
The Washington Post had a related report, noting that Trump raised the prospect of suing his campaign manager, though one of the newspaper's sources said the president wasn't necessarily serious about the threat.
Regardless of whether or not Trump was sincere about litigation targeting his own top campaign aide, the larger takeaway is the same: internal Republican polling, as recently as last week, found the president losing his re-election bid. It's also clear, based on this and other reporting, that Trump refuses to believe the evidence that contradicts his assumptions.
As the Post's report added, "Trump told Parscale that he did not believe the polling that had been presented to him, even though it came from the campaign and the RNC. 'I'm not losing to Joe Biden,' Trump said at one point, both of these people said, adding that the president used profanities throughout the call."
But as Trump should've learned two years ago, simply asserting an outcome about an election cycle does not make that outcome happen.
But while the president may be slow to learn valuable lessons, those around him are not. The Post's report went on to note, "Parscale came to the Oval Office on Tuesday for a long meeting with Trump in which the hatchet was buried, one of the people said. He brought polling numbers that were more positive for Trump, and the president seemed in a far better mood."
Provide the president with information he hates and feel his wrath. Provide him with information he wants to hear and bask in his glow. Is it any wonder the White House is so dysfunctional?
Postscript: Trump told Reuters yesterday, "I don't believe the polls. I believe the people of this country are smart. And I don't think that they will put a man in who's incompetent."
I'm just going to let that hang there without comment.