Before 6:30 a.m. on the East Coast Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump had retweeted 58(!) comments mostly from accounts claiming to be firefighters – or family members of firefighters – praising him and attacking the International Association of Fire Fighters and their recently endorsed candidate for president Joe Biden.
The barrage of retweets – and the hour in which they came – suggested that Trump has Biden very much on his mind these days as the former vice president begins to tour early primary and caucus states in support of his front-running candidacy for the Democratic nomination.
“I’ve done more for Firefighters than this dues sucking union will ever do, and I get paid ZERO,” Trump tweeted at 5:56 a.m. Wednesday morning. (Biden also gets paid ZERO for being endorsed by IAFF.) He then followed that tweet with scores of retweets – a chorus of voices designed to show the country (and, in particular, the political media) that the rank-and-file firefighters were with him even if the leadership in Washington was supporting Biden.
The actual effects of Trump’s retweeting binge were something very different than he was going for.
First off, who retweets 58 things in a 30-minute window? Especially when that window begins before 6 a.m.? Take it out of the political context. If you woke up this morning and a friend of yours had done the EXACT same thing Trump did – post a bitter tweet about someone who scorned them and then retweeted dozens of people agreeing with their view – you would definitely text that person or maybe even pick up the phone to ask if they were OK. Right? Now think of going on that sort of retweeting rampage when a) you are the President of the United States and b) you have almost 60 million Twitter followers.
Second, if Trump wanted to show people he wasn’t at all worried about the threat Biden poses to him if the former VP emerges as the Democratic nominee for president, this was a crap way of going about it. Especially when you consider that earlier this week, Trump fired off five tweets in a 24-hour period attacking “Sleepy Joe” Biden as a weak and ineffective candidate. Here’s just one:
“The Media (Fake News) is pushing Sleepy Joe hard. Funny, I’m only here because of Biden & Obama. They didn’t do the job and now you have Trump, who is getting it done - big time!”
Trump did ALL of this despite counsel from his advisers to avoid attacking any single Democratic candidate in the massive 20-person field so as not to elevate an individual before they battle it out for the nomination. As CNN’s Jeremy Diamond wrote this week: “That advice has been especially true for taking aim at Biden, whom many Republican operatives – and Trump himself – believe would pose a significant threat to the President should he win the Democratic nomination.”
That Trump ignored that (good) advice suggests he simply cannot help himself when it comes to Biden. That Trump is either agitated or worried enough – or both – about the former vice president’s ability to win white working class voters in the industrial Midwest that he has to express himself in his native tongue: Relentless attack.
Remember that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. If Trump didn’t care about Biden – or that the IAFF endorsed the Delaware Senator – he would simply ignore the whole thing. Or he might send a single tweet about it. He certainly wouldn’t send five dozen retweets!!!
When Trump says, over and over again, that he is the most transparent president in history, he’s actually right – just not in the way he thinks. His administration – and he in particular – are shockingly opaque when it comes to things like his tax returns or his broader financial dealings. But where Trump is transparent is in his motivations and his fears. An undergraduate psychology major could easily understand that Trump’s massive overreaction to Biden’s candidacy – and to the firefighters’ endorsement – reeks of worry and anxiety.