The sign that Trump knows he's in trouble

chris wallace fox news sunday interview with donald trump

This was excerpted from the July 21 edition of CNN's Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.

(CNN)The self-described very stable genius wants everyone to know he's still as sharp as a tack.

Donald Trump's fixation on a standard cognitive test included in a recent medical exam is turning into one of the more bizarre passages of an already strange presidency, with the US President treating the evaluation like some kind of advanced degree. "I proved I was all there because I aced it," Trump told Fox News this month, claiming doctors were "very surprised" at his "unbelievable" performance.
His braggadocio reveals his ultra-competitiveness, self-obsession and incessant attempts to exaggerate his achievements. Whether it also reflects the understandable foreboding of a 74-year-old, only Trump knows. It led to an odd exchange with Fox's Chris Wallace this weekend:
Chris Wallace: I took the test too when I heard that you passed it.
    Trump: Yeah, how did you do?
    Wallace: It's not -- well, it's not (the) hardest test. They have a picture and it says "what's that" and it's an elephant.
    Trump: No, no, no. .... It's all misrepresentation. Because, yes, the first few questions are easy, but I'll bet you couldn't even answer the last five questions. I'll bet you couldn't. They get very hard, the last five questions.
    Trump has failed to halt the pandemic or save the economy upon which he was anchoring his bid for a second term. Now, as the elections loom, the oldest President ever inaugurated for a first term is desperate to paint his slightly older rival, Joe Biden, as senile. (The 77-year-old presumptive Democratic nominee likes to hint at eternal youth by jogging on camera -- and says he can "hardly wait" to prove his cognitive chops in a debate.)
    During his presidency, Trump has endured sometimes unfair assessments by outside experts who "diagnose" him with all manner of mental ailments without ever examining him. But now that he's raised the issue of mental fitness, he's put himself under scrutiny. And of the two candidates in this race, only one indulges in wild late-night Twitter rages, displays extreme narcissism, bullies foreign leaders, lies multiple times a day and wonders aloud whether injecting disinfectant could cure Covid-19.
    And it's not Biden.

    'Three days of fasting and prayer for our state'

    Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards followed scientists' advice by requiring residents to wear masks -- and now he's looking for divine assistance as the number of Covid-19 infections continues to climb in the Pelican State. "Starting today, I am beginning three days of fasting and prayer for our state through July 22," he tweeted Monday.

    The sign that Trump knows he's in trouble

    President Donald Trump posted this photo of himself wearing a mask to his official Twitter account.
    Here's a sign that Trump knows he's in trouble.
    With his polls tanking and the coronavirus pandemic raging in states that took his early-opening advice, Trump performed a huge reversal on Monday.
    "We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can't socially distance. There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!" Trump tweeted alongside a photo of him in a mask.
    For days, his aides have been trying to convince him to show that he can no longer ignore the fast-worsening crisis. His tweet came after a weekend poll showed Trump trailing rival Biden by 20 points when voters were asked who could best handle the pandemic. He is also planning to resume public briefings on the crisis (these have been on pause ever since it became clear that Trump's lack of preparation and wild theories were exposing inadequate leadership in the Oval Office).
      Perhaps this new approach can slow Trump's descent in the polls. It might even help convince his supporters to take government advice seriously. But after months of assailing science, playing into conservative dogma that equates masks with muzzles, and lying about the true nature of the pandemic, Trump has already done plenty of lasting damage.
      And the virus has shown before that it's impervious to political gestures.