It’s been about two weeks since Donald Trump announced that he was running for president, and about half that time has been consumed by an utterly preventable, and predictable, scandal: Trump dining with Kanye West, now an avowed anti-Semite, and Nick Fuentes, a notorious white supremacist, at Mar-a-Lago. The Trumpworld spin room, of course, has repeatedly emphasized that Fuentes—the far-right pundit-leader of the so-called Groyper Army, who has frequently called for the expulsion of Jews and minorities from “white America”—was merely an unexpected interloper in Trump’s pre-Thanksgiving meal with West. But G.O.P. insiders that I spoke to were apoplectic that Trump spent these early innings of his campaign breaking bread with West in the first place. “Why? Why are we doing this? Why are we having dinner with Kanye?” a party strategist fumed. “What’s the perceived advantage there if you’re running for president?”
The Trump ’24 campaign, after all, was hardly off to a rollicking start even before Ye and his entourage rolled into Mar-a-Lago. First there was Trump’s deflating campaign announcement—a long-winded diatribe that prompted multiple audience members to attempt a mid-speech Irish exit—only a few days after a dismal midterm outcome. Trump had already been blamed by many in the G.O.P. for putting his thumb on the scale for a half-dozen oddball or extremist gubernatorial and midterm candidates, including Dr. Oz and Herschel Walker, among others, who likely cost Republicans the Senate. In the days and weeks afterward, Trump spent the bulk of his time holed up in Mar-a-Lago, shit-posting about stolen elections and imagined enemies, his own mounting legal headaches, and the gall of would-be primary challengers.
That Trump closed out this second week on the trail bunkered down in Mar-a-Lago with Ye has only punctuated the growing fear among allies and insiders that the ex-president, in the throes of his post-Twitter and post-double-impeachment woes, cares far more about his own personal relevance than his party (duh) or even his own potential victory. “Set aside the Fuentes thing,” the strategist continued, referring to Trump’s claims that Kanye’s white-nationalist dinner guest was a stranger. “He is a relatively obscure figure, despite the attempts of the press to make him a household name. But Kanye alone—what are you doing? Why are you having dinner with him? What’s the upside here? We know the downside. He’s mentally disturbed. And if the answer is oh, he’s my friend and I’m trying to give him some tough love and advice, that’s fine. You can do that over the phone.”