It was entirely predictable that Donald Trump would engineer a telenovela-style storyline to sustain interest in his will-he-or-won’t-he plot to potentially re-assume power in 2024. For every move that he makes demonstrably indicating another run for president—holding campaign-style rallies, for instance, or uttering coy remarks in interviews, or even dropping thinly-veiled smoke bombs in super PAC email blasts to put ambitious Republicans on notice—Trump also makes dramatic zags away from campaign politics, yawing towards a more lucrative post-presidential life. Such is the nature, of course, of a supremely undisciplined superego reaching for the levers of power and attention in a post-Twitter and post-White House existence. And it’s also the result of neutered, powerless Republican establishment fearfully overthinking a political moment rather than defining it. Again, it was entirely predictable. But what comes next?
Trump, to his credit, has not made the parlor game surrounding his future easy to surmise. One week, his former chief of staff is telling Fox News about a “shadow cabinet” within Mar-a-Lago; the next, Trump convenes a dinner of election fraud conspiracists. Trump began the somber anniversary of 9/11 at a fire and police station in New York, where he teased another presidential run—“I think you’re gonna be very happy”—before flying down to a South Florida casino to oversee the “comeback,” and eventual drubbing, of 58-year-old boxing legend Evander Holyfield. In between, he appeared in a taped video to address the Korean “Moonies cult,” known for its mass weddings and support for right-wing political groups.
It was a delirious sequence of events, beneath the dignity of a former president and yet totally, authentically Trump. Could it be that he has already decided, deep down, that he will trade in another run at the White House for a return to showbiz or a litany of who-gives-a-fuck bucket list fantasies like hanging with the guy who had his ear chewed off by Mike Tyson? Or, by the dialectic of Trumpian self-promotion, are they one and the same?