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Trump’s Obsession With Fame & Ratings Is More Disturbing Than Ever

Donald Trump’s obsession with ratings is nothing new. It didn’t even start with the inauguration, coming before that from a life of reality TV.

But the inauguration set a new benchmark for Trump’s incessant bragging and need to be not just successful, but the literal best. That day set the standard for Trump’s wild claims of being #1, despite the public having easy access to all sorts of evidence that directly contradicts his exaggerations. We can see pictures of his crowds. We can check the Twitter accounts of the “fans” he retweets and clearly see that they’re bots. We know he’s pretended to be his own publicist. We know how many businesses of his have failed. Yet our IRL Clothesless Emperor refuses to admit the reality he’s living.

Take, for example, his rally in Phoenix last week. He didn’t have to comment on the size of the crowd, but he chose to, tweeting that 15,000 people attended. As if no one could ever prove him wrong.

He was clearly embarrassed by that turnout, but what was he going to do? Not lie about the size of the crowd? No, instead he reportedly fired (or maybe just sidelined) his longtime rally organizer, because why face reality when you can just keep firing people?

So no, Trump’s obsession with image and numbers is nothing new. But I am finding myself freshly disturbed by the form it’s taking. Because in Phoenix, it wasn’t just the rally crowd’s size he lied about. He claimed that there were not “too many people outside protesting.” However, local media reported thousands of protesters turned out, and were met with tear gas and pepper bombs from police in an attempt to disperse the crowds.

When Trump cites numbers, he can either claim the “fake mainstream media” is lying, or he uses force to back up his statements.

Trump genuinely doesn’t seem to know how to view a situation through any lens other than ratings. When he pardoned the ultra racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio, he said he did so on a Friday night as Hurricane Harvey hit, and he said he did so because he “assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally.” Is that a joke? Did he actually think he was getting people’s attention, or was he trying to slip that incredibly controversial news by us quietly? Does it matter? Either way, that’s a gross thing to say.

Gross, but not unusual. today, when Trump finally visited Texas, he greeted the crowd by marveling at its size.

What a turnout. For a devastating natural disaster. Truly, this is the moment Trump became president, no?

A lot of people also criticized Melania Trump’s outfit for the hurricane visit today. Specifically, her ridiculous choice of footwear.

Now, Melania changed shoes on the plane, as was reportedly her plan to start with. Obviously, what the first lady wears is nowhere near as important as what the president does, and a woman’s appearance is an easier target for scorn than the man at her side doing real damage. Still, how did anyone think this was going to go over well? How did anyone think those heels, the complete antithesis to the situation she was entering, could be seen as anything but disrespectful for the victims of this hurricane she and her husband are supposed to at least pretend to care about.

All this is the same problem we always see with Trump’s optics. He wants so badly to be on top in literally everything he does. Yet in his determination to look like the best, he continuously, laughably fails in actually achieving anything.

Fame and numbers are the most important thing for Trump, whether we’re talking about notorious racists or saving lives.

That’s the best compliment he could think to give.

(image: screengrab, Twitter)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.