Trump’s Bible Stunt Isn’t Brilliant. It’s Insanely Desperate.

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The standard commentary on Donald Trump’s “God Bless the USA Bible” is that while of course it’s cynical and twisted and borderline sacrilegious, there’s also no doubt that his people are going to buy it by the carload, because these people would buy a bag of Trump Dogshit from the guy (“from the bowels of the best dogs, everybody says so”). Some people are just that, well, let us say easily taken in.

Trump’s dark penchant for hucksterism is endless, and P.T. Barnum’s dictum is as true today as it was when he said it. You could take slips of paper on which you write the names of 25 things these Americans like, pull out three or four, conjure up some physical manifestation of it, and Trump would sell it: NASCAR-Branson’s Famous Baldknobbers Beer, in limited-edition cans that show Trump as Rambo.

It’s endless. Or is it? Trump’s fundraising has taken a nosedive. His small-donor numbers are below where they once were. NBC News recently reported that donations to Trump of $200 or less are down 62.5 percent against 2019. He’s still raised a lot; I don’t want to mislead you here. The New York Times recently reported that Trump has more small donors than Joe Biden in some key swing states. But Biden has raised more from small donors overall, according to OpenSecrets. And in the most recent Federal Election Commission filings, Trump had $33.5 million cash on hand and Biden reported having $71 million. That was March 20, before Thursday night’s Radio City Music Hall event with Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, where Biden raked in $26 million.

All this is a shock to no one, because as we all know, Trump is spending a good chunk of his donations on his legal bills. The Times ran an amazing report about this on Wednesday. Of nearly $85 million in donations, almost a third, $27 million, has gone to legal bills. Hey, at least this time around, he’s apparently actually paying them.

Trump will have money. There’s no use pretending he won’t. But $400 sneakers and $60 Bibles are not signs of strength. They’re signs of weakness. Panic. Desperation. A guy who’ll sell anything that isn’t nailed to the floor.

And: He damn well should be panicked. Liberals and Democrats always impute to Republicans and right-wingers a strength they neither have nor deserve. Just because Trump tries to act like a tough guy and appeals to tough guys, liberals tend to concede he’s a tough guy. Nonsense. He’s a very weak and insecure man, as Mary Trump is always pointing out.

Physically, he’s horribly out of shape: probably couldn’t climb a 20-step flight of stairs without stopping halfway up and, Rambo iconography notwithstanding, couldn’t throw a punch that would crush a grape. A few months ago, I saw a photo of Biden biking around Rehoboth Beach, and it struck me: Has Trump even ever been on a bicycle in his life? I’d be shocked. Biden may be older, but really, who’s the more likely stroke victim here, the guy who still rides the occasional bike or the guy who eats well-done steaks and whose four major food groups are McDonald’s, KFC, pizza, and Diet Coke?

Psychically, he’s in far, far worse shape. He knows very well in some corner of his brain that he’s guilty of everything he’s accused of. He knows that if he doesn’t win the presidency, there’s a very serious chance that he ends up convicted of one of those crimes and in prison. It won’t be Angola Penitentiary, but there won’t be chandeliers in the bathroom or an 18-hole golf course for him to win phony championships on, either.

He would never admit any of this publicly, but privately Trump is surely terrified of this possible future. He knows that if he loses, the cases go forward, and he’s going to have to fight them as long as he possibly can, and it’s going to cost untold millions. Hence the sneakers and the Bible. And there’s surely more in store.

Some people will buy these things, there’s no question of that. But I’ll bet you that if we look hard six months from now, we’ll see that sales did not meet expectations. Of course, we’ll never know that because Trump will have full control of that narrative, and he’ll insist that sales were off the charts, and the press will print it. But we’ve seen this movie and heard this b.s. Trump Steaks were moving faster than they could cut them. Trump University was making millionaires out of many, many people. Right.

So let’s avert our gaze from the people who’d walk across hot coals for Donald Trump (while he stood off to the side, pleading bone spurs) and think instead about the ones who are slowly peeling off. They’re out there too. And they’re starting to see what you and I have so obviously seen for years: a twisted, desperate huckster who’s never cracked a Bible in his life and whose only religion is hustling the suckers who are born every minute.

This article first appeared in Fighting Words, a weekly TNR newsletter authored by editor Michael Tomasky. Sign up here.