Trump’s own words blow up in his face

 

COMMENT

The surprisingly small crowd that showed up at Donald Trump's re-election rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma yesterday would be far less embarrassing for the President if he hadn't spent the lead-up to the event building impossibly high expectations.

"Just shy of 6200" people attended the rally, according to an official tally by the fire marshal at the Bank of Oklahoma Centre. The arena has a capacity of 19,000.

RELATED: Surprisingly small crowd shows up for Donald Trump's rally

So what? Who cares if there were empty seats? It has no bearing on anything.

Well, Donald Trump cares. That's the only reason this is a story. It's one of the most obvious examples you'll ever see of someone living and dying by the sword.

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There were just over 6000 people at the rally. Picture: Evan Vucci/AP
There were just over 6000 people at the rally. Picture: Evan Vucci/AP

For years, Mr Trump has used the size of his crowds as a metric for his success. He spent much of the 2016 campaign boasting about his throngs of supporters, and mocking his rivals' comparatively piddling audiences.

Put bluntly, it was his version of the proverbial d*ck-measuring contest.

Set all that history aside though. Just look at the week leading up to Tulsa.

The President and his campaign staff bragged incessantly about the massive crowd they were expecting.

They said more than a million people had requested tickets. A spillover stage was constructed outside the arena, with plans for Mr Trump to appear and speak to the horde of supporters who couldn't fit inside. It was going to be a "record" turnout.

"They have a new, a pretty new, magnificent arena. As you probably have heard, we're getting exact numbers out, but we're either close to or over one million people wanting to go," Mr Trump told reporters in the White House Cabinet Room last Monday.

"We have a 22,000-seat arena, but I think we're going to also take the convention hall next door, and that's going to hold 40,000. So we'll have 22,000 plus 40,000. Which would mean we'd have over 900,000 who won't be able to go, but hopefully they'll be watching.

"But it's an amazing - nobody's ever heard of numbers like this.

"We expect to have, you know, it's like a record-setting crowd. We've never had an empty seat, and we certainly won't in Oklahoma."

Mr Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale - the guy responsible for organising the rally - spent much of the week building up people's expectations. So did White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

Oklahoma's Republican Governor Kevin Stitt joined the bandwagon as well.

"Over a million people have requested tickets to come to this event," Mr Stitt said during a media event with Mr Trump at the White House.

By Wednesday night, when Mr Trump phoned into Fox News for an interview with host Sean Hannity, his anticipation for the rally was palpable.

"They're so excited about it that you have no idea. And we have had so many sign-ups. You know, there are lines of people now, and we won't be there for three days," Mr Trump said.

"How many people signed up, do you know?" Hannity asked him.

"Over a million people requested tickets. There's just a hunger for the rallies," the President told him.

As the hype reached its peak, local officials in Tulsa prepared to deal with an influx of 100,000 people or more.

One sparsely populated section of the arena. Picture: Evan Vucci/AP
One sparsely populated section of the arena. Picture: Evan Vucci/AP

Then the day arrived, and the promised sea of Trump supporters failed to materialise.

Not even a third of the 19,000-seat arena was filled. A couple of hours before the President was due to speak, his campaign quietly cancelled the plan for him to appear outside, and started to dismantle the spillover stage.

Then its focus shifted to coming up with a plausible excuse.

Mr Parscale settled on a pair of scapegoats - anti-Trump protesters, who he said blocked the entrance to the arena, and the media, which had raised concerns about thousands of people gathering in close proximity - indoors and without masks - in the middle of a pandemic.

"Radical protesters, fuelled by a week of apocalyptic media coverage, interfered with Donald Trump's supporters at the rally," he said in a statement.

"They even blocked access to metal detectors, preventing people from entering. Thanks to the thousands of people who made it anyway."

The President himself echoed that line of thought when he appeared on stage.

"We had some very bad people outside. We had some very bad people outside. They were doing bad things," he said.

There were indeed protesters outside the arena yesterday. According to reporters on the ground, the group blocked one of the three entrances for about 15 minutes.

There was another weird twist as reports emerged that teenagers on TikTok and, randomly, fans of Korean pop music had registered for hundreds of thousands of tickets to the rally - with no intention of attending - in an effort to troll the Trump campaign.

RELATED: Trump's rally undermined by TikTok teens and K-Pop fans

But ultimately, the facts were pretty simple. The campaign expected tens of thousands of supporters, and they didn't come.

Me after a big night with the bois. Picture: Patrick Semansky/AP
Me after a big night with the bois. Picture: Patrick Semansky/AP

Mr Trump himself has been surprisingly quiet since leaving Tulsa last night. At the time of writing, his usually bustling Twitter feed bears just the one message, wishing Americans a happy Father's Day.

Mr Parscale, meanwhile, has lashed out at the media for its coverage of the rally, accusing it of "celebrating".

"Leftists and online trolls doing a victory lap, thinking they somehow impacted rally attendance, don't know what they're talking about or how our rallies work. Reporters who wrote gleefully about TikTok and K-Pop fans - without contacting the campaign for comment - behaved unprofessionally and were willing dupes to the charade," Mr Parscale said.

"Registering for a rally means you've RSVPed with a cell phone number and we constantly weed out bogus numbers, as we did with tens of thousands at the Tulsa rally, in calculating our possible attendee pool. These phony ticket requests never factor into our thinking.

"What makes this lame attempt at hacking our events even more foolish is the fact that every rally is general admission - entry is on a first-come-first-served basis and prior registration is not required.

"The fact is that a week's worth of the fake news media warning people away from the rally because of COVID and the protesters, coupled with recent images of American cities on fire, had a real impact on people bringing their families and children to the rally. MSNBC was among outlets reporting that protesters even blocked entrances to the rally at times.

"For the media to now celebrate the fear they helped create is disgusting, but typical. And it makes us wonder why we bother credentialing media for events when they don't do their full jobs as professionals."

The idea that Mr Trump's hardcore supporters rejected a chance to see their guy in person because they were told to by the networks they constantly revile as "fake news" strikes me as rather fanciful.

Speaking more broadly though, Mr Parscale's outrage is completely unjustified.

When the President says more than a million people want to attend his rally; that the crowd isn't going to fit in the arena; that there will be tens of thousands of people on the streets; and then only 6000 people show up, that is going to be reported. Of course it is. It's a stunning failure to deliver.

Any other politician who made such a bold prediction only to be proven so spectacularly wrong would cop the same treatment.

You can't spend a whole week crowing about how big your crowd is going to be, as though it is the one true measure of success, then suddenly decide it doesn't matter the moment those expectations aren't met.

Mr Trump is being judged by the standard he set for himself. If he wants people to focus on more substantive topics, he has to lead by example.

 

 

Originally published as Trump's own words blow up in his face

‘We’ve never had an empty seat, and we certainly won’t in Oklahoma.’ Picture: Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP
‘We’ve never had an empty seat, and we certainly won’t in Oklahoma.’ Picture: Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP
Me when the missus asks how many negronis I had. Picture: Patrick Semansky/AP
Me when the missus asks how many negronis I had. Picture: Patrick Semansky/AP

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