This was supposed to be the week when Donald Trump had an opportunity to give himself a reboot.
And the way he was supposed to get it was with the Republican National Convention where, according to plan, optimism would be pumped into the airwaves roughly every 60 seconds for four days.
Trump thinks he's smarter than everyone else. So he rewrote the script over and over Monday night, bringing instead the only brand he knows: Grievance, attacks, whining, re-imagined history and out-and-out lies.
The president flew into Charlotte, North Carolina, at midday for an unannounced but not unexpected visit after delegates nominated him and Vice President Mike Pence for a second time. Trump took the stage early to launch into rants about the Democrats, and he claimed, with no evidence, that they are going to try to steal the election in November.
"We caught them doing some really bad things [in 2016]," he said. "We have to be very careful because they're trying it again with this whole 80 million mail-in ballots that they're working on." Later he asserted, "The only way they can take this election away from us is if it's a rigged election."
If he sounds desperate, it's because he is.
Trump trails both nationally and in battleground states. He trails by margins wide enough that if the polls opened tomorrow, he would probably lose.
Anything can happen between now and November, of course, but, face it — right now optimism in this RNC-turned-Trump National Convention is scarce. It's not as though the campaigners have lots to say this week about a four-year Trump record they think is under-appreciated.
1) Are they going to say, "Look, he kept his signature promise of building the wall."? He didn't. Nor any other of his promises, either, unless you count the giant tax break for the richest Americans. And, no, the promise of extending that tax break permanently to the rest of us didn't happen either.
2) Are they going to say, "Look, he was right about the novel coronavirus — that it would just disappear?" Hardly. The U.S. has the most cases and deaths by far of any country in world because he and his administration botched the handling of it from the get-go. More than 5.7 Americans have been sickened, more than 177,000 have died and the virus continues to spread. Experts say it will get worse in the fall and winter, and new estimates predict the number of deaths will grow to nearly 300,000 by December.
3) Are they going to tout his medical breakthroughs? His suggestions of injecting bleach and other cleaners into the body? His push of hydroxychloroquine, a drug that the FDA, CDC and his own hand-picked disease experts have had to repeatedly say is ineffective against the virus and even dangerous?
4) Are they going to fall back on the "greatest economy" lie? Ask the 31 million Americans who are out of work and were receiving some form of unemployment benefits at the first of August. Ask the many millions of them who had lost at least a portion of those emergency relief benefits they were receiving earlier in the summer. Ask the parents of the many schoolchildren are are still learning remotely. Ask the students who were invited back to colleges and universities only to now be forced to go back home or into remote classes in their dorm rooms after new virus outbreaks prompted school quarantines.
5) Are they going to give him A-pluses for taking tough action on stay-home orders or mask mandates? How will that play against the many news videos of his news conferences where he bullied states that had closed to reopen, reopen, reopen or lose funds? How will it play beside the tweets in which he rallied his supporters to "liberate" cities under stay-home orders and mask mandates?
6) Are they going to applaud him for keeping the country safe from the peaceful protesters his administration had gassed and manhandled so he could cross the street for a photo op with a Bible?
7) Are they planning to thank him for his immigration reform efforts — especially for tearing children from the arms of their parents and caging them?
8) Are they going to honor him for his successes in foreign affairs? Which would they tout first: His foiled quid pro quo with Ukraine to help him win re-election, his entreaty to China to help him win re-election, or his enduring admiration and courting of Vladimir Putin, who actually is trying to help him win re-election?
9) Are they planning to congratulate him for making our air and water cleaner after rolling back nearly 100 environmental and safety rules and giving the oil and gas industries carte blanche to trash Earth?
10) Are they going to depict him as the force that stopped the hoax climate change as one after another natural disaster inundates us with killer rains, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, derechos and raging wildfires?
Here's a reboot suggestion for the rest of us: Just switch off the TV and reach for a good book. And make a plan for ensuring that your vote will count in November.