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VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Does Trump really want to be president again?

Team Trump has sometimes compared former President Donald Trump’s current quest for a nonsequential second term to two-term President Grover Cleveland’s similar three election bids.

Cleveland remains our only elected president (1884) to have lost a re-election bid (1888) — in a disputed vote — only to be re-elected four years later in 1892. Yet, Trump seems determined instead to follow a different, and bullheaded, Teddy Roosevelt model.

Roosevelt left the presidency in 1908, sat out four years and then lost a re-election bid in 1912 after he split and alienated the Republican Party and ensured the election of the progressive Woodrow Wilson.

President Joe Biden’s first “corrective” two years have been an utter disaster. Biden birthed hyperinflation. He destroyed a secure border and Trump’s energy self-sufficiency.

Crime is now out of control. The United States was humiliated abroad in Afghanistan. Rising interest rates will soon spark a recession.

After promising to unite the country, Biden smeared half the voting population as “un-American” and “semi-fascist.”

In addition, almost all of Trump’s prior complaints, predictions and assertions that the media dismissed as conspiratorial, or crackpot have proved eerily prescient.

Hunter Biden’s laptop was all too authentic.

The FBI was compromised and acted as an agent of the Democratic Party. Anthony Fauci proved a partisan. Russian collusion was an utter hoax.

It was engineered by Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee and the FBI. The Wuhan lab did likely birth the engineered COVID virus.

That possibility was covered up by the media and public health establishments.

Trump did not take “nuclear codes” to Mar-a-Lago. He did not plan on hawking his presidential papers for profit. Germany did weaken NATO.

Berlin was foolish to mortgage its future with energy dependency on a hostile Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Biden family was utterly corrupt. It was deeply involved in lucrative quid pro quo machinations abroad with China and a crooked Ukrainian government-related company.

John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, Fauci and Robert Mueller all either did mislead, feign amnesia or lie either to Congress or while under oath.

Twitter was corrupt in asymmetrically banning the free expression of conservatives.

Silicon Valley elites did conspire to sandbag Trump. The media were a fake news corrupt enterprise, as we see from the new Twitter trove and the mass firings at CNN.

So given events since Trump’s departure, he should be in the driver’s seat. But he is not. Why?

Rather than offering detailed correctives for Biden’s disastrous record, Trump is again dabbling in social media madness.

He needlessly floated the absurd idea that constitutional norms might need to be changed to allow the disputed 2020 election result to be overturned.

He seems oblivious that those on the left, not conservatives, talk of altering the Constitution. They call for the destruction of the Electoral College and wish to dilute the Second Amendment and redefine the First.

Why did Trump need to descend into personal invective when prior to the midterms, many primary polls were confirming his front-runner status?

Why did he not remain magnanimous, unite the party and focus on giving millions to his endorsed but endangered candidates such as Dr. Mehmet Oz, Blake Masters and Herschel Walker?

Why did Trump bizarrely claim that possible presidential rival candidate Glenn Youngkin’s name sounded “Chinese”? What was the logic of attacking Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife in racialist terms?

Every elected public official or candidate — with the exception of former President Barack Obama, who once was photographed smiling with a grinning, Jewish-hating Louis Farrakhan — knows there is only one rule concerning antisemites: Go nowhere near them.

Yet Trump dined with two, the now unhinged Kanye West (“Ye”) and the 20-something crackpot Nick Fuentes.

Why would Trump all but announce before the midterms that after the election he would be a candidate?

Or why right before Nov. 8, did Trump attack Ron DeSantis (whom he calls “DeSanctimonious”), the miracle-working Republican governor of Trump’s own Florida?

Did Trump wish to rile up left-wing Trump haters to rush to the midterm polls or to persuade miffed conservative DeSantis voters to stay home?

In the impending Trump-DeSantis collision, voters will be looking for resolution of two respective unknowns.

One, will Trump run on his stellar record, avoid controversy and stick to the issues?

And will he thereby win back independent, swing voters on assurances that they could get more MAGA successes, but this time around without the insults and spats?

And two, could DeSantis assure Republicans of a fire-in-the belly, Trumpian zeal to take on the left, while soberly promoting a MAGA agenda — and thus win over the hard-core Trump base?

So far, De Santis is reassuring donors and primary voters he can be as tough as his record is impressive.

But Trump is not encouraging the donor class and independent voters that he has learned that melodramas and social media riffs are not his friends.

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a classicist and historian at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. Contact him at authorvdh@gmail.com.

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