Trump Courts the Chaos He Promises to Tame

On Saturday night, while Iran fired drones and missiles into Israel, Donald Trump talked a lot about chaos.

“What’s going on with the world?” Mr. Trump said while telling a story onstage. “Everybody’s fighting. Russia, Ukraine, Israel; the Middle East is blowing up. Everything’s blowing up. China’s going to be next with Taiwan; because of weakness, China’s going to be next. What’s going on?”

Two dozen American flags whipped around behind him on a cold, crystal-clear night at a rally near Allentown, Pa. People had waited hours in a line that wound down and around a hill. As they waited, wistful songs from the 1960s about a less pained future — Frank Sinatra’s “The Best Is Yet to Come,” Elvis Presley’s “If I Can Dream” — could be heard.

Mr. Trump had opened the rally by saying that Israel was under attack, adding that “it would not have happened if we were in office — they know that, we know that, everyone knows that.” Onstage, at rallies over the last year, Mr. Trump has done these alt-universe loops in which if the election hadn’t been taken from him, nothing bad would have befallen the world — no embarrassing Afghanistan withdrawal, no Hamas attack on Israel, no Russian invasion of Ukraine, no inflation. Sometimes, with the way Mr. Trump talks, he can subtly lock more and more people into his inability to process his 2020 defeat. He does this by pairing his personal misfortune with that of the entire globe.

But on Saturday night, these hypotheticals ended someplace else. When talking about the world being ablaze, Mr. Trump told the crowd about something Viktor Orban, the illiberal prime minister of Hungary, had said: “Bring Donald Trump back as president and it’ll all stop.” As Mr. Trump put it, “He said something else, and I wouldn’t say it, I wouldn’t really like the word. ‘China was afraid of Donald Trump, Russia was afraid of Donald Trump, everybody was afraid of Donald Trump’ — I don’t want to say that. I want to say they respected me.”

Quantifying chaos is hard to do, but the last eight years have been some of the most chaotic in decades in American politics. And for the last year, Mr. Trump has talked a lot about ending all this chaos simply through his resumption of the presidency — a kind of leviathan, superman thing. Before the rally, the Trump campaign played a movie-trailer-esque video that warned of nuclear annihilation.

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