The Trump on display in Tulsa was not a strong man -- he was a 'whiny D-list Rodney Dangerfield': columnist
President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Tulsa (screengrab)

Writing in The Bulwark, columnist Tim Miller unpacks President Trump rally this Saturday on Tulsa, Oklahoma -- the first rally he's held since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The rally was supposed to be a blowout, but to Trump's surprise, he faced a half-empty arena and a host of other issues that have raised questions about the strength of his campaign as November closes in.

According to Miller, as soon as Trump stepped on the stage Saturday, "the story transformed from dystopian fiction to absurdist farce."

"The Trump on display in Tulsa was not a strong man steeling himself for a crackdown against protesters while standing astride a silent majority of mask-eschewing followers with a death wish," Miller writes. "Instead, out from behind the curtain came a weak and whiny D-list Rodney Dangerfield, obsessed with minor slights and not getting enough respect from the Fake News Media that he claims to hate but seems to be kind of super into."

Miller contends that there was something different about the energy of Trump's speech this time around, like a guy "hitting his spots even after losing confidence in his routine, because he doesn’t know any other material."

"The man who once obsessed over his great poll numbers is down everywhere, by nearly double digits," writes Miller. "The man who bragged every day about the economy is staring at 13 percent unemployment. The man who gloried in the throngs of packed auditoriums and expected a crowd so big that he would have to give a second performance at an outdoor venue stood in the middle of an arena surrounded by empty blue seats, having been thwarted by TikTok teens."

When it comes to a global pandemic and growing racial strife, Trump doesn't have the answers, and that much was clear on Saturday. "He went to Tulsa because he had gone almost four months without the mass adulation to which he had grown accustomed. And it made him grumpy."

Read the full op-ed over at The Bulwark.