After the latest round of super-crazy, I'm really leaning towards the conspiracy theory camp that this is all just a big joke that got out of control. I think that Trump wanted to have some fun, get some TV time, and never had any particular intention of moving on out of the debates - and purposefully set up an "extreme" campaign to meet those goals.I also got several emails reading something to the effect of "I don't know which is worse; if he believes his rantings, or not."
If you look at his positions over time, they've continued to ratchet up to the point that initial-candidate-Trump seems downright reasonable compared to present-day Trump. You really couldn't get much more fascist at this point unless he starts building a TrumpCamp (never say never).
I do wonder if somewhere in there he's both proud of his coverage and horrified at the number of people who keep going along with whatever he says when he doubles down...
I said, in my original posting:
As for what Trump really thinks, he's a narcissist in an enormous Skinner box. That's all you need to understand about him.For those who didn't click that link (when I was a lad, people read explanatory links!), a Skinner Box is a laboratory device that systematically rewards one particular behavior. When the subject learns that a certain action triggers, say, an electrode buried in the orgasm part of its brain, that action will be repeated, over and over again, ad infinitum. It will become the defining action of the subject's life. It's the action that makes the good thing happen.
The reward must be well-suited to the subject. If the subject is a chicken, which is basically a biological device for pecking endless grain, you set up your Skinner box to feed the chicken. And the chicken will never stop responding in the way you've trained it to. It never "gets wise". Blessed with the result it most seeks, there's no reason to ask deeper questions. The chicken thinks it's just killin' it.
Donald Trump is a narcissist. He has an infinite, unhindered need for public attention. And he's spent the past few months in a Skinner Box, being taught what to say to get the reward his brain needs above all other rewards.
Does he believe what he says? You and I have a need to check back and compare our mouth's output against our belief structures. That's our Skinner Box (we feel rewarded when there's unity between what we think and what we say). But that's not Trump's need. He'd look at such a need and be as baffled as we are at his. What? "Check back"? "Beliefs???" That's all completely beside the point. A non-factor.
So, no, he doesn't sit in his limo after each appearance, rubbing his hands gleefully, saying "those clueless assholes ate that right up!". There's no fiendish master plan. He's just at a latter stage of figuring out what he needs to do to get the really good heroin injected in his bloodstream.
Of course, that's not how he sees it. Test subjects in Skinner Boxes, deeply engaged with the satisfaction of their deepest needs, aren't deconstructing the scenario. Neither the chicken with the pellets, nor the rat with the orgasm electrode, nor Trump with acclaim, can glimpse what's happening to them with any clarity. At a certain point, they simply need - like an alcoholic needs vodka - more reward at any cost.
Bodybuilders say it's possible to be completely lean and still be, effectively, fat (if your metabolism is sluggish and you have no muscle tone). They call this condition "skinny-fat". Mr. Trump is poor-rich. He has all the money in the world, yet exhibits the most impoverished neediness. In Buddhist terms, he's a Hungry Ghost.