During the first year of “Morning Joe,” I rolled into work at 4:30 a.m. to review video we would be airing on the show that day. Since I had already read the major news articles posted online the night before, an hour of prep time before going live at 6 a.m. seemed to make sense.
But it was a bad idea. Within a few months, my co-host Mika Brzezinski concluded that our unscripted reactions to candidates’ speeches, interviews and campaign ads would bring the kind of energy and spontaneity to the show that we were seeking. That insight led to nine years of unguarded moments, like when the entire table groaned at Ted Cruz’s calculated delivery, broke up at some of Donald Trump’s most outrageous moments and gasped at the beauty of Bernie Sanders’ “America” ad.
Playing it loose can pay dividends. But it can also be a stupid strategy to adopt -- like when you have designs on being the leader of the free world.
After being trounced by Cruz in Wisconsin, Trump put his head down, avoided controversy and showed the kind of discipline necessary to roll up huge wins across the Northeast and in Indiana. But this past weekend, the presumptive GOP candidate returned to old form by launching scattered skirmishes on Twitter, dredging up sludge from Bill Clinton’s personal past and needlessly provoking the Republican speaker of the House.
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Unfortunately for a skittish Republican Party, Trump’s restrained use of the political machine he has built over the past year was depressingly brief. This weekend he was once again driving recklessly on the wrong side of the road and mindlessly running over any objects that got in his way. I was the target of a few harmless Trump tweets for simply discussing the possibility of a third-party candidate running for president.
I suspect that Trump will self-correct and once again prove his critics wrong. But the scattershot approach Trump employed this weekend after nailing down his party’s biggest prize begs the question: What’s up with Trump?
Why is the presumptive GOP presidential nominee still consistently inconsistent in his approach toward politics?
Why does Trump always seem to go into debates less prepared than his opponents? Why does he then think that citing online poll results absolves him of poor preparation?
Why does the Manhattan billionaire seem to recoil at any meaningful preparation when it comes to policy? Why doesn’t he meet regularly with a trusted group of analysts and experts?
The answer to all these painful questions may lie in the opening chapter of his best-selling book, “The Art of the Deal.” In fact, you may be able to crack the “Trump Code” on the first page. (Dan Brown he is not.)
On page one of a book written almost 30 years ago, Trump tells the reader, “Many people are surprised by the way I work. I play it very loose. I don’t carry a briefcase. I try not to schedule too many meetings. I leave my door open. You can’t be imaginative if you have too much structure. I prefer to come to work every morning and just see what develops.”
“Just see what develops.”
That’s the same approach Candidate Trump has been using from the day he descended the escalator at Trump Towers to the moment he vanquished the last of his 16 opponents. If that devil-take-care strategy is carried into the general election against Hillary Clinton, maybe Trump will once again prove the world wrong. But it is far more likely that simply showing up and seeing what develops next will lose him the White House and destroy the Republican Party in the process.
Buy a briefcase, Donald.
Joe Scarborough hosts “Morning Joe.” on MSNBC. He wrote this for The Washington Post.