The actuality of his presence at the hearings is pretty low, but he wants all eyes on him
The actuality of his voluntary presence at the hearings is pretty low. But damn, that audience of many millions watching the impeachment hearings is such an enticing carrot. Alex Brandon-Pool/Getty Images

There is no mystery here. The ratings for the impeachment are impressive. Nearly 14 million people tuned into the first day of the hearings. And 13 million watched on their second day. Trump has not seen those kind of numbers since his inauguration, which had 30 million viewers (8 million less than Obama's inauguration, however). The tweet that he sent during Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch's testimony had little to do with its apparent target, the career of a much-admired diplomat, and almost everything do with Trump's deepest instinct, which is to always put himself at the center of an event or trend that's popular. If Trump made a rap record, it would be called All Eyez on Me.

And he seems not to care which eyes are on him. They can be rural, they can be fans of street fighting or professional wrestling, or those of the readers of the National Enquirer. Indeed, the most fascinating revelation in the new documentary about this tabloid Scandalous is that, in the 1980s, a peak period in the tabloids 70-year history, Trump would give the reporters dirt on himself. He would even call the National Enquirer's reporters and, under and an assumed name, provide gossip about Donald Trump's doings. The reporters, who recorded these calls, knew very well it was Trump calling them, but the played along. Trump will always be Trump.

National Enquirer eventually devoted a reporter, Larry Haley, to cover Trump's dramas at Mar-a-Lago. Now Trump is our president, and his unapologetic determination to be at the center of popular culture no matter what has somehow been registered by a large number of aging white Americans as the best representation of their mode and manner of being in the world. And it's so obvious that Trump would drop his GOP base followers in a heartbeat if something better came along. And it is so obvious that this base is, for Trump, not an end but a means to obtaining the attention that comes with the top job in the White House. Nevertheless, he is really, really, really loved by those whose confused racial feelings he's blatantly exploiting.

And the impeachment begins. At first, it looks like it will go belly up like the Mueller investigation. But it doesn't. Many Americans appear to be very interested in this story of bribery and dirt digging. The Dems finally have something that looks like it might actually stick on the president. Then, the important governor race in Kentucky goes to the Dems, despite the GOP's efforts to sell it as a referendum on Trump and the impeachment. This happens again with the governor race in Louisiana—it goes to the Dems. Both races occurred in deep red states. Trump should really worry about the political impact of these losses. But, no. On Monday morning (November 18), the president announced he wants to be a part of his own impeachment circus. The ratings are just too juicy for him to miss it. Count him in.