Illustration: Jim Cooke

Donald Trump is an attention-hungry, inauthentic charlatan driven almost entirely by an insatiable appetite for fame and, if he can swing it, fortune. So to treat Donald Trump as if he’s trying to convey any actual message is to miss the point of him entirely. Donald Trump’s only message is that Donald Trump exists.

Normal politicians are careful and calculated in their actions. They’re focus-grouped, rehearsed, and, for the most part, fully aware of every possible consequence. Donald Trump does not operate with forethought. Donald Trump only responds.

His natural inclination is to act on instinct alone. That’s what we’re seeing when he tells the Pope to answer to ISIS, or implies that Ted Cruz’s father helped kill a sitting president. And in the moments when he gets to scream at the camera, Trump probably means it. He also probably means it when he recants whatever buffoonish thing he implied or said outright, a few hours later. All he cares about is that someone is around to listen.

And that’s why, this week at the Democratic National Convention, we are seeing a more genuine side of Trump than we have in months. Just a few days ago, Trump was getting 24/7 coverage. Nearly every single media outlet in the country was scrambling to sit at his stubby little fingertips. It was the greatest gift anyone could possibly give him. When the DNC began, the direct line from his mouth to CNN’s ears frayed.

Now, not only has his platform been ripped from under him, but a bunch of losers and haters get to go on TV and criticize him when he can’t fight back. Instead, Donald Trump does AMAs on Reddit and stages press conferences urging Russia to hack Hillary. And tells female reporters to be quiet. This isn’t a calculated media play. He’s just in attention withdrawal, furious, and being himself:

These tweets aren’t just incredible, but incredibly Trumpian. Before he’s a demagogue, or a misogynist, or an actor who plays a real estate baron on television, Trump is what he always was, a provincial grifter who wants, more than anything else, to see his name in the paper. We spend countless hours fretting over what Donald Trump says, when all that really matters to him is that he said something at all.