As one of his cornerstone campaign promises is in peril, with the Senate going into the holiday recess without a vote on Trumpcare, President Donald Trump is far behind on his commitment to conquer ISIS, he and members of his family and administration face lawsuits about conflicts of interest/corruption, a special counsel is investigating possible treasonous collusion with an adversary regime and he has still failed to name appointees for about 90 percent of the political positions he has to fill. And yet, President Trump decided that where he really needed to focus today was on a television news show he says he does not watch. He attacked Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski with two vicious, vulgar, defamatory and outrageously offensive tweets. But that is not the worst part. Here is the worst part:
1. Insult is not argument. Assume for the moment that Scarborough and Brzezinski said something about President Trump or his policies that was incorrect. As we have seen over and over, he believes that the best way to respond to anything he does not like is angry insults and threats. The First Lady has said in the past that her husband’s response to an attack is to hit back 10 times harder. (Apparently her initiative on cyberbullying does not extend to him.) For President Trump, every interaction is Sean Connery fighting Al Capone in “The Untouchables:” “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.”
President Trump thinks that using extreme language like “disaster” and “enemy” makes him look strong. He also has a special rancor when it comes to women who criticize him and responds with ugly, crude, personal attacks. Increasingly, this reveals him as a bully prone to 5th-grade level tantrums, with no ability to negotiate or engage on substance.
2. President Trump has no sense of priorities. Instead of focusing on urgent issues of national security, the promised legislative initiatives, implementing the ethics rules he said he was adopting, preparing for the Delaware-sized piece of glacier that is about to break off and float down our way, or recognizing Pride Month or Ramadan, as all of his modern-day predecessors have, he spends his time either golfing, attending pep rallies, or tweeting. This calls into question his trustworthiness, his judgment, and his commitment and it has severely undermined his credibility at home and abroad.
3. He is impetuous, immature, and terrified. Like his persistent references to the Electoral College victory and the size of the inaugural crowd, President Trump continues to focus on the most trivial and even random indicators of “winning.” He has undermined his credibility by showing a lack of control in his tweets as well as in gaffes like his comments to Russian officials about Comey and about ultra-secret intelligence briefings. He lashes out to distract everyone from the serious problems and failures of his administration. He thinks if he bullies people, no one will notice that he is a coward, and particularly afraid of strong, intelligent, independent women. These outrageous tweets are his version of the Wizard of Oz telling Dorothy to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” and will prove just as ineffective.
4. President Trump assigns everyone to only two categories: lackeys and opponents. If you do not demonstrate “loyalty” (as in the Comey meeting) or subservience (as in telling him everything he does is wonderful) he will drop everything to destroy you. At one time, he was a frequent guest on the “Morning Joe” program with Scarborough and Brzezinski. He even offered recently to conduct their wedding ceremony. Considering his hyper-sensitivity to insult and his insistence that he is NOT watching the show anymore and therefore cannot know what they are saying about him (certainly no one who works for him has the courage to pass along any bad news), it seems more than likely his fury is about hurt feelings at being turned down so he could not be the center of attention at a big media event.
5. Whatever his goal is with appallingly insulting tweets, he will not achieve it. No one has ever succeeded at anything meaningful with tactics like these. People who succeed do the homework and argue on the basis of facts and data, while finding unity in shared goals. President Trump is embarrassing his base and straining his relationship with the Republican leadership, who find it impossible to defend crude and misogynistic tweets. He does not try to find common ground. He did not invite a single Democrat to his meeting with Senators on the Trumpcare bill. His response to criticism is to impugn the motives of the critics, while his own motives are always above question. He calls the press, the single most important assurance of accountability and the democratic process, “the enemy.” He is alienating the very people he needs to achieve what he has promised to do and every tweet takes him further from delivering on his promises.
Michelle Obama memorably said that their family’s guiding principle was “when they go low, we go high.” President Trump has revealed his to be, “When they go high, low, in the middle, or nowhere at all, just existing, we go lower than anyone thought it was humanly possible to do.”