Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States, is a one trick pony.
Trump humiliated himself and the country during his joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week. When asked about growing anti-semitism, he went into a free association, stream of consciousness diatribe about his electoral college victory. This comes three months after said victory and nearly a month after assuming the presidency.
And then, a few days later, he held his first solo press conference in the White House. It did not go well. Among many other things, he continued to go on about his electoral college victory. A reporter challenged him on his claim that he won more electoral votes than any president since Ronald Reagan. When the reporter told him his victory was less than Barack Obama’s in both 2008 and 2012, Trump said he meant Republican presidents. Another error. George H.W. Bush won 426 electoral votes, more than Trump’s comparatively modest 304. “Well, that’s what they tell me,” was his only response. Seth Meyers compiled a brief collage showing the numerous times Trump trumpeted his electoral college victory.
(And don’t even get me started on his response to April Ryan’s question about working with the Congressional Black Caucus. He asked her, an African American, if she would set up the meeting and if she was “friends” with the CBC. I’m surprised he didn’t also ask her to get him coffee.)
The whole electoral college exchange reminded me of the movie Shattered Glass, the docudrama about disgraced former New Republic writer Stephen Glass. He lied constantly and his lies got into print, until they became too much and his editor Chuck Lane finally documented the deceptions and fired him. The real Chuck Lane, played in the film by Peter Sarsgaard, explained on the commentary track that Glass often would retreat to the most believable lie possible as each lie dissolved in the face of the truth. Trump exhibits this behavior in spades.
Don’t expect a pivot. He will not start acting “presidential.” This is who the man is. He is a one trick pony, the one trick being self-aggrandizement. He can only talk about himself and his accomplishments. That’s all he is and that’s all he has got.
He will not learn that one does not discuss national security issues in a crowded dining room with admiring fans nearby taking photos.
He will not learn that the most powerful man in the world does not send tweet-storms in the wee hours of the morning, causing stock market slides or panic among allies.
He will not learn that he does not have absolute power to do whatever the hell he wants, that the courts can stop him just as the Congress can (but won’t), because we have a 200-plus year old system called “checks and balances” that keeps any one branch of the government from getting more powerful than the others.
He will not learn that he represents all of the country, not just the parts that voted for him.
He will not learn that he cannot hold rallies for adoring masses and call that governing.
He will not learn any of these things because Donald J. Trump is a one trick pony. He does his one trick well, or at least well enough to get by, and that’s it.
This is what America bought and paid for in the 2016 presidential election. This is the pony we’re stuck with. While he continues his song and dance, however, nefarious things happen just below the headlines. The Congress has on its docket a spate of untenable bills, including one to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. Congress will also continue their work to weaken environmental protections and regulations, take millions off of health care by repealing the Affordable Care Act and stripping Medicare of billions of dollars, etc.
The dirty work occurs quietly, out of the limelight. It’s hard to say if Trump is just a planned distraction or a hapless fool. Perhaps he’s some of both. Either way it doesn’t matter. Many of the protections and liberties we take for granted are in grave danger while the pony performs his one trick and the Congress performs a very different and more dangerous trick.
The press would do well to pay more attention to the latter than the former.