Well, that went well. We’re talking about President Donald J. Trump’s press conference with the latest hapless foreign leader caught in the crosshairs of his love-hate relationship with the press. Really, it almost doesn’t matter who it is. That it happened to be the president of Finland — land of the properly raked forests — held a certain irony, particularly after Sauli Ninistö turned out to be the sly one, telling Trump to keep America’s “great democracy” going.
El Presidente immediately took that to heart, imploding before he exploded, lashing out at the Democrats and the media and rudely ordering Reuters’ Jeff Mason to ask Ninistö a question when he tried to follow up with Trump.
A measure of a leader’s greatness is how well he does in personal and professional adversity. President Bill Clinton was business as usual during his impeachment. Even President Richard Nixon was ,for all his private talking to portraits and praying with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, still presidential.
Trump? He’s doubling down — it’s what narcissists do — railing about a Democratic “coup,” calling on China to investigate the Bidens, daring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold the impeachment inquiry and labeling Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “a wack job” — even as former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker testified that he had informed the Trump Administration that the Biden conspiracy theory was a nonstarter.
In his increasing combustibility, Trump is merely fulfilling the playbook he’s been running since day one. First, he made an enemy of the people who always know where all the bodies are buried — the intelligence community and the press. Then there was the covfefe firing of FBI director James Comey, who failed to stroke the Trumpian ego. Trump could’ve strung him along for a few months and then got rid of him. But for all his mob-speak from his years in casino-land, Trump never absorbed the mob philosophy of playing the long game..He never heard the Roman expression “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
But it wasn’t just the Comey firing. It was the need to brag about it — validate it? — to “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak that led to the Mueller investigation, which concluded, more or less, that while Trump didn’t collude with Russia, he obstructed justice.
And there Trump might’ve concluded he dodged a bullet. But a narcissist can never let things go. He has to prove he is right and everyone else is wrong. No sooner was the Mueller report in the can, than Trump was on the horn, trying to get allies (Australia) and supplicants (Ukraine) to dig up dirt on or invalidate rivals. This has put us in a much darker place than the Mueller report. What is particularly disturbing here is the relationship with America’s frenemies as indicated by the separate computer server for communicating with Russia and Saudi Arabia. Why was this needed? And why is Russia warning the U.S. to be careful what it releases?
Yet Trump can survive. The Senate isn’t going to impeach him. He could still beat the eventual Democratic presidential nominee, who is looking increasingly like Elizabeth Warren. All he has to say is “Let the process play itself out,” then shut his mouth and go about his presidential business (and hope the stock market can survive his trade wars.). Instead, he’s all about threats. He has to be right. He has to be loved. He has to have whatever he wants the moment he wants it.
He just might doom himself.