The nation has seen versions of the Donald Trump who took the stage for a rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night. As a campaigner, he often derided opponents, boasted of his own prowess, and used insulting and divisive language toward various groups of people.
It’s one thing to see this in a candidate for the highest office in the land. It’s quite another to see it in the president of the United States. And it’s downright alarming when that behavior is infected by the uncontrollable rage evident in Trump’s face and voice in Phoenix.
Trump’s primal scream – against Washington and the status quo – initially appealed to voters frustrated by the federal government’s inability to help them. Now it’s being unmasked as a serious character flaw. And it adds to a growing and incontrovertible body of evidence: The presidency is in service to Trump. Trump is not in service to the presidency.
The extent to which he puts himself first was clear when he recounted his responses to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., between white supremacists and counterprotesters. A woman died, but Trump painted himself as the victim. The media did not report his words accurately, he said, even as he omitted the words he spoke that sparked the controversy.
He criticized the “dishonest” media in a diatribe filled with falsehoods, and his assertion that he went to a better school, was a better student and has a better apartment than them revealed his enormous yet fragile ego.
He never mentioned the 10 sailors missing in Monday’s crash between the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker near Singapore. But he attacked the longtime Arizona senator now battling brain cancer, whose father and grandfather are the destroyer’s namesakes. John McCain’s sin? His vote against repealing and replacing Obamacare. Trump’s continued assault on him is the height of disrespect. But it’s nothing new for Trump, whose life has been about revenge. As president, the instinct to define opponents as enemies borders on demagoguery, and his attacks on politicians of his own party who “betray” him make it unlikely anyone will stick a neck out to support him.
We’re worried. We’re worried that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is right, that Trump’s presidency cannot be salvaged and that nothing will get done; that’s better than bad things getting done, but stasis is not what this troubled country needs. We’re worried that Trump said he would shut down the government if his border wall isn’t funded, another fit of pique that puts himself first, not the nation.
We’re worried that Trump still does not grasp that being president is about building consensus, not burning bridges. We’re worried about the continued erratic behavior evinced by his more presidential plea for unity yesterday after his divisiveness the night before. We’re worried that fellow Republicans are publicly questioning his stability.
To ardent Trump supporters, he is a bulwark against everything you dislike, but what is he actually doing for you? Please, pause and reflect. What has he accomplished legislatively to improve your life? How much of that is no one’s fault but his own? Do you see that changing?
Trump is crippling the nation and his presidency. If he continues, he could end up being the victim he imagines he is now, succumbing to his own anger and instinct to divide.