t’s hard to be disappointed by Donald Trump. Unlike his predecessors, he never promised to heal the nation. Or if he did, nobody believed him.
George W Bush said he was a uniter, not a divider. Barack Obama said there was no red America and no blue America. Only the United States of America. The closest thing to a unity message from Donald Trump came at his curiously underpopulated inauguration, when he said: “When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.”
Sadly, the only unstoppable part of America under Trump is his increasingly outlandish brain farts on Twitter. His best shot at uniting the nation is to create a bipartisan sense of disgust at his outbursts.
The latest rallying point for a beleaguered nation came during one of the many moments when the commander-in-chief was watching television.
Other presidents get their information from highly classified briefings in the situation room, in the west wing basement. This one gets his information from cable news shows on the boob tube, which confusingly includes a show called The Situation Room.
Having said that, Trump should try watching Wolf Blitzer’s finest hour instead of his favorite cardboard cutouts on Fox and Friends. He might learn something.
Instead he finds himself trolled to death by the anchors of MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
Disclosure: I used to work with Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and their outstanding team for many years. The commentary that follows has nothing to do with my previous relationship with them, their show, and their channel. If any president said anything similar about any person, it would still represent a midnight plunge into the sewer.
In this case, Trump’s tweets about Mika’s intelligence and appearance are themselves a miserable reflection of his own character.
But even beyond his crass sexism and crudely offensive comments, Trump’s desire to jam his way into live TV news reflects something desperate inside the Oval Office. Presidents of any country should find themselves more than occupied with the affairs of state. Presidents of the United States are in the rare position to be overwhelmingly busy with the world.
It is the hobgoblin of the littlest mind to live-tweet your response to a television show. Especially if that mind belongs to a president.
Of course this story gets worse, much worse. The Morning Joe duo revealed on Friday that the Trump White House tried to blackmail them into shutting up about the president’s unhinged performance. That blackmail included the threat of a story to be published by Trump’s journal of record, the National Enquirer. The story would be spiked if Joe and Mika called to apologize.
In the worlds of politics and television, this is a bizarre turn of events. As the chief executive of the most powerful nation on the planet, what could justify such threats and tactics? It’s tempting to say these are the methods of the mob, but frankly the mafia would not stoop to morning television.
Naturally, Trump himself disputes the Morning Joe account. But strangely not the fact that he had a conversation about the National Enquirer with a TV star.
“Watched low rated @Morning_Joe for the first time in long time,” he tweeted unconvincingly. “FAKE NEWS. He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show”.
Presidential historians, please take note: the 45th president of the United States felt the most insulting way to end his message to the nation was to criticize Morning Joe as a “bad show”.
Alternative fact: this is the most brilliant marketing campaign that MSNBC has ever conceived in its 20-year history.
It has become acceptable in the media to question Trump’s attachment to the facts, or to assert that this isn’t normal. These are polite euphemisms. Trump isn’t abnormal: he’s behaving like he’s untethered from reality.
The effects extend far beyond the fate of the Trump presidency and the reputations of all who work for him.
Exhibit A is the latest incendiary video produced by the National Rifle Association, which has rolled all the Trump-fueled conspiracies into one giant fireball of a call to arms against the liberal saboteurs who are undermining America. This is the kind of argument made by the fascist paramilitaries and dictatorship who terrorized Latin America for several decades.
“They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler,” says the flamethrower Dana Loesch in the video.
“The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.”
At a time of international Islamist terrorism, and domestic white nationalist terrorism, this kind of language is the most reckless form of incitement. For people who specialize in understanding terrorist recruitment, it’s entirely self-destructive.
“The NRA is feeding an us vs them narrative of the kind that fuels all extremist movements,” tweeted Cynthia Storer, who helped track down Osama bin Laden himself while at the CIA. “I should know.”
But maybe that’s what Trump and the NRA want to do. Maybe they represent an extremist movement that is happy to encourage other extremists to jump onto the battlefield with them.
The rest of us should resist in much the same way Mrs Donald Trump suggests. Days before her husband’s election, Melania Trump condemned people who use social media to spread insults and lies. “Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough,” she said.
How right she is. Unfortunately, in five very long months, her husband has made the culture even more mean and rough.
“We need to teach our youth American values: kindness, honesty, respect, compassion, charity, understanding, cooperation,” she said.
She could start right at home. Maybe over dinner tonight, with her husband and their son. It’s what you might call a teachable moment