Trump Is Obviously In Way Over His Head

Yesterday the Washington Post reported that Donald Trump was “mad – steaming, raging mad.”

Trump enters week seven of his presidency the same as the six before it: enmeshed in controversy while struggling to make good on his campaign promises. At a time when White House staffers had sought to ride the momentum from Trump’s speech to Congress and begin advancing its agenda on Capitol Hill, the administration finds itself beset yet again by disorder and suspicion.

At the center of the turmoil is an impatient president increasingly frustrated by his administration’s inability to erase the impression that his campaign was engaged with Russia, to stem leaks about both national security matters and internal discord and to implement any signature achievements…

Gnawing at Trump, according to one of his advisers, is the comparison between his early track record and that of Obama in 2009, when amid the Great Recession he enacted an economic stimulus bill and other big-ticket items.

That’s a good summary of why every pundit/reporter who squinted real hard and saw a presidential pivot in his speech to Congress last week was not only naively wrong, but hopelessly misguided. While Trump may occasionally be able to carry off scripted moments where his tone may actually sound sane, what we witnessed over the weekend is more of a primer for what will increasingly be the story of this presidency.

Even if we put aside the question of whether or not Trump has a diagnosable mental illness, he lies constantly. As a reminder, this is the man who launched his presidential ambitions on the lie that the first African American president of this country wasn’t a citizen. He lied constantly during the campaign – promising that he had a great health care plan to replace Obamacare, that he had a secret plan to defeat ISIS, that he would build a wall and Mexico would pay for it, that he’d “drain the swamp” of big money interests, that his campaign had no contact with Russians, that “he’s the only one who can fix it,” etc.

As president, those lies are all starting to catch up with him. So what does he do when caught in a lie? He loses his cool and tells a bigger lie in an attempt to discredit his opponents. That’s exactly what happened when he lied about the size of the crowd at his inauguration – he followed it up with a lie about millions of people voting illegally. Saturday, when the stories about his campaign’s ties to Russia killed the buzz about his speech to Congress, Trump lied about Obama ordering a wiretap on him. Here’s my favorite tweet from the weekend that sums up what happened next:

Greg Sargent does a good job of describing how this is playing out with his latest targets – the very institutions of democracy.

We’re witnessing a level of total disdain for basic democratic and institutional processes that defies description, and perhaps calls for a new vocabulary. But the story does not end here. As Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic explain in a great piece, the almost comical lack of good faith that Trump and the White House are showing toward our processes is inspiring an escalation in institutional pushback — from the courts, the media, government leakers, and civil society — that is having much more of a constraining effect than Trump ever could have anticipated. Indeed, the Trump White House’s ongoing conduct is itself producing the very systemic resistance that now has Trump in such a rage.

In other words, Trump is now engaged in a negative feedback loop. This pattern is only going to escalate. As we witnessed this morning, Trump’s spokeswoman suggested that the president is actually refuting his own FBI Director. This will not end well.

The man who wanted to win the presidency, but not actually be president now finds himself in a position where his lies will increasingly become exposed. He’s in way over his head at this point and has shown zero capacity for doing anything but digging the hole deeper.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.