Gail Sheehy recently wrote something that gets to the heart of the Trump presidency.
The fundamental bedrock of human development is the formation of a capacity to trust, absorbed by children between birth and 18 months. Donald Trump has boasted of his total lack of trust: “People are too trusting. I’m a very untrusting guy.” (1990) “Hire the best people, and don’t trust them.” (2007) “The world is a vicious and brutal place. Even your friends are out to get you: they want your job, your money, your wife.” (2007)
His biographers have recorded his world view as saturated with a sense of danger and his need to project total toughness. As we know, his father trained him to be a “killer,” the only alternative to being a “loser.” He has never forgotten the primary lesson he learned from his father and at the military school to which he was sent to toughen him up still further. In Trump’s own words: “Man is the most vicious of all animals, and life is a series of battles ending in victory or defeat.”
To illustrate how Trump sees man as the most vicious of all animals, take a look at this compilation of him reading the poem “The Snake” at campaign rallies, including last week to celebrate his 100th day in office.
While he tends to use it as a way to talk about those “dangerous” immigrants and refugees coming into this country, it does a great job of capturing his view of human nature as described by Sheehy.
You might respond by saying, “That’s all fine and well for a psychological assessment, but what does it have to do with his presidency?” Jill Lawrence addressed that in an article titled, “Trump is a nightmare negotiating partner.”
The only constants with Trump are unpredictability and expediency. These are not, suffice it to say, the traditional cornerstones of getting to yes in politics. The real pillars are trust and discretion…
Fragmentation in Washington, between Republicans and Democrats but also among Republicans themselves, means we’re in for months of intensive negotiation to get anything done…
But no amount of talking will get anyone anywhere if members of Congress can’t trust Trump to stick to a position, forgo revenge and threats, and demonstrate convincingly that he’s interested in more than his own polling, branding and wealth.
While Lawrence hints at a possible Trump pivot in that last paragraph, his approach to the world in general and negotiations in particular are too deeply embedded to assume that he will change. We just witnessed that once again when he talked a lot of nonsense about the Republican health care bill during his interview with Face the Nation.
It is very likely that Republican leadership in Congress is catching on to this pattern with Trump due to the fact that the administration was left out of negotiations on the spending bill to keep the government funded through September, which basically eliminated all of Trump’s pet projects. They know that they can’t count on Trump for consistency or discretion.
Meanwhile, Trump himself is still of a mind to blame Democrats.
The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 2, 2017
either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good "shutdown" in September to fix mess!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 2, 2017
There are several problems with those tweets. First of all, as we saw with the short-term funding bill that passed last Friday, the problem isn’t just in the Senate. The Republicans couldn’t round up enough votes in the House to pass it without Democratic support. Secondly, we now have the President of the United States suggesting that our country “needs” a good shutdown this fall. That tweet certainly won’t help Republicans blame Democrats come September if there is, in fact, a government shutdown.
All of that is exactly why we’re likely to watch congressional Republicans go about their not-so-merry business and try as best as they can to ignore the idiot in the White House. In a bizarre way, that is exactly the kind of arrangement Grover Norquist described for Republicans in 2012.
All we have to do is replace Obama. … We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go…We just need a president to sign this stuff.
The requirement for president?
Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States.
Given the GOP divisions in Congress, I’m not sure there is going to be a lot of stuff for the president to sign. But that’s a whole other story. For now, interestingly enough, congressional Republicans might be relegating Trump’s significance to his “small hands.”