Donald Trump’s Political Viagra

He knows he can’t beat his opponents on his own, so he looks to foreign interference for help.

On its face, the story of Donald Trump’s efforts to strongarm Ukraine’s president into investigating Trump’s political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, screams corruption and demands impeachment. The president extorts our ally, cheats, violates the law, and tries to cover it all up. Yet the Ukraine story, shared through the testimony of courageous public servants Fiona Hill, Bill Taylor, Marie Yovanovitch, Laura Cooper, Alexander Vindman, and the anonymous whistleblower, shines a spotlight on two issues just as damaging to Trump: his own weakness and lack of confidence.

In a sense, Trump’s pants have been pulled down, for all the world to see. He has been exposed as a man so insecure in his own ability to win re-election, that he has sought the help of not one, but multiple, foreign countries to secure his grip on power. Trump knows he can’t succeed without a substantial assist.

Foreign interference, in other words, is his political Viagra. With China, Russia, and Ukraine, he has repeatedly and visibly conceded that he cannot score on his own merits. And by revealing himself to be fundamentally insecure, Trump makes America look undeniably weak.

To date, the image of a strong and formidable American leader has been tied to the image of a stable, virile, and masculine commander-in-chief. That’s partly because the United States has not yet elected a female president; the stereotype, therefore, has not been fully debunked with a portion of the electorate. Still, just take a look at our former presidents. Whether it’s Ronald Reagan, George Bush, or Barack Obama, each man exuded competence and confidence. They projected the image of strength, both at home to American citizens, and abroad to our allies and foes alike. That strength, by extension, buttressed the perception of the United States as the world’s last remaining super power.

By contrast, Trump’s odd affection for authoritarian strong men like Vladmir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Kim Jong Un evidences bad judgment and weakens America’s standing in the eyes of our longtime allies. His haphazard foreign policy decisions, including abandoning our Kurdish allies, render him—and the United States—unreliable. But Trump’s weakest tell of all is admission that he knows that he can’t close the deal in 2020 without that little blue pill of foreign interference.

Whether painstakingly faking his inauguration crowd size, notoriously cheating at golf, bragging about grabbing women by the private parts, or shaking down an ally with threats of extortion, Trump consistently admits that his own organic talents are not enough for him to succeed. That sense of himself, that he is not good enough on his own, has plagued him all these years. If only he realized how silly he looks now, exposed to the world. Because now the world knows how impotent a president he really is.

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Julie Rodin Zebrak

Julie Rodin Zebrak is a veteran attorney with nearly 20 years of experience at the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice. She is the founder and CEO of Yes Moms Can and the co-founder of Mamas4Kamala.