President Trump has not been in office for a week, but already’s he wilting under the pressure. “President Donald Trump is the first elected president in Gallup’s polling history to receive an initial job approval rating below the majority level,” Gallup reports. “He starts his term in office with 45% of Americans approving of the way he is handling his new job, 45% disapproving and 10% yet to form an opinion. Trump now holds the record for the lowest initial job approval rating as well as the highest initial disapproval rating in Gallup surveys dating back to Dwight D. Eisenhower.”
That reality — the rotten poll numbers, the low turnout at his inauguration, the massive turnout at worldwide protests, his widely panned appearance at the CIA and his press secretary Sean Spicer’s disastrous debut with the White House press corps on Saturday — seems to have thrown the narcissistic ex-mogul into an emotional tailspin.
The Post reports that as events unfolded on Friday and Saturday “Trump grew increasingly and visibly enraged.” We know two things from this: 1.) He’s an emotional train wreck before much of anything has happened and 2.) Those close to him already started spilling the beans, perhaps to exonerate themselves and perhaps to communicate to their boss through the media. Trump’s ire simply confirms what we already knew, namely that his insatiable need for approval and his rage when he does not receive it make for an alarmingly unpresidential demeanor.
Add to the mix multiple power centers and an insecure, defensive son-in-law (“Two people close to the transition also said a number of Trump’s most loyal campaign aides have been alarmed by [Jared] Kushner’s efforts to elbow aside anyone he perceives as a possible threat to his role as Trump’s chief consigliere.”) The picture suggests an unhinged president, too many weak aides and an administration that cannot control itself, let alone coverage of its breakdowns. To repeat, nothing much of substance, certainly no major policy defeat, has yet occurred. One shudders to think what will happen when setbacks do occur.
Trump’s inability to acknowledge his own lack of support prompts him to seek refuge in “alternative facts” — to lie to himself and others. The Post reports, “Days after being sworn in, President Trump insisted to congressional leaders invited to a reception at the White House that he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal votes … Two people familiar with the meeting said Trump spent about 10 minutes at the start of the bipartisan gathering rehashing the campaign. He also told them that between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused him to lose the popular vote.” The obsession with replaying the election and concocting a phony excuse for losing the popular vote reminds us that despite mockery for constant lying, Trump cannot help himself. He lies because reality won’t conform to his narcissistic view of the world.
Imagine how lawmakers perceive him after a performance like that. Do they imagine he is unstable? Dishonest?
Well, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants them to think long and hard about Trump’s demeanor. He turned up the heat on Republicans to disavow Trump’s fabulism. Reviewing the weekend events, Schumer said on the Senate floor. “Whatever your politics, in order to debate, argue, compromise, and get things done for the American people, we have to be able to agree on a baseline of facts. Facts aren’t partisan. They don’t have ‘alternatives.’ The alternative to fact is fiction.” He added, “If this presidency is going to be based on ignoring the facts on the ground — we’re going to have huge problems.” He went on to explain why Trump’s credibility (or lack thereof) will pose a big problem down the road. (“If the White House is ignoring facts on the ground and is willing to make up ‘alternative facts’ about crowd size, what else are they willing to stretch the truth about? National security? What Vladimir Putin is really up to? The implications are terrifying.”)
Schumer rightly scolded Republicans, who need to decide whether to enable Trump’s behavior or stand up to him. “The folks who can really help rein in the president in are the members of his own party, who have a special responsibility to do so,” he said. “But they have been totally silent when President Trump has been saying and doing things that they know are wrong. They should be speaking out for the good of the country.” Ironically, Trump accuses the media of trying to delegitimize his presidency, but as Schumer pointed out, Trump does that on his own — and may wind up dragging other Republicans into his morass of lies.