(Tom Toles)

The debate about whether President Trump rewards crazed dictators by inviting them to the White House is the least of our worries. The real worry is whether we have a dictator-in-waiting living there full time (at least when he is not golfing at one of his private White Houses).

Have you noticed the pattern yet? Just when you think that Trump is moderating from a bizarre, uninformed maniac into a regular, uninformed officeholder, he will do something such as invite Rodrigo Duterte to stop in and break some heads, I mean bread. Or say that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is a “smart cookie” for consolidating power by having his uncle executed.

These are not the exceptions that prove the rule; they are the rule that belies the exceptions. Trump’s instincts and temperament are those of an authoritarian. We don’t need any more evidence on this. The only time Trump behaves is when he needs to backpedal for tactical reasons, and that always proves to be brief to a now-predictable degree.

And the lesson of all this? The lesson is, don’t allow someone like this to accumulate power. You can be sure that any power he has will be leveraged and extended, and ultimately he will use it against you. The coverage of Trump’s governing attempts framed as how many “victories” he has or hasn’t achieved is ill-considered in the extreme. Trump getting any of his uniformly terrible agenda passed into law is no “victory” for America. It is a loss. It is feeding the beast.

And don’t for a minute think that playing nice with him will benefit you in the long run. Yes, Trump is inclined to punish enemies and reward friends. But to him, all friends are temporary, friends only as long as they serve his interests. If you look closely, he is already entertaining authoritarian musings about robbing press freedom away from the press. Will we report this as a Trump “victory”?

And would he actually do this? Only if he gets the chance. And he will get the chance if he accumulates power after sufficient “victories” of whatever sort it takes to do the job. So the press would be well advised to cover Trump’s proposals straight and report on the content and consequences of his legislative agenda, and not report it as TV wrestling.

And as with the First Amendment, so too with the rest of the Constitution, which was so recently revered by the GOP. When the Constitution gets in Trump’s way, it is not Trump who is inclined to yield. He is only inclined to more power. And he will get it, if we don’t understand now precisely who he is.