Maureen Dowd penned another scathing column about Donald Trump in the Sunday New York Times. In the past, the president-elect has called Dowd "wacky" and a "neurotic dope," but he didn't complain about her latest piece.
Maybe he liked it.
I'm only half-kidding. Trump knows that most Americans — especially his supporters — say they don't trust the media. For an incoming Republican president, criticism in the Times's pages is a badge of honor.
But Dowd's column didn't contain just any kind of criticism; it described a Washington in panic ahead of Trump's inauguration. This was apparently supposed to seem like a bad thing, but it actually played perfectly into the business mogul's "drain the swamp" narrative.
Trump backers are not unsettled by the thought of Washington in freakout mode. They're thrilled by it.
"I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves," Trump said at the Republican National Convention. "Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it."
If you heard that and loved it, then you'll probably love Dowd's column, too. Here's an excerpt:
The capital has never been more anxious about its own government. The town is suffering pre-traumatic stress disorder. This guy is really going to be president.
Finally, there is bipartisan consensus: It’s time to flip out. Decades after duck-and-cover was a way of life, people here are once more in duck-and-cover mode. No one knows what is going to happen, but they know it will be utter chaos and that the old familiar ways have vaporized.
On the verge of the inauguration, a time of stately ritual and tradition in a city baked in ritual and tradition, ritual and tradition are out the window. Donald Trump is operating on an utterly new, unique and freaky frequency.
Dowd's piece is one of many that have characterized Trump as a disruptive force in Washington. Consider a small sampling of headlines from the past month:
Outsiders selected by Trump aim to unnerve Washington (New York Times, Dec. 17)
Trump recruits army of business leaders to battle the Washington system (Chicago Tribune, Dec. 14)
Donald Trump's new appointments shake up trade, regulation (Wall Street Journal, Dec. 21)
Trump's cabinet picks 'take the establishment and shake it upside down' (NPR, Dec. 13)
Trump builds team of bosses to shake up Washington (Reuters, Dec. 17)
At other times, such as when Trump has named another Goldman Sachs alum to an important post, the media has questioned whether the billionaire's administration will be quite as unconventional as he would like voters to believe. Trump doesn't like those questions.
"I've put on some of the greatest business people in the world," he said at a victory rally last month, defending certain appointments. "One of the networks said, 'Why? He put on a billionaire at Commerce.' Well, that's 'cuz this guy knows how to make money, folks."
Trump probably isn't so bothered by articles like Dowd's, which reinforce the idea that he is a game changer — even if they suggest that his changes won't be good. For Trump, those stories are the kind of bad coverage he likes.