“I didn't bring it up. I didn't wanna talk about the inauguration speech,” Trump said. “But I think I did a very good job and people really liked it. You saw the poll — just came out this morning. You bring it up. I didn't bring it up.”
The two were at the tail end of a lengthy discussion about Trump's baseless allegations of voter fraud. Muir had only asked him once about the inaugural crowd — in the context of a broader question — and then followed up when Trump didn't answer the question. But Trump said he felt as though he were being badgered.
And that, right there, is exactly what White House press secretary Sean Spicer was talking about earlier this week. While explaining why Trump recoiled at reports about his inaugural crowd size, Spicer basically said that his boss take that kind of negative coverage as a personal affront. He's sensitive about it. Spicer repeatedly called it “demoralizing.”
“It's not just about a crowd size; it's about this constant — you know, 'He's not going to run.' Then, 'If he runs, he's going to drop out.' Then, 'If he runs, he can't win.' 'There's no way he can win Pennsylvania.' 'There's no way he can win Michigan,'" Spicer said. “There is this constant theme to undercut the enormous support that he has. And I think that it's just unbelievably frustrating when you're continually told it's not big enough, it's not good enough, you can't win.”
Spicer added: “The default narrative is always negative, and it's demoralizing.”
Trump himself seemed to make that same case Wednesday, though he cast it as him being frustrated on behalf of his supporters.
While answering basically the same question Spicer did earlier in the week — about why he focuses on his crowd size — Trump said: “Part of that is when they try and demean me unfairly, 'cause we had a massive crowd of people. ... Therefore I won't allow you or other people like you to demean that crowd and to demean the people that came to Washington, D.C., from faraway places, because they like me.”
And if you examine the transcript of the ABC interview closely, you'll see that sensitivity. A few key numbers:
- Trump uses the word “demean” or “demeaning” seven times.
- He brings up his claim that he would have won the popular vote if the election were conducted that way — and not via the electoral college — four times, in response to questions about his voter fraud allegations.
- Trump refers to his speeches positively — including calling them a “home run” and “extraordinary” and citing his inaugural crowd size (“supposedly the biggest crowd in history") — 13 times.
- He brings up the idea that every single illegal vote was cast for Hillary Clinton twice, unprompted. Once he said it in response to a question about whether spouting debunked claims about voter fraud hurt his credibility; the other time, it was in response to why he's called for a voter fraud investigation.
All of these are examples of Trump assuring us of how great he is; most of them had little to do with the question at hand.
Trump's sensitivity to this kind of thing isn't a huge surprise; this is a man who is obsessed with talking about how everything he has is the best and the greatest and is constantly exaggerating his victories.
What's interesting is just how much this interview and Spicer's comments on Monday forthrightly acknowledge that sensitivity and the idea that Trump's over-the-top reactions to criticism are because it offends him personally.
When journalists bring up the popular vote or Russian hacking or inaugural crowd sizes or the narrowness of Trump's wins in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Trump sees it as a personal slight — a lack of recognition of just how fabulous he is. And he lashes out.
And the result is what you saw Wednesday night.