President Trump isn't one to let circumstances dictate his behavior. He does him — all the time.
So it was Wednesday morning in Washington when Trump gathered a group of African American leaders (and staffers) at the White House for what was billed as a “listening session” to kick off the start of Black History Month. It turns out Trump had other plans, plans that involved a lot less listening and a lot more talking — mostly about himself and his various grievances.
The first thing Trump said, according to the transcript from the White House, was this: “We did well, the election — we — it came out really well. Next time, we'll triple it up or quadruple it, right?” Trump then noted that he would get “at least” 51 percent among African Americans in the 2020 election. (Nota bene: He got 8 percent of the black vote in 2016.)
But, okay. All presidents do a little bit of horn-tooting and chest-beating about elections — particularly with 2016 so recently in the rearview mirror. Surely, Trump would turn to the topic at hand (Black History Month) and the format (a listening session). Right?
Here's part of what he said next:
Last month, we celebrated the life of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., whose incredible example is unique in American history. You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. And it turned out that that was fake news. Fake news.
The statue is cherished, it's one of the favorite things in the — and we have some good ones. We have Lincoln and we have Jefferson, we have Dr. Martin Luther King and we have — but they said the statue, the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched. So I think it was a disgrace. But that's the way the press is, very unfortunate.
The Trump thought process when talking about Martin Luther King Jr.'s life appears to be:
a) Martin Luther King Jr. bust in the White House
b) Fake news that it was removed
c) Unfair to me
But wait, there's more! Trump started touting one of the listening session's attendees — pastor Darrell Scott — for offering a spirited defense of his candidacy on CNN. Then Trump said this:
But I don't watch CNN, so I don't get to see as much.
I don't like watching fake news.
So — but Fox has treated me very nice. Wherever Fox is, thank you.
But wait! There's even more!
If you remember, I wasn't going to do well with the African American community, and after they heard me speaking and talking about the inner city and a lot of other things, we ended up getting — I won't go into details — but we ended up getting substantially more than other candidates who had run in the past years. And now we're going to take that to new levels.
In the entirety of his opening remarks, Trump said absolutely nothing that didn't tie directly back to him in some way, shape or form. His election results. His views on the media. His election results again.
Now. This was the only part of the listening session that the media was allowed to see. It is therefore possible that Trump sat quietly for the rest of the meeting and listened to the various concerns expressed by the people around the table. (Possible but very unlikely.) But even if that was the case, Trump's focus on himself in his opening remarks at an event honoring Black History Month is remarkable. And yet another reminder — and yes, I write this every day — of just how different this president and presidency is from every one that has come before it.