President Trump has never been all that willing to acknowledge his own faults. He occasionally admits he might have some, mind you, but he prefers to treat them like Voldemort.
Such was the case in an interview with “Fox and Friends” on Tuesday morning. Check out this exchange, when Trump and Brian Kilmeade were talking about Trump pulling out of the White House correspondents' dinner, where Trump was roasted a few years ago:
KILMEADE: You said before, 'I can take hits when it's justified.'
TRUMP: One hundred percent.
KILMEADE: Can you give me an example of a time when someone was critical of you and you thought to yourself, I deserved that hit, I deserved that column, I deserved …
TRUMP: No, probably I could never do that.
And there it is.
This isn't entirely new territory, mind you. There was that time during the campaign when Trump acknowledged having said “the wrong thing” — a rare expression of contrition, it seemed. But then he spent days declining to point to anything specific, leaving all of us to guess as to what precisely he meant and even whether he really believed in his own faults.
He had previously said that he wasn't opposed to apologizing but was still in search of something to apologize for. “I fully think apologizing is a great thing, but you have to be wrong,” Trump told Jimmy Fallon in 2015, perhaps jokingly. “I will absolutely apologize sometime in the distant future if I’m ever wrong.” (That moment finally came — and Trump did apologize — for the “Access Hollywood” tape in October.)
Trump has also said he didn't think he has ever asked God for forgiveness, despite it being a core tenet of Christianity. “I am not sure I have,” he said in July. “I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don't think so.”
But within the same interview with Fox on Tuesday, Trump did flash a bit of his ability for self-reflection at a somewhat granular level. He admitted that his messaging over the first month-plus of his presidency has been somewhat lacking — and contrasted it with the results, which he assures us are fantastic.
“In terms of achievement, I think I'd give myself an A, because I think I've done great things,” he said. “But I don't think I have — I and my people, I don't think we've explained it well enough to the American public. I think I get an A in terms of what I've actually done, but in terms of messaging, I'd give myself a C or a C-plus.”
And that's about it for Trump's ability to self-reflect. What's remarkable is that it's not really all that self-critical. This is actually something President Barack Obama said regularly about himself — excusing his poor reviews for bad messaging but assuring the product was good. If the reviews are bad, after all, it has to be something — and blaming the messaging absolves the quality of the actual output.
Obama said this repeatedly over his years as president, telling Bill Simmons in 2015 that in his first years, “a certain arrogance crept in, in the sense of thinking as long as we get the policy ready, we didn’t have to sell it.”
Messaging is also something Trump isn't totally in charge of, so it has the bonus effect of placing the blame on other people's shoulders along with himself — which Trump, it should be emphasized, did.
So while the “C or a C-plus” comment might get some play, just remember that this is still the same Trump who doesn't really admit his own flaws. Not that he doesn't have them, of course. (Wink.)