Here's how The Washington Post described President Trump's mood heading into this past weekend: “Trump was mad — steaming, raging mad.”
The president, it seems fair to say, wasn't happy then on Saturday morning when he sent a flurry of tweets alleging — with zero evidence — that Trump Tower had been wiretapped in the course of the 2016 campaign under orders from then-President Barack Obama. Anger — and a persistent sense that people were out to get him or weren't treating him fairly — motivated Trump to make a massive charge: That the man he was running to replace purposely sought to sway the election via misuse of the intelligence community.
This isn't the first time we've seen what President Trump acts like when he's angry. Think back to Trump's news conference on Feb. 16. In it, Trump offered raw and personal attacks against the media who, he insisted, were creating a fake news story out of the ties between his campaign and the Russians. He insisted he wasn't angry at all — a statement totally belied by his actions and words.
We can safely conclude then that when Trump gets angry, he looks for a way to strike back. And he is willing to stretch — or break with — the truth to give himself a measure of satisfaction in that regard.
As a candidate for president, we saw this side of Trump regularly — particularly in a debate setting. When, say, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, an also-ran, attacked Trump, the front-runner was unable to resist hitting back. His attacks on “low energy” Jeb Bush, “little” Marco Rubio and “lyin'” Ted Cruz were all, to Trump's mind, ways of leveling the playing field after he had been attacked. Whether it made sense as a political strategy was beside the point; Trump felt better after he swung back — so he always swung back.
The trouble for Trump — and all of the rest of us — is that Trump is now president. And there are real-world consequences to both how angry he gets and how he chooses to blow off that steam. An angry call with the Australian prime minister, for example, has real-world implications. So does an open and aggressive attempt to disqualify the free and independent press. Or the accusation that your predecessor used the powers of the federal government to specifically target you.
The question now is if Trump is willing to do the sorts of things listed above primarily because he is angry, what else is he willing to do to vent his frustrations? The president of the United States is a bounded job — checks and balances and all that — but even so, Trump can have massive influence, for positive or negative, based on a single tweet. He either doesn't understand that power or doesn't seem care about it when he's mad.
What's even more harrowing is the fact that in the wake of Trump's Twitter tirade on tapping, two things happened.
1. He felt better. This from The Post story: “Trump was brighter Sunday morning as he read several newspapers, pleased that his allegations against Obama were the dominant story.”
2. He got angry again. Again, The Post: “But he found reason to be mad again: Few Republicans were defending him on the Sunday political talk shows.”
This feels like a cycle that is going to keep repeating itself. Anger, release, anger. The issue is that Trump's “release” mechanism is getting more and more dangerous. If he's offering (so far) unfounded allegations about being wiretapped by the former president less than two months into his tenure, what will he be saying in a year's time when something provokes him to anger?