None of this is to say that Donald Trump won't be a successful president. But his first 72 days have been rough — objectively.
Trump, of course, can't allow for any of that talk. In the course of one interview with the Financial Times this weekend, a defiant Trump brushed off all of this, continued promising seemingly impossible things — including solving the North Korea problem without China's help — and even uttered the phrases “I don't regret anything” and “I don't lose.”
At this point, nobody should be surprised that Trump is unbowed. It's his brand. It's a big part of why his supporters supported him. But you do have to wonder whether he'll let people see beneath that armor and accept something — anything — as a bona fide setback. Even just for his credibility's sake.
For now, every stumble is merely part of a work in progress with an undetermined outcome — except that Trump knows the outcome will be a win — and every controversy winds up vindicating Trump in Trump's own mind.
Here are a couple of telling exchanges from the FT interview.
On his abrasiveness:
FT: Mr. President, you use a language which is more abrasive than many of your predecessors ...TRUMP: I would say. I hope so. …FT: Are you proud of that?TRUMP: Well it hasn’t worked for our predecessors. Look where we are. We have an $800 billion trade deficit. The Middle East is a mess. They shouldn’t have gone in. And I was totally opposed to the war in the Middle East which I think finally has been proven, people tried very hard to say I wasn’t but you’ve seen that it is now improving.
On his tweets:
TRUMP: Without the tweets, I wouldn’t be here. ... I have over 100 million between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Over 100 million. I don’t have to go to the fake media.FT: Do you regret any of your tweets?TRUMP: I don’t regret anything, because there is nothing you can do about it. You know if you issue hundreds of tweets, and every once in a while you have a clinker, that’s not so bad. Now my last tweet, you know the one that you are talking about perhaps, was the one about being in quotes wire tapped, meaning surveilled. Guess what, it is turning out to be true. … I predicted Brexit.
On health care:
TRUMP: I didn’t want to take a vote. It was my idea. I said why should I take a vote.FT: Because you didn’t want to lose.TRUMP: Yeah, I don’t lose. I don’t like to lose. But that wasn’t a definitive day. They are negotiating as we speak. I don’t know if you know. They are negotiating right now. There was no reason to take a vote. I said, ‘Don’t take a vote,’ and we will see what happens. But one way or the other, I promised the people great health care. We are going to have great health care in this country.
Trump, you may recall, was the one who was going to force a vote on the health-care bill the day before it was pulled, hoping to put skeptical House Republicans on the record with an ultimatum to repeal Obamacare or leave it in place.
It was a bluff, and they called it. Not only was the vote canceled, but the ultimatum has been canceled as well, with Trump insisting health-care talks will continue.
But to Trump, all that seems to matter is that he was in charge of canceling that vote — despite having been the one to deliver the ultimatum in the first place.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a better example of Trump's tendency to spin his own defeats to us and, seemingly, himself.