And what we got Sunday was a whole lot of crazy. It’s not good for the country, and it doesn’t seem very good for the president, either.
The president opened the floodgates holding back a reservoir of grievance on Sunday afternoon with the claim that “people that know me and know the history of our Country say that I am the hardest working President in history.” Over the course of three tweets, it emerged that he was angry about an article in the New York Times — a paper he claims not to read — questioning his work ethic during the pandemic.
Then things got really weird. In his next barrage of tweets, Trump demanded to know: “When will all of the ‘reporters’ who have received Noble Prizes for their work on Russia, Russia, Russia, only to have been proven totally wrong (and, in fact, it was the other side who committed the crimes), be turning back their cherished ‘Nobles’ so that they can be given to the REAL REPORTERS AND JOURNALISTS who got it right? . . . When will the Noble Committee Act?”
Where to begin? Could the president really have intended to refer to “Nobel” prizes and simply misspelled the name? And since there is no Nobel awarded for journalism, could he have been thinking of the Pulitzer Prize won by journalists, including those at The Post, for their work covering Russian interference in the 2016 election?
Those who see Trump as a brilliant communicator might think the garble was deliberate, an invitation to snooty know-it-alls to jump all over him so he could portray himself to his aggrieved base as a victim of fake-news “elites.” But this view is inconsistent with what happened later in the day.
Trump tweeted a purported explanation: “Does anybody get the meaning of what a so-called Noble (not Nobel) Prize is, especially as it pertains to Reporters and Journalists? Noble is defined as, ‘having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals.’ Does sarcasm ever work?”
“Sarcasm” is becoming a familiar claim from the president. After speculating nonsensically last week at a coronavirus briefing that disinfectants or powerful light could be used “inside the body” to combat covid-19, and being widely ridiculed for the suggestion, Trump claimed he was just being sarcastic. But it’s not much of a defense when Trump invokes it while also trying to make the comments he is justifying disappear. At some point overnight, the earlier “Noble Prize” tweets vanished from Trump’s feed (though not before journalists had archived them).
If these episodes aren’t strategy, what are they? If tweeting and retweeting attacks on The Post, CNN, MSNBC and even Fox News calmed Trump, his apologists might argue that they’re a form of recreation. But the pressure doesn’t seem to be going down. It seems to be mounting.
I’m not making a diagnosis, but rather just stating the obvious. If a loved one were raging in such a manner, you’d worry about his or her well-being. You’d hope it was just a bad spell. You might attempt to investigate, if only with a text reading: “R u ok?” We can only hope someone in Trump’s life is doing the same for him.
I can understand why Trump would be frustrated, seeing his plan to run for reelection on the strength of the economy ruined. I understand why he might be impatient for things to get back to normal. I’m impatient, too.
But it is objectively worrisome how much time the president spends venting his frustration and impatience. It is worrisome that he seems to engage in magical thinking about a miracle cure that will suddenly make everything better. It is alarming that a man with so little apparent self-control has so much power.
And there’s nothing we can do about it until November.