It is disheartening and demoralizing. It has only been three weeks and it is getting a bit unnerving.
Donald Trump’s first week in office was a virtuoso performance for his followers. Executive order by executive order, he ticked each campaign promise off the bucket list. Obamacare — done. TPP — done. Keystone pipeline — done. Deporting immigrants — done. Sanctuary cities — done. The wall — done. You get the point.
Then there was Nikki Haley taking names and kicking ass at the despised United Nations. And last but not least, the long-promised Muslim ban.
This is what disruption looks like. It is what Trump promised, and what he has delivered. Maybe. These were executive orders, so it remains to be seen what impact they have — after all, Barack Obama’s first executive order was to close Gitmo, and look how that turned out — but to Trump’s followers it has been heaven on earth.
And to Trump as well. He is a true believer in his words and in his executive orders. Veni, vidi, vici. As he said to a group of County sheriffs this week, the border is already more secure and the vetting of immigrants has already become much tougher. “It’s already being done, believe me.” Did they believe him? Perhaps they took him seriously, but not literally. The more important question is whether he believes it himself.
Kellyanne Conway admonished us last month to not take Trump’s words too seriously, but instead to look into his heart — whatever that means. But he disagrees.“You like the tweeting, right?” he apparently commented to a supporter in Florida this week. “It’s the only way you get the real truth.” He is probably right, and that is what is so unnerving.
To the rest of us — including many who voted for him and just wish someone would close his Twitter account — as well as much of the world, Donald Trump shows all the symptoms of being a self-absorbed lunatic with no self control. And things only got worse this week.
First he pronounced that all negative polls are fake news. Trump is obsessed with polls, but he is equally obsessed with denying any form of criticism. His perversion of the notion of fake news itself has been disheartening, as he has redefined it from intentionally fake stories written as click bait for profit or political gain into any story that he does not like. Truth, in particular.
Then, after Senator John McCain suggested that the Yemen raid was a failure, Trump and his Press Secretary Sean Spicer determined that anyone who said that the Yemen raid was not a victory was dishonoring the Navy SEAL who died in the raid. During the presidential campaign, Trump promised his followers that America was “gonna win so much people will say we can’t take it anymore.” He did failed to mention that he alone would be the arbiter of what constituted a victory. In his defense of Trump’s tweets attacking McCain, Spicer used his earlier crowd size defense: a victory is what they say it is, period.
Over the last two days, the Trump reality distortion field reached new heights after Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch commented to Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) that he found Trump’s tweets attacking and demeaning the federal judiciary demoralizing and disheartening. All things considered, it was a fairly mild response by the jurist. But perhaps to no one’s surprise, Trump could not stand for it. Despite Gorsuch’s spokesman confirming the comments, Trump went off. ‘Who you gonna believe,’ he seemed to suggest, ‘me or that lyin’ judge.’
Trump then demonstrated an astonishing capacity for irony, defamation, and disparagement, all in 140 characters, with a tweet attacking CNN’s Chris Cuomo, disparaging Blumenthal, and raising once again the specter of fake news. There was nothing wrong about any aspect of Cuomo’s story, except for Trump’s inability to tolerate the truth. This from a truth-challenged man who evaded military service and boasted that he felt that he had served because he attended a military boarding school.
Trump is a master manipulator of the media and has dominated the country unlike anyone in memory. As many have observed, it is like a car wreck: you don’t want to keep looking, but you can’t help it. All of it — the executive orders, the controversial tweets, the fights with the judiciary and the media, the conspiracy theories surrounding illegal voting — has thrilled his base. In his short time in office he proved himself to be everything they imagined he would be. To his detractors as well, he has exceeded expectations: he has been worse than anything we might have imagined.
Yet, ensconced in power as they are, Republicans in Congress have to be growing fearful. They gave up the ghost on their never Trump inclinations and convinced themselves that he would enable them to hold power and get done what they wanted to get done. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may insist that Republicans could not be happier with the Trump administration (though it is important to note that McConnell’s wife received a cabinet position), but the character issues are far worse than they can have imagined. As much as many in the party believed during the presidential campaign that he lacked the character and temperament to be president, Donald Trump has proven in three short weeks that whatever their worst fears might have been, the reality of the situation is far worse than they might have imagined.
Artwork by Jay Duret. Follow him on Twitter @jayduret or Instagram at @joefaces.