Somebody call the wambulance. Donald Trump needs a box of Kleenex for all the whining he’s doing.
Just like his campaign, the first days of his presidency have been animated and defined by grievance.
At a White House reception Monday night to discuss his 2017 agenda, Trump devoted the first 10 minutes to rehashing the 2016 campaign. The commander-in-chief told a bipartisan group of congressional leaders that between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused him to lose the popular vote.
That is a ludicrously false claim, and this is not hyperbole: Trump is the sorest winner in American history.
Most thought Sean Spicer went too far with his Saturday night statement in the press room, delivered in an extended shout and brimming with falsehoods. Trump himself, however, had personally ordered the fiery response and actually thought his spokesman was not forceful enough. The president was also bothered when his spokesman read haltingly from a printed statement at times.
That nugget is part of an excellent look at some of the drama inside the West Wing by The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Matea Gold, based on interviews with nearly a dozen senior White House officials and other Trump advisers. “Trump has been resentful, even furious, at what he views as the media’s failure to reflect the magnitude of his achievements, and he feels demoralized that the public’s perception of his presidency so far does not necessarily align with his own sense of accomplishment,” The Post reports.
To give himself the recognition that he feels others are not, Trump officially declared his own Inauguration Day as “A National Day of Patriotic Devotion.” A proclamation that was signed by the president and entered into the Federal Register reads: “A new national pride stirs the American soul and inspires the American heart.”
Even with all the accoutrements of the presidency, the thin-skinned Trump still maintains a childlike need for constant affirmation: Reporters filed into a conference room for a photo opp Monday afternoon of Trump meeting with union leaders. But, as they began to exit the room, the president called out. “Hey press, get back in here,” Trump said. According to the Boston Globe, he then commanded Doug McCarron of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters to repeat the praise he had just privately given Trump about his inaugural address. “It hit home for the people who have been hurting,” McCarron told the reporters, obliging the most powerful man in the world.
The conservative Weekly Standard explains why the Spicer episode from Saturday matters: “If media reports about crowd size are so important to Trump that he’d push Spicer out there to lie for him, then it means that all the tinpot-dictator, authoritarian, characterological tics that people worried about during the campaign are still very much active. You know who obsessed about crowd size? Fidel Castro. You know who did not? George Washington, John Adams, Andrew Jackson, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, and every other man to ever serve as president of these United States of America.”
The president’s whining and inability to handle anything but good news, it turns out, is contagious. During a press briefing Monday that was designed to clean up the mess he created over the weekend, Spicer still could not let go of the fiction that Trump’s inauguration was the most watched ever.
Instead, he repeatedly bemoaned the media’s coverage of his boss and complained that Trump and his staffers are not getting enough credit for the “sacrifice” that they’re all making. In response to three separate reporter questions, Spicer used the word “demoralizing.”
“It’s demoralizing . . . when you sit here and you realize the sacrifice the guy made, leaving a very, very successful business because he really cares about this country,” the press secretary said. “There’s this constant attempt to undermine his credibility and the movement that he represents.”
Trump didn’t need to run for president, of course, and almost everyone who works in the White House would have killed to get their new job. Some will become wealthy cashing in on the experience they’re about to get. But those rewards are apparently insufficient.
“When you’re constantly getting told, ’That can’t be true. We doubt that you can do this. This won’t happen,’ . . . it’s a little frustrating,” Spicer griped. “And I think that for those people around him, his senior team especially . . . it’s a little demoralizing to turn on the TV day after day and hear.”
A reporter chimed in to say every president has faced dissent and critical coverage: “Isn’t that just part of the conversation that happens in Washington, D.C., that comes from being president of the United States and working at the White House?”
“No, it’s not,” Spicer said. “No. No.”
Hohmann is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post.