Gloria Borger writes that no one in the White House is able to tell the 70-year-old newbie president how to behave
The staff is forced to explain the unexplainable, she writes
So maybe a few times in your life you have screamed at the television set. And then what? You flip the channel, and get on with your life.
Ah, unless you’re the current President of the United States. Because he probably watches way more TV than you do, and when he sees something he doesn’t like, he doesn’t flip. He stews. He calls his friends and complains. He tweets.
And then he acts, because he can.
According to a source with knowledge, Trump told friends he was increasingly concerned that FBI Director James Comey had grown “out of control” and was “pursuing his own agenda.” Comey’s testimony last week, this source says, “pushed him to the edge.”
So he acted out, and decided to fire Comey, in a childish, impetuous – and dangerous – manner. Then he looked for a rationale, and found it in a memo written by Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general.
The White House used that cover story; so did the vice president. But now Trump has blown up that explanation by telling NBC that he would have fired Comey no matter what Justice officials had recommended. (Did Trump lie to Pence like Mike Flynn did? Just asking.)
And all credibility is lost.
Apparently, no one is able to tell the 70-year-old newbie how to behave. That firing the current FBI director in the middle of the Russia investigation – no matter how tarnished his reputation – is a bad idea. No one can tell him that, no matter how furious he is about an investigation that is growing and requiring more resources, trying to kill it by striking at the FBI director is a very, very bad idea. And that it might be interpreted as obstruction of justice.
But none of this matters to Trump. It never has. As Louise Sunshine, a former Trump organization employee told me months ago, Trump had always lobbed grenades – and then walked away.
“Nobody ever knew when he walked in a meeting what he was going to say or do because he didn’t,” she said. “Donald has always managed to walk into a meeting and say something that nobody else expected him ever to say, upend the entire meeting, leave everybody agog, and control every situation that way, so by the time he leaves the room, he has the store, he owns the store.”
But this isn’t Trump’s store anymore.
Trump has clearly learned little in office. He still throws tantrums, and his staff is sent to clean up the mess.
Views on Comey's firing
- Trump puts his interests before national interest
- How close was Comey to the truth?
- Callan: The first step to impeachment
- Zelizer: Trump's nuclear option on Russia probe
- How Republicans in Congress can win on Comey
- Trump had to do it
- Comey should have been fired, just not now
- Is Roger Stone making good on a 40-year grudge?
The pattern was set on the first full day in office.
That’s when Trump fumed about the pictures about crowd size at his inauguration, and sent his press secretary Sean Spicer, out there to rationalize his obsession.
Then came the president’s ridiculous assertion that there were 3 million illegal votes cast in the election – and that’s why he lost the popular vote.
That’s when Spicer came out to try and explain the unexplainable. The solution – just set up a presidential commission to examine the fiction, which the White House finally announced Thursday.
Then came the president’s impulsive tweet-storm early on Saturday morning, March 4, when he accused his predecessor of having him wiretapped. Never mind that he was accusing Barack Obama of a felony, or that it wasn’t true. He did it, anyway.
So then, once again, came the shovel brigade. Because to balk, even a bit, would be seen as disloyal to Trump –and that is not allowed. Ever.
Only this time it was really hard to figure out how to explain the unexplainable. And so a plan was hatched: call for congressional investigations. And stop talking about Russia hacks and potential Russian collusion with the campaign, but focus instead on investigating leaks that cast a negative light on Trump and his people.
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You get the idea. The President tweets nonsense, and the staff scrambles to make it sensible. Even if the emperor has no clothes, you can’t tell him.
So it was with the firing of James Comey.
The President decides he wants to fire Comey, and the staff is tasked to come up with a rationale. But it was very hard this time – absurd on its face. After he praised Comey in late October on the campaign trail and last week his spokesman declared confidence in the FBI director, are we to suddenly believe that the president really thought Comey was unfair to Hillary? Really? As one source close to the president tells me, his real concern was that if Comey had treated Clinton so badly, he would do the same to Donald Trump.
Oh, and as he told NBC, Comey was a “showboat” and a “grandstander.” It was a telling insult; in Trump’s galaxy, there can be no star brighter than Trump.
One requirement of the presidency is to believe that your job is about something greater than yourself – your country.
But first you have to believe there is something greater than yourself.