Ratings aren't everything. They're the only thing.

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Washington (CNN)As President Donald Trump wrapped up his brief remarks standing beside three American prisoners just released by North Korea, he said this:

"I want to thank you all. It's very early in the morning. I think you probably broke the all time in history television rating for three o'clock in the morning. That I would say."
Consider the context. It is 3 a.m. Trump is standing beside a trio of men who have been held captive in an authoritarian regime for months and, in some cases, years. And he talks about how many people must be watching on TV.
It's a reminder of just how much reality TV -- and TV more generally -- serves as the most useful lens through which to look when you are trying to understand the Trump presidency.
    To Trump, good ratings mean success. It's that simple. If people are watching you, you are winning. It's a uniquely reality TV way of thinking -- and one that would fit comfortably as a life mantra for, say, Kim Kardashian or Jake Paul.
    Failure is not having people judge you poorly. Failure is not being interesting enough to have them judge you.
    What's remarkable about all of this is that Trump doesn't seem to distinguish between talking about ratings for a TV show, ratings for his inauguration or ratings for the arrival of former prisoners of the North Korean regime.
      It's all ratings to him. And good ratings are something to be proud of, to talk about. People are interested in you, he was telling the three newly released prisoners. There's a lot of good buzz out there about you! You are going to do great!
      The Point: This is Trump. He sees himself only as people see him. If people are interested in him -- and ratings are how he judges that -- then he must be doing something right. The end.