Even when it comes to the solemn duties of the office, President Donald Trump can’t help but make everything about himself and obsess about the media coverage.
So it went for Trump’s trips to Dayton and El Paso this week, which featured the president pointlessly lashing out with lies at Democratic critics — and as a new video released Thursday revealed — bragging about his crowd sizes at the hospital where mass shooting victims were being treated.
And according to reports from CNN and the New York Times, Trump grew angry with his aides during the trip even as White House staff tried to prevent the visits from becoming the disaster they inevitably devolved into.
White House officials blocked reporters and their cameras from entering the two hospitals during his visits to Ohio and Texas this week, a move they said was out of respect for the patients’ privacy. But according to one person familiar with the President’s reaction, the President lashed out at his staff for keeping the cameras away from him, complaining that he wasn’t receiving enough credit. Aides had feared a moment like the one that is now going viral — where the President appears to focus on himself in front of those still recovering from a tragedy.
…multiple staffers agreed behind the scenes that it wasn’t successful from the administration’s viewpoint. They conceded Trump spent too much time lashing out at local officials, who Trump criticized after they praised his interactions with patients but criticized his stance on guns.ADVERTISEMENT
He was particularly upset by excerpts from a news conference in Ohio featuring Mr. Brown and Nan Whaley, the Democratic mayor of Dayton, that he had seen while flying from Dayton to El Paso. Both officials took a mostly respectful tone toward the president and said he had been received graciously. But Mr. Brown also said that some people at the hospital had privately said they do not support Mr. Trump, and he charged that the president had used racist and divisive language.
Mr. Trump reacted with fury. As his plane soared toward a restive El Paso, he shouted at aides that no one was defending him, according to a person briefed on what took place.
Times reporter Maggie Haberman said Thursday morning on CNN that the White House knows the trip was mess: “Most people, while they would not, I suspect, say that publicly, will privately admit that yesterday was something of a debacle. That these were not the headlines that they wanted to see. They wanted him to go in and behave differently. The goal was to have him go in and get out with making as little news as possible. He actually has done that in the past — he did it after Pittsburgh, where there was also controversy after the synagogue shooting there. He was much more able to, sort of, stay calm. Yesterday, he couldn’t stop watching television news where Democratic candidates were attacking him.”
What these reports show is that Trump continues to display terrible political judgment, even as he is sometimes portrayed at being a public relations savant. He struggles to take good advice even when he gets it from his aides, which is hardly guaranteed in the first place. And when he is already struggling — facing stinging criticism from Democrats like he was yesterday — he often makes the situation worse by losing his cool and obsessing about perceptions instead of just doing his job.
It makes him a pretty lousy politician and helps explain why his approval rating has remained low during his presidency, despite a relatively strong economy thus far. But this pattern also shows why he’s not good at doing the job of the president. He doesn’t have the intelligence or capacity for self-reflection required to adjust course and tactically take advantage of opportunities, which is why he struggles to get much done.