On the front page of the Washington Post’s website on Tuesday were headlines such as “Analysis: Trump’s lose-lose game in Syria,” “Giuliani ran a shadow foreign policy to personally benefit Trump, ex-adviser testifies,” “Fact Checker: Trump inverts time, invents conversations to thwart impeachment,” and “Gordon Sondland, a key figure in Trump impeachment furor, long coveted ambassadorship.”
Then, on a story promoted only in a footnote to another, it claims Trump is unduly lashing out, playing the victim and acting increasingly irrational in the face of the attacks.
The story – “’I sort of thrive on it’: The impeachment crisis shines a spotlight on Trump’s state of mind” by Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker – attempts to paint Trump as panicking under the probes.
“He was hectoring and imperious. He was domineering and defiant. And he was audacious and cavalier,” Parker and Rucker wrote. “In the three weeks since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., opened an impeachment inquiry, President Trump has struck a posture of raw aggression. His visceral defenses of himself – at the most vulnerable point of his presidency – have shined a spotlight on Trump’s state of mind.
“Like an aging rock star, the president is now reprising many of the greatest hits from his hellion days. He has bullied and projected – at times leveling against others the very charges he faces – while simultaneously depicting himself as a victim. And he has turned to ominous depictions of America, and in moments sounded an authoritarian tone.”
The evidence for this is that Trump is tweeting more. He sent 48 tweets in one day on Sept. 29, Rucker and Parker reported. Last Friday, he sent 59, including 33 in 20 minutes. He’d averaged only 18 tweets per day before the Democrats opened their latest round of investigations.
Trump takes on five personas, the Post reported – martyr, heckler, autocrat, projectionist and conspiracist.
Under Martyr: “Driving Trump’s persecution mentality is his undying frustration that his electoral victory in 2016 is undermined by the fact that Russia interfered to boost his candidacy – and that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.” There is no evidence Russia interfered to boost Trump’s candidacy beyond buying less than $50,000 worth of Facebook ads – some of which supported his opponent.
Under Heckler: He held up his hand to pause a questioner from NBC News, which the Post claims “epitomized Trump’s bullying persona, in which he heckles, belittles and bellows with abandon.” He also “has applied derogatory nicknames to his impeachment antagonists” – Shifty Schiff, Nervous Nancy, “Pompous senator” for Mitt Romney.
Under Autocrat: The Post focused on Trump’s threat to “totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!)” if Turkey does anything Trump perceives to be “off limits.”
“But the general sentiment also reflected the often defiant post8re Trump has adopted while facing impeachment, a ‘Dear Leader’ tone more associated with an authoritarian regime than a democracy.”
Under Projection: Trump claims it’s Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who is having a mental breakdown, not him. “Referring to previous Schiff comments, in which the Democratic chairman summarized the controversial conversation between Trump and Zelensky using mock dialogue, Trump said Schiff had delivered ‘a horrible speech’ not based in reality, and concluded: ‘I think he’s having some kind of mental breakdown.’”
The tactic is classic Trump, the Post wrote, an example of him taking “a charge or accusation leveled against him and wield[ing] it like a cudgel back on a perceived foe, even in cases where the counterassault may seem hypocritical or preposterous.”
Under Conspiracist: “To Trump, the impeachment probe is evidence of a plot to remove him from office, part of a dystopian alternate reality he is combating with ominous language and dark proclamations,” the Post wrote. “Trump has spread conspiracy theories, including that he has been investigated by the Australians, British and Italians, among other foreign governments. He has also suggested that it was Ukraine – not Russia – that meddled in the 2016 election, and on the side of the Democrats.”
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Author: Brian McNicoll