One of the things supposedly driving President Donald Trump to distraction, in what should be a celebratory first week in office, is that he isn’t getting a honeymoon period from the media and the general public. “Trump has been resentful, even furious, at what he views as the media’s failure to reflect the magnitude of his achievements,” The Washington Post reported this week, “and he feels demoralized that the public’s perception of his presidency so far does not necessarily align with his own sense of accomplishment.”
Trump is still widely disliked, as he was even the day after he defeated Hillary Clinton; the fact that he’s so unpopular contributed to the weak turnout at his inauguration; on Friday, reporters noted (accurately) that far fewer people attended his swearing-in than attended Barack Obama’s first inauguration; on Saturday, they noted (again, accurately) that a massive anti-Trump protest on the first day of his presidency was also better attended than his inauguration.
Trump hasn’t been able to let it go. His preoccupation with popularity hasn’t motivated him to do popular things, but it has driven him to manic outbursts about imaginary voter fraud and media conspiracies. An apparently typical digression about fraud and the popular vote during a meeting with congressional leaders this week “was greeted with silence, and Mr. Trump was prodded to change the subject by Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, and Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas,” according to The New York Times.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are at pains to maintain a façade of unity. But behind these conspicuous morale-boosting exercises, Republicans are doing a poor job concealing their awareness of how terribly this fledgling government is going. What they haven’t done is anything meaningful to change the trajectory. They have signed up for a suicide mission with Trump, without a complete understanding of what the purpose of the mission is, whether it will succeed, or how severe the collateral damage will be.
BY BRIAN BEUTLER