I have often criticized President Donald Trump for personal attacks and insults against critics as well as the media as a whole. We have discussed how the name calling and abuse is unpresidential. Now, in his latest attack, Trump has admitted that his attacks are “not presidential” (including his most recent statements regarding MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch). However, he then pledged to continue such unpresidential statements because they work. I am not sure which is more disturbing: not recognizing unpresidential conduct or recognizing it but pledging to continue it. Principle often requires us to forego actions or comments that would be otherwise beneficial or satisfying.
The latest tirade was triggered by Deutsch objecting (as many have) to Trump using an interview during the D-Day commemorations to attack his political opponents like Nancy Pelosi. I was one of those disturbed by the interview during the solemn events surrounding the 75th anniversary. (Even stalwart Trump supporters like Rep. Pete King criticized Trump for the interview). Trump was representing the nation during these events and it should have been a time reserved for honoring our fallen from World War II.
Trump responded to Deutsch with a tweet stating
“Little @DonnyDeutsch, whose show, like his previous shoebiz tries, is a disaster, has been saying that I had been a friend of his. This is false.” He then added “He, & separately @ErinBurnett, used to BEG me to be on episodes of the Apprentice (both were bad), but that was it. Hardly knew him,..other than to know he was, and is, a total Loser. When he makes statements about me, they are made up, he knows nothing!”
Trump then added “I know it is not at all “Presidential” to hit back at the Corrupt Media, or people who work for the Corrupt Media, when they make false statements about me or the Trump Administration. Problem is, if you don’t hit back, people believe the Fake News is true. So we’ll hit back!”
First, there are in fact many surrogates for Trump who will “hit back.” However, that is not the point. Being presidential — like being principled — demanded that you sometimes take a course that it not to your advantage. It means not yielding to every temptation or fighting for every political advantage. I have previously objected to the bias shown by some in the media in reporting on Trump. However, that is not license to engage in petty and personal attacks. That is indeed the very test of “being presidential” rather than just “being president.”
One can accept every criticism made by Trump and still object to his making those criticisms as president. It is also fair from clear that these attacks are helping Trump. He has antagonized many voters who will be essential in the general election. Many voters do care about “being presidential” . . . even when you see the benefits of not being presidential.