President Trump made what might be the captain obvious statement of the year this week. He was overheard telling an aide, “People really f@#king hate me,” according to a report by Axios.com.
Is the emperor finally realizing he’s not wearing any clothes? Probably not, but the timing of this telling revelation suggests that the praise-hungry president is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to improve his image with the public – even it means doing the right thing.
Earlier this week, in a shocking turn of events, President Trump shunned Republican congressional leadership and brokered a debt ceiling deal with Democratic leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) instead.
The deal averted a government shutdown (for a few months) and provided $15 Billion in much-needed relief funding for Texas, which is struggling to cope with the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. Trump has basked in the largely positive coverage those two developments have been greeted with, happy to take as much credit as the media is willing to give him.
On the surface, this was just politics as usual, a move that would not have raised many eyebrows if it had been any other President who sided with the opposition party. But for President Trump, who has repeatedly attacked Pelosi and Schumer, and has even encouraged his Republican allies in the Senate to change long-standing rules to ram unpopular legislation through, cutting a deal with Democrats is a shocking development.
Members of the Washington commentariat have been trying to read the tea leaves to see if they can ascertain what this all means. Does it signal a shift by the White House away from molotov cocktail policies like the Muslim travel ban and the ban on transgenders serving in the military, and toward more pragmatic and popular policies that earn him positive marks from the media and the public alike?
Or is this a sign that he’s had enough with congressional Republicans, who, despite controlling both houses of congress, have failed to pass any meaningful legislation that he can sign? If Republicans can’t get him wins, maybe the Democrats can, Trump may be thinking.
The most plausible interpretation, one that this self-realization suggests, is that the President, more than anything else, needs praise. Whether it’s in the form of television ratings, or polls, or some other tangible measure he can point to, however inconsequential, he needs constant reaffirmation that what he’s doing is good for someone.
This is so important to him, it seems, that he’s even willing to do what’s right. At least for now.