The New York Times has a huge and absolutely wild story today on the current state of Donald Trump’s presidency:
Let’s go through it line by line. Or at least pick out the highlights, because it’s almost 5,000 words long. Without further ado:
Around 5:30 each morning, President Trump wakes and tunes into the television in the White House’s master bedroom. He flips to CNN for news, moves to “Fox & Friends” for comfort and messaging ideas, and sometimes watches MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” because, friends suspect, it fires him up for the day.
Considering he often sends out tweets at 2 A.M., how much sleep is the man getting? And he’s compounding that cerebral strain by watching hours of cable news immediately after waking.
Energized, infuriated — often a gumbo of both — Mr. Trump grabs his iPhone. Sometimes he tweets while propped on his pillow, according to aides. Other times he tweets from the den next door, watching another television. Less frequently, he makes his way up the hall to the ornate Treaty Room, sometimes dressed for the day, sometimes still in bedclothes, where he begins his official and unofficial calls.
Propped on his pillow like a Roman lounging at a feast, his pajamas or bathrobe draped loosely around as would a toga, Trump unleashes his ire upon the world. What a hilarious and profoundly depressing image.
Also, “gumbo” may be the best way to describe the current state of Trump’s brain. Ha!
As he ends his first year in office, Mr. Trump is redefining what it means to be president.
Can we not? Like, this is obviously true by default, but presenting it with this sense of contextless gravity paints far too rosy a picture, and makes it easier to swallow that everything we’re seeing is acceptable, or to be expected, or should otherwise be taken in stride.
He sees the highest office in the land much as he did the night of his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton — as a prize he must fight to protect every waking moment, and Twitter is his Excalibur. Despite all his bluster, he views himself less as a titan dominating the world stage than a maligned outsider engaged in a struggle to be taken seriously, according to interviews with 60 advisers, associates, friends and members of Congress.
This is a common theme in these articles. Trump has achieved everything he wanted, or thought he wanted, and now he’s lonely, or isolated, or withdrawn, or, in this case, still seeking the recognition and validation he thought becoming president would automatically confer.
For other presidents, every day is a test of how to lead a country, not just a faction, balancing competing interests. For Mr. Trump, every day is an hour-by-hour battle for self-preservation. He still relitigates last year’s election, convinced that the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into Russia’s interference is a plot to delegitimize him. Color-coded maps highlighting the counties he won were hung on the White House walls.
Failing to receive that validation from outside sources, Trump clings to what proof he can. Given that it’s pretty apparent by now that Trump was at least aware of, if not actively involved with, his campaign’s interactions with Russian informants, the fact that he’s still convinced Mueller is on a witch hunt is interesting. Is this his attempt to deflect the idea that couldn’t have won the election without help? Does he think that whatever collusion took place didn’t help him at all? Is he not aware that what his team did was collusion? (“He feels like there’s an effort to undermine his election and that collusion allegations are unfounded,” Lindsey Graham is quoted as saying a few paragraphs down, so maybe it’s this one.) Is he just delusional?
Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH forget my earlier complaints about normalizing his actions this article is amazing
People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back.
[Insert “children shouldn’t watch too much TV” joke here.]
Let’s skip ahead a few paragraphs, past the Lindsey Graham business (he just spouts some party-line stuff on Trump) and a brief recap of Trump’s recent controversies:
His approach got him to the White House, Mr. Trump reasons, so it must be the right one. He is more unpopular than any of his modern predecessors at this point in his tenure — just 32 percent approved of his performance in the latest Pew Research Center poll — yet he dominates the landscape like no other.
My “get in the car and drive, just keep on driving, and never stop, not for anything, never, ever, ever stop” strategy got me to Washington, D.C. in record time! Now, to stay here, I just need to keep doing what got me here and wait why am I in Colorado now
After months of legislative failures, Mr. Trump is on the verge of finally prevailing in his efforts to cut taxes and reverse part of his predecessor’s health care program. While much of what he has promised remains undone, he has made significant progress in his goal of rolling back business and environmental regulations. The growing economy he inherited continues to improve, and stock markets have soared to record heights. His partial travel ban on mainly Muslim countries has finally taken effect after multiple court fights.
Sadly, this is all true. Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke can kiss my ass.
Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, has told associates that Mr. Trump, deeply set in his ways at age 71, will never change. Rather, he predicted, Mr. Trump would bend, and possibly break, the office to his will.
That has proved half true. Mr. Trump, so far, has arguably wrestled the presidency to a draw.
Like “redefining what it means to be president” earlier, that last line feels like the sort of neutral but punchy and declarative statement that Trump has not earned, and only serves to breed complicity towards an administration which seems set on causing enormous harm to America, its land, and its people.
Also, it’s pretty rich to say that Trump has “wrestled the presidency to a draw” three paragraphs after pointing out that his approval rating just hit a low of 32 percent. George W. Bush didn’t hit numbers that low until well into his second term, and his presidency was a goddamn disaster.
Let’s move a little more quickly through this next session on new White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly:
In the months before Mr. Kelly took over last summer from his embattled predecessor, Reince Priebus, the Oval Office had a rush-hour feel, with a constant stream of aides and visitors stopping by to offer advice or kibitz. During one April meeting with New York Times reporters, no fewer than 20 people wandered in and out — including Mr. Priebus, who walked in with Vice President Mike Pence. The door to the Oval Office is now mostly closed.
Mr. Kelly is trying, quietly and respectfully, to reduce the amount of free time the president has for fiery tweets by accelerating the start of his workday. Mr. Priebus also tried, with only modest success, to encourage Mr. Trump to arrive by 9 or 9:30 a.m.
Reince Priebus has to be one of the most accidental kingmakers in history. He helped usher Trump into power in large part by being unwilling to say anything against him, and his attempts to openly help Trump, whether in the campaign or the White House, seemed to succeed mostly in spite of him. Just look at how ineffectual he sounds in that description of his time as Chief of Staff.
Also, if Trump isn’t getting into the Oval Office until 9 or 9:30, that means he’s awake for a solid three to four hours beforehand despite having the shortest commute in America. Considering he has a TV in seemingly every room of the White House, does that mean Trump spends all that time just watching cable news?
Mr. Trump, who enjoyed complete control over his business empire, has made significant concessions after trying to micromanage his first months in office. Despite chafing at the limits, the president actually craves the approval of Mr. Kelly, whom he sees as a peer, people close to Mr. Trump said.
He calls Mr. Kelly up to a dozen times a day, even four or five times during dinner or a golf outing, to ask about his schedule or seek policy advice, according to people who have spoken with the president. The new system gives him “time to think,” he said when it began. White House aides denied that Mr. Trump seeks Mr. Kelly’s blessing, but confirmed that he views him as a crucial confidant and sounding board. Mr. Kelly has also adopted some of Mr. Trump’s favorite grievances, telling the president recently that he agrees that some reporters are interested only in taking down the administration.
Kelly, a retired four-star general in the Marine Corps, has reportedly imposed “military discipline” on the chaotic White House. I can imagine that, being a hard-nosed outsider with little tolerance for bullshit, Kelly might have been far less sycophantic towards Trump than several of his other staffers, and may even have expressed some level of disapproval or critique towards some of Trump’s actions. Kelly’s approval, more rarely given, may have thus become more desirable to Trump, which is why he seeks it out.
Which means… did John F. Kelly… neg Trump?
At times, Mr. Trump has been able to circumvent Mr. Kelly. Over Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago, the president mingled with guests the way he had before the election. Some passed him news clips that would never get around Mr. Kelly’s filters. And he dialed old friends, receiving updates about how they see the Russia investigation. He returned to Washington fired up.
Mr. Kelly has told people he will try to control only what he can. As he has learned, there is much that he cannot.
Occasionally, the president solicits affirmation before hitting the “tweet” button. In June, according to a longtime adviser, he excitedly called friends to say he had the perfect tweet to neutralize the Russia investigation. He would call it a “witch hunt.” They were unimpressed.
Everything about that paragraph is incredible.
He has bowed to advice from his lawyers by not attacking Mr. Mueller, but at times his instincts prevail.
When three former campaign advisers were indicted or pleaded guilty this fall, Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer handling the investigation, urged the president not to respond. If he did, it would only elevate the story.
Mr. Trump, however, could not help himself. He tweeted that the financial charges lodged against his former campaign manager, Paul J. Manafort, had nothing to do with the campaign and that investigators should be examining “Crooked Hillary & the Dems” instead. By the next morning, he was belittling George Papadopoulos, the campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to lying about his outreach to Russians, dismissing him as a “low level volunteer” who has “proven to be a liar.”
What was it we were just saying about John Kelly’s attempts to control Trump?
He was calm at first when his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, pleaded guilty. The next morning, as he visited Manhattan for Republican fund-raisers, he was upbeat. He talked about his election and the “major loser” in the Senate who had said his tax bill would add to the deficit (presumably meaning Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee).
By Sunday morning, with news shows consumed by Mr. Flynn’s case, the president grew angry and fired off a series of tweets excoriating Mrs. Clinton and the F.B.I., tweets that several advisers told him were problematic and needed to stop, according to a person briefed on the discussion.
More of the same here.
Let’s skip ahead a bit, because this next section is absolutely the best in the whole article.
The ammunition for his Twitter war is television. No one touches the remote control except Mr. Trump and the technical support staff — at least that’s the rule.
I love how this implies that Trump regularly finds himself at his wit’s end when it comes to operating a television.
During meetings, the 60-inch screen mounted in the dining room may be muted, but Mr. Trump keeps an eye on scrolling headlines. What he misses he checks out later on what he calls his “Super TiVo,” a state-of-the-art system that records cable news.
TiVo hit the market in 1999.
Watching cable, he shares thoughts with anyone in the room, even the household staff he summons via a button for lunch or one of the dozen Diet Cokes he consumes each day.
For no particular reason, I thought I’d list some of the health risks associated with drinking diet soda. All figures stated are compared to people who do not drink soda:
This study linked daily consumption of diet soda to a 67% increase in diabetes risk and a 36% increase in metabolic syndrome risk.
This study found that 50- to 71-year-olds (incidentally, Trump is 71) who drank at least four servings of soda per day were 30% more likely to develop depression, with indications that diet soda drinkers were more likely to develop depression than regular-soda drinkers.
This study found that consuming at least two servings a day was linked to a 30% decline in kidney function in women.
This study found that men consuming two or more servings of sweetened beverages per day (not distinguishing between diet and regular sodas) had a 23% higher risk of heart failure.
But he is leery of being seen as tube-glued — a perception that reinforces the criticism that he is not taking the job seriously. On his recent trip to Asia, the president was told of a list of 51 fact-checking questions for this article, including one about his prodigious television watching habits. Instead of responding through an aide, he delivered a broadside on his viewing habits to befuddled reporters from other outlets on Air Force One heading to Vietnam.
“I do not watch much television,” he insisted. “I know they like to say — people that don’t know me — they like to say I watch television. People with fake sources — you know, fake reporters, fake sources.”
This is absolutely incredible on so many levels, but most of all that Trump doesn’t have the common sense or the impulse control to issue a response by the same channel by which the Times’ inquiry was sent. This stands as maybe the single most remarkable piece of journalism in the Trump era so far.
“But I don’t get to watch much television, primarily because of documents. I’m reading documents a lot.”
Later, he groused about being forced to watch CNN in the Philippines because nothing else was available.
I can’t help but think that the country would be much better off if someone gave Trump a Nintendo Switch to keep him occupied during his downtime.
Jesus Christ, we’re barely halfway through this thing.
To an extent that would stun outsiders, Mr. Trump, the most talked-about human on the planet, is still delighted when he sees his name in the headlines. And he is on a perpetual quest to see it there. One former top adviser said Mr. Trump grew uncomfortable after two or three days of peace and could not handle watching the news without seeing himself on it.
My point above still stands. Get him really into The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and he’ll forget all about the news for a few days.
Also, I shudder to think what “extent” is necessary in order for an “outsider” like myself to be “stunned” by the news that Trump really likes to see himself being talked about.
During the morning, aides monitor “Fox & Friends” live or through a transcription service in much the way commodities traders might keep tabs on market futures to predict the direction of their day.
If someone on the show says something memorable and Mr. Trump does not immediately tweet about it, the president’s staff knows he may be saving Fox News for later viewing on his recorder and instead watching MSNBC or CNN live — meaning he is likely to be in a foul mood to start the day.
Oddly, this is one of those things that gets less bad the longer I think about it, if only because every White House staff has surely had some sort of code or system to help make sure they don’t encounter the president at a bad time. Still, I doubt Obama’s staff were monitoring the news every morning to determine whether he could be reasoned with that day.
Yet the image of him in a constant rage belies a deeper complexity for a man who runs in bellow-and-banter cycles. Several advisers said the president may curse them for a minor transgression — like bringing an unknown aide into his presence without warning — then make amiable small talk with the same person minutes later.
So like every scene in The Room, then?
These next few paragraphs are the obligatory humanize-the-president bit.
In private moments with the families of appointees in the Oval Office, the president engages with children in a softer tone than he takes in public, and he specifically asked that the children of the White House press corps be invited in as they visited on Halloween. Yet he does little to promote that side, some longtime friends say, because it cracks the veneer of strength that he relishes.
Toxic masculinity scars us all.
Only occasionally does Mr. Trump let slip his mask of unreflective invincibility. During a meeting with Republican senators, he discussed in emotional terms the opioid crisis and the dangers of addiction, recounting his brother’s struggle with alcohol.
Would opening up like this in public improve Trump’s image? I have to think it would, but Trump would never be willing to do it.
According to a senator and an aide, the president then looked around the room and asked puckishly, “Aren’t you glad I don’t drink?”
Given the health risks, all that diet soda more than makes up for it.
Mr. Trump’s difficult adjustment to the presidency, people close to him say, is rooted in an unrealistic expectation of its powers, which he had assumed to be more akin to the popular image of imperial command than the sloppy reality of having to coexist with two other branches of government.
During his early months in office, he barked commands at senators, which did not go over well. “I don’t work for you, Mr. President,” Mr. Corker once snapped back, according to a Republican with knowledge of the exchange.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, likewise bristled when Mr. Trump cut in during methodical presentations in the Oval Office. “Don’t interrupt me,” Mr. McConnell told the president during a discussion of health care.
[A]s the president increasingly recognizes how much Congress controls his fate, Marc Short, the legislative affairs director, has sought to educate him by appealing to Mr. Trump’s tendency to view issues in terms of personality, compiling one-page profiles of legislators for him, the congressional equivalent of baseball cards.
Trump spends practically every waking moment watching TV, imagines himself as the main character on a TV show, drinks copious amounts of soda, and memorizes the stats on baseball cards. He is seventy-one years old.
“At first, there was a thread of being an impostor that may have been in his mind,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, who has tried to forge a working relationship with the president.
“He’s overcome that by now,” she said. “The bigger problem, the thing people need to understand, is that he was utterly unprepared for this. It would be like you or me going into a room and being asked to perform brain surgery. When you have a lack of knowledge as great as his, it can be bewildering.”
This is either a really depressing indication of how the naïve and ineffectual Democratic leadership continue to think that they can reason with and achieve compromises with Trump and the Republicans, or that brain-surgery line is one of the best subtle insults I’ve ever read. I can’t make up my mind either way.
tra la la this next section is kinda redundant so I’m just gonna skim through it to save time
In almost all the interviews, Mr. Trump’s associates raised questions about his capacity and willingness to differentiate bad information from something that is true…
Mr. Kelly has pushed out advisers like Stephen K. Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, who he believed advanced information to rile up Mr. Trump or create internal conflict. But Mr. Trump still controls his own guest list…
Mr. Trump, Mr. Kelly and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, met for more than an hour on Nov. 1 as [Fox News host Jeanine] Pirro whipped up the president against Mr. Mueller and accused James B. Comey, the former F.B.I.director, of employing tactics typically reserved for Mafia cases…
At another point, Mr. Kelly interrupted. She was not “helping things,” he said, according to the person briefed. Even Mr. Trump eventually tired of Ms. Pirro’s screed and walked out of the room, according to the person.
I suppose it’s slightly comforting to know that even Donald Trump occasionally tires of the insane ramblings he usually consumes.
Having said that, how long until Alex Jones gets a spot on the White House guest list?
Mr. Trump is an avid newspaper reader who still marks up a half-dozen papers with comments in black Sharpie pen, but Mr. Bannon has told allies that Mr. Trump only “reads to reinforce.” Mr. Trump’s insistence on defining his own reality — his repeated claims, for example, that he actually won the popular vote — is immutable and has had a “numbing effect” on people who work with him, said Tony Schwartz, his ghostwriter on “The Art of the Deal.”
“He wears you down,” Mr. Schwartz said.
It’s not just the people who work with Trump who are feeling numb and worn down after eleven months of his presidency. Ha! Ha… ha… ha.
The next bit can be safely skipped past; it deals how Trump’s longtime security chief, Keith Schiller, left his employ, in part because he supplied Trump with a news story that John F. Kelly didn’t want the president to see. One highlight:
Since then, Mr. Trump has repeatedly expressed frustration at Mr. Schiller’s absence, telling a visiting lawmaker that his Oval Office suite now seems “empty.”
There’s plenty of schadenfreude to be had in Trump’s character arc. He pursues the presidency out of an all-consuming, unsatiated desire to be loved, respected, and taken seriously, only to find himself alone, isolated, widely loathed, and no less the object of ridicule. If only he were just a character.
Well, we’re getting into the home stretch now. This is the final section of the article, and there’s one more doozy of a section to show you. But first,
“I can invite anyone for dinner, and they will come!” Mr. Trump marveled to an old friend when he took office.
Mr. Trump has always relished gossiping over plates of well-done steak, salad slathered with Roquefort dressing and bacon crumbles, tureens of gravy and massive slices of dessert with extra ice cream.
The subtle word choices here—the dressing slathered over the salad, the gravy in tureens—really hammer home the caloric content of Trump’s meals. Combined with the dozen Diet Cokes he drinks every day, I imagine his arteries are starting to look something like this:
The next couple paragraphs talk about how he loves having guests, what with his background in the hotel business and all, and he particularly delights in giving them tours.
And then we get to this account of the visit of four Democratic lawmakers over the summer.
“Who is going to run against me in 2020?” he asked, according to a person in attendance. “Crooked Hillary? Pocahontas?” — his caustic nickname for Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, who once claimed Native American heritage on an employment form.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the president opined, would definitely run — “even if he’s in a wheelchair,” Mr. Trump added, making a scrunched-up body of a man in a wheelchair.
Hey, remember this, from the campaign?
And people thought the presidency would change him. Nope! He’s still a monster, and though articles like this make token efforts to humanize him, or to paint him as a tragic or pathetic figure, he has proven himself far beyond redemption. He is the asshole boss man who elicits a huge cheer from the crowd when he eats shit at the end of the movie.
After that moment of pure awfulness, let’s end this on a hopeful note. For us, I mean. Not Trump. He brought this all on himself. He deserves it.
In recent weeks, Mr. Trump’s friends have noticed a different pitch, acknowledging that many aides and even his own relatives could be hurt by Mr. Mueller’s investigation. As for himself, he has adopted a surprisingly fatalistic attitude, according to several people he speaks with regularly.
“It’s life,” he said of the investigation.
From there it is off to bed for what usually amounts to five or six hours of sleep. Then the television will be blaring again, he will reach for his iPhone and the battle will begin anew.
Good night, everybody.