By Kevin D. Williamson
Friday, June 30, 2017
Some people simply cannot handle the fact that Donald Trump was elected president.
One of those people is Donald Trump.
Trump has shown himself intellectually and emotionally incapable of making the transition from minor entertainment figure to major political figure. He is in the strange position of being a B-list celebrity who is also the most famous man in the world. His recent Twitter attack on Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s Morning Joe exemplifies that as much as it does the president’s other by-now-familiar pathologies, notably his strange psychological need to verbally abuse women in physical terms.
Trump may have his problems with women, but it is his unrequited love of the media that is undoing him.
“I always tell the president, ‘You don’t need them,’” says Sean Hannity, the self-abasing monkey-butler of the Trump regime. The president, Hannity says, can reach more Americans via Twitter than he could through the conventional media. That isn’t true, of course: Only about one in five Americans uses Twitter. Hannity might be forgiven for not knowing this, a consequence of his much more general habit of not knowing things. But he actually does know the president. How could he possibly believe that this man — this man — does not need them?
He needs them the way a junkie needs his junk.
Donald Trump cares more about how he is perceived in the media than he cares about anything else in the world, including money. Trump is a true discipline of Bishop Berkeley, professing the creed of the social-media age: Esse eat percipi— “To be is to be seen.” Trump is incapable of enjoying anything — money, success, sex — without being perceived enjoying it.
Consider: Even though he has in fact been on the cover of Time magazine, it was discovered this week that he had had his people produce some fake Time magazine covers lauding the success of his television show, The Apprentice. He had these fake Time covers displayed at Trump properties around the world. Why? Because Trump, for all his professed contempt for the media, believes that success is not success until it is certified by Time magazine or (avert thine eyes, Hannity!) the New York Times.
Donald Trump is a man who invented an imaginary friend, John Barron, to call up members of the New York press and lie to them about his business success and his sex life. (He claimed, among other things, to be dating Carla Bruni.) A man who “does not need” the media does not do that.
Trump wrote of the third lady that he chose her because he wanted to be able to enter a room with her and make other men envious — to see “grown men weep” — a very strange admission that his satisfaction in his marriage rests neither with himself nor with his wife but with third parties who might ogle her. (His cuckoldry-obsessed fans must surely have noted this.) But envious of what? Asked during a public appearance whether she’d have married Trump if he weren’t rich, she answered: “If I weren’t beautiful, do you think he’d be with me?” There is a certain clarity in that, one of a very familiar sort.
As president and president-elect, Trump spent a great deal of time tweeting about his ratings as host of The Apprentice and those of his successor, about the ratings of various news programs covering him, about the viewerships and readerships of various media outlets, generally theorizing that those critical of him must by moral necessity be in decline. On the other hand, he plainly does not know that there are tax provisions in the health-care bill Republicans are trying to drag out of Congress: He was perplexed when they came up at a White House meeting with Republican senators, saying that he was planning on taking on tax reform at a later date, oblivious to the content of the bill he purports to be negotiating. He doesn’t understand what’s going on between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but has taken to Twitter to argue — surprise — that, whatever it is, it’s all about him.
What do you think he reads first in the morning: His national-security briefing or Page Six?
I’d wager that Trump could list at least three times as many cable-news commentators as world leaders. He is much better versed in CNN’s lineup than in NATO’s.
Doesn’t need the media? He is the media, a former contract employee at NBC with a sideline in casinos. He was born to conduct Twitter feuds with second-tier cable-television hosts. Figuring out health-care policy?
Nobody watches that.