There is, as we’ve become accustomed to saying around here of late, no precedent for this. It’s a lesson we were reminded of once again this morning as Donald Trump, of the Washington D.C. Trumps, directed the belching firehose of his pique at the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe in a series of tweets that have drawn rebuke from all corners, including, at least relatively speaking, members of his own party.
“I heard poorly rated @MorningJoe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore),” he tweeted. “Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”
I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
There’s no recent precedent for any of this at any rate. An article from The Atlantic that bubbled into my feed just now gives us at least one point of reference.
“Insincere as well as stubborn, cunning as well as unreasonable, vain as well as ill-tempered, greedy of popularity as well as arbitrary in disposition, veering in his mind as well as fixed in his will, he unites in his character the seemingly opposite qualities of demagogue and autocrat, and converts the Presidential chair into a stump or a throne, according as the impulse seizes him to cajole or to command.”
They were talking about Andrew Johnson, in 1866, but it has a certain resonance to it doesn’t it?
They went on: “Egotistic to the point of mental disease, he resented the direct and manly opposition of statesmen to his opinions and moods as a personal affront, and descended to the last degree of littleness in a political leader, — that of betraying his party, in order to gratify his spite.”
This is not just a detour into amusing historic symmetry, there’s also something of le affaire de Mika in that last part. The MSNBC hosts have made frequent sport of the president’s mental health, something one wonders why more people aren’t doing more regularly, and Trump is, of course, betraying his party by instigating pointless fights in a week when they’re trying their damnedest to abscond into the night with sackfuls of old people’s medicine. So a better question to ask might be why they aren’t yet betraying him? Even grading on a curve, this one was a loser.
Consider this: There’s a usually reliable Twitter metric, known as the Ratio, which, in brief, means that when you get more replies to a tweet than likes, you screwed up. This is the first Ratio-ready tweet in Trump’s entire time in office. With his army of supporters that’s almost impossible to pull off. He finally, after all he’s said and done, seems to have crossed a line with this sexist attack on a member of the media. So who’ll be the ones to do something about it? Members of his own party are surely horrified, right?
“Obviously, I don’t see that as an appropriate comment,” House speaker Paul Ryan, said earlier today of the caustic tweets. Brave stuff.
Paul Ryan on Trump’s tweets: Not appropriate pic.twitter.com/LuZoLjopyp— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) June 29, 2017
Senator Susan Collins of Maine — who Trump would do well to keep in his good graces if he’d like to see this health care plan actually pass—was relatively critical. “This has to stop – we all have a job – 3 branches of gov’t and media,” she tweeted. “We don’t have to get along, but we must show respect and civility.”
This has to stop – we all have a job – 3 branches of gov’t and media. We don’t have to get along, but we must show respect and civility.— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) June 29, 2017
Lindsey Graham, who drags out his stern face for Trump from time to time when it suits his purpose, was similarly aggrieved. “Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.”
Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) June 29, 2017
Perhaps more surprisingly, Fox News’ Brit Hume reached across the aisle to showcase his umbrage.
Please explain how the president of the United States can be “bullied” by the hosts of what he says it is a low-rated cable TV show? Absurd. https://t.co/3EB9XMKUgY— Brit Hume (@brithume) June 29, 2017
Others, like Illinois Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger and Florida Republican congressman Carlos Curbelo put out statements gently chiding the president to return to “civility.”
None of them, however mentioned anything about their plans to continue to vote along party lines or supporting the president’s nominations going forward. None mentioned speaking to the president directly and explaining to him why he is out of line here, like he has been so many times in the past.
That tweet Hume was responding to summarized the White House’s talking points. President Trump, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said earlier today, is the real victim here. Is it any wonder that he would lash out?
The American people elected a fighter,” she said. “They didn’t elect someone to sit back and do nothing. They knew what they were doing when they voted for Donald Trump and he won overwhelmingly.”
The office of the First Lady stood by the president as well. “[W]hen her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder,“ her spokesperson said.
Republicans, for now, are outraged by Trump’s tweet this morning, as they have been about others in the past. This will nonetheless be a blip that will pass, and then it’s back to business as usual. And it’s all because Trump, like Johnson before him, is a means to an end when it comes to their horrific agenda.
The Atlantic went on:
“He of course became the prey of intriguers and sycophants, — of persons who understand the art of managing minds which are at once arbitrary and weak, by allowing them to retain unity of will amid the most palpable inconsistencies of opinion, so that inconstancy to principle shall not weaken force of purpose, nor the emphasis be at all abated with which they may bless to-day what yesterday they cursed. Thus the abhorrer of traitors has now become their tool.”