The media are back in the business of reporting on Donald Trump’s mood.
This has become a staple of White House coverage. The president is regularly reported to be livid, fuming, frustrated, upset, unhinged or paranoid, depending on the latest developments and how they’re playing in the press.
Now sometimes this is legitimate, given Trump’s tendency of lashing out at those around him. But I don’t recall regular updates on whether Barack Obama was mad or George W. Bush was ticked off and so on. (Yes, I know, Trump is a very different president.)
He has, by any measure, had a rough few weeks.
Paul Manafort, his onetime campaign chairman, pled guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, after Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, did the same.
Omarosa, his erstwhile friend, wrote a book trashing him.
The Bob Woodward book portrayed senior officials as actively working to undermine a president they viewed as uninformed and erratic. That message was driven home by the unnamed official who vented about Trump in the New York Times. (I guess Anonymous got away with it, since the piece has faded and no manhunt is under way.)
And Trump was feeling satisfied as Brett Kavanaugh was on the verge of Senate confirmation — only to have the nomination thrown into turmoil by Christine Blasey Ford’s last-minute accusations.
Now the media could argue that the president has been unusually disciplined this week (and a few journalists have noted this). Rather than going off script, rather than attacking Ford, Trump has repeatedly said she should be heard and he hopes that she testifies. He has defended Kavanaugh, said he has a hard time believing the allegations and ripped the Democrats for their handling of the matter, but hasn’t posted any incendiary tweets.
But that has been overshadowed by his latest swipes at Jeff Sessions. In an interview with Hill TV, Trump said Sessions had been “mixed up and confused” during his confirmation hearings, adding: “I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad.”
Trump later told reporters that he has an AG (of course he does, literally) but is disappointed in Sessions — as he has been since the former senator recused himself from the Russia investigation. What Trump really meant with his earlier comment is that he doesn’t have an attorney general who will watch his back, which is not the job of the nation’s top law-enforcement official.
The Washington Post describes this as “a raw expression of vulnerability and anger from a president who associates say increasingly believes he is unprotected” — including “the Russia investigation steamrolling ahead, anonymous administration officials seeking to undermine him and the specter of impeachment proceedings, should the Democrats retake the House.”
I’m not so sure about the last point, but it’s certainly a concern within the White House.
More from the Post: “The president, as well as family members and longtime loyalists, fret about whom in the administration they can trust, people close to them said.” On that score, can you really blame them?
I’ve got to throw in a great quote from Steve Bannon, who says Trump is right to feel vulnerable.
“The Woodward book is the typed-up meeting notes from ‘The Committee to Save America.’ The anonymous op-ed is the declaration of an administrative coup by the Republican establishment.”
Perhaps Trump is seething over these betrayals and setbacks. We can argue over how much responsibility he bears for some of the messes. But it’s hardly shocking if he’s angry about being secretly taped, leaked upon, and faced with defecting loyalists and a last-minute roadblock for his Supreme Court nominee.