Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He gave a commencement address to the United States Coast Guard Academy.

Trump's speech to the graduates of the USCGA was a study in contrast with the speech he gave four days earlier at Liberty University's graduation ceremony. At Liberty, Trump read carefully from a prepared text, sticking with traditional commencement themes and mostly avoiding politics. His only sign of improvisation came in a lighthearted moment when he suggested that the school's football team might be overmatched against by its scheduled 2017 opponents. While not beyond comment, the Liberty address was characteristic of a weekend that now seems, as the Atlantic put it today, "eerily quiet."

By contrast, his speech today was markedly more political and at times openly self-pitying. Portions of the speech, full of boasts about his supposed accomplishments and the billionaire's unique brand of populism, could have been taken from his still-ongoing campaign rallies: "I got elected to serve the forgotten men and women and that’s what I'm doing... I've accomplished a tremendous amount in a very short time at president." Trump seemed to struggle to deliver the usual graduation platitudes in his prepared text, like "you will find things are not always fair," without ad-libbing to draw attention back to himself. He followed that line by declaring that "no politician in history, and I say with surety, has been treated worse, more unfairly” than Trump himself.

Trump's assessment of how unfairly he was treated came before the announcement that former FBI Director Robert Mueller had been appointed as a special prosecutor to investigate coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government's interference in the election.

Why is this a problem?

  • It's one kind of problem if the President of the United States thinks he is a persecuted martyr.
  • It's another kind of problem if the President of the United States believes he is history's greatest and most unfairly persecuted martyr.
  • Not every crowd Trump sees is there to hear him campaign.