Friday, November 24, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He felt compelled to make sure everyone knew the reason he's not going to be Time's "Person of the Year" is not that he's a loser.

Trump made an odd claim on Twitter this afternoon: that Time Magazine had contacted him to reassure him that he was likely to be named Person of the Year again, but that this would be contingent on doing an interview. "I said probably is no good and took a pass," Trump claimed.

Perhaps because he "won" it last year, Trump seems to think that this is an unambiguously positive honor. In fact the "award" has frequently gone to dictators like Stalin and Hitler, or to inanimate objects, or even abstract concepts. Trump is a perennial favorite in his own mind and has lashed out before when the "honor" was denied him. He's even gone so far as to post fake Time covers at his golf clubs, lavishing praise on the "television smash" he hosted during his days as reality-TV host.

There are a few possible interpretations of this, none of them especially flattering to Trump. The first is that he is lying outright. The most likely reason for that would be that Trump felt the need to "explain away" why a man with as many superlative qualities as he believes himself to have lost to anyone--ever.

A second possibility, also part of the known Trump psychological profile, is that he had some kind of conversation with a Time reporter about the Person of the Year and simply chose to interpret anything that was said as an assurance that he would "win." In the motivational-speaker phase of his career, Trump was an advocate of what he would call "truthful hyperbole" (and what most people would simply call lying) and rarely misses a chance to practice it on himself.

Lastly, it may simply be that Trump is worried that he would be named Person of the Year, and is trying to preemptively avoid a situation where he'd have to do an interview with Time. Last year's writeup was respectful of the forces that put Trump in office, but was hardly flattering to Trump himself. It labeled him a demagogue, called attention to his raft of ethics problems, and highlighted his extraordinary popularity among neo-Nazis. It summed up his "win" this way: 

For reminding America that demagoguery feeds on despair and that truth is only as powerful as the trust in those who speak it, for empowering a hidden electorate by mainstreaming its furies and live-streaming its fears, and for framing tomorrow’s political culture by demolishing yesterday’s, Donald Trump is TIME’s 2016 Person of the Year.
So far, Time has only commented to say that Trump was "incorrect" about how the process worked.

Why is this a problem?

  • The President of the United States has more important things to worry about than this.
  • It's bad if the president is afraid of the press.