The president’s praise for a congressman who assaulted a reporter is an act of desperation by a man contemplating the potential consequences of defeat at the polls.
President Donald Trump is never more comfortable than when attacking those who cannot respond in kind. Whether rocketing to victory in the Republican presidential primary by scapegoating religious and ethnic minorities who lacked sufficient representation in the GOP to impose a political price, attacking survivors of sexual assault, smearing refugees, separating immigrant children from their parents, or denying the suffering of disenfranchised Puerto Ricans killed or displaced by Hurricane Maria, Trump has always reveled in cruelty against the weak or vulnerable.
At a rally in Montana on Thursday, Trump celebrated Representative Greg Gianforte’s 2017 assault on the Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs, even as the White House labored to arrive at a mutually agreeable fiction to cover up the murder of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia. Having struggled to assist a longtime U.S. ally (and, for Trump, a valued source of business) in tamping down the outrage over the reported torture and dismemberment of a journalist for criticism of a repressive government, the president of the United States took some time to make clear to both his domestic opponents and would-be despots abroad that he approves of political violence against journalists.