One of the open secrets of Donald Trump’s success in the 2016 presidential campaign was his ability to grab attention—and, accordingly, deflect it from his adversaries—by making outrageous comments. Sure, there would sometimes be backlash to things he said, but he could always deflect that with another comment. Whether this reflected a planned strategy or an intuitive feel for controlling the media remains debated, but his success was inarguable.
This pattern continued into the early days of Trump’s presidency. He would say something outrageous or surprising, markets would react with sudden swings, and the press would scramble to explain and contextualize the latest violation of longstanding norms. In February 2018, when Trump suggested that House Democrats had committed “treason” by failing to cheer during his State of the Union address, there was a frantic reaction, as observers pointed out—accurately—that this was the sort of thing that authoritarian rulers did.
By mid-May, however, when Trump tweeted his latest, similarly bogus accusation of treason, it barely registered in the news cycle:
My Campaign for President was conclusively spied on. Nothing like this has ever happened in American Politics. A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 17, 2019
During his current trip to the United Kingdom, Trump already has had two similar incidents. First, he has rekindled his feud with London Mayor Sadiq Khan. In summer 2017, this was shocking; these days, it’s about as interesting as his feud with Rosie O’Donnell.