But Mulvaney’s comments weren’t just more revealing than he intended about the specifics of the Ukraine scandal. They also distilled the guiding mantra of the Trump administration. Others have tried to coin their own phrases (one senior administration official tried to make “We’re America, bitch” happen, and failed), but the real Trump doctrine is “Get over it.”
The administration is forcing foreign governments into quid pro quos in order to assist Trump’s political prospects? Get over it.
It’s using the power of the presidency to financially benefit the president and his company? Get over it.
It obstructed justice and has announced its intention to do so again? Get over it.
It circumvented Congress’s power of the purse to begin construction of a border wall? Get over it.
It separated children from families at the border, locking them in inhumane conditions? Get over it.
The president is evading Senate confirmation by naming “acting” officials to top posts? Get over it.
Russia hacked the 2016 election? Get over it.
David A. Graham: The scandal has spiraled out of Trump’s control
At the heart of this Trump doctrine is the presumption that any criticisms of the president are born of bad faith, the result of Democrats (and perhaps some like-minded Republicans) who have never gotten over the fact that Trump won the presidency. Their objections to Trump’s behavior must be sour grapes, not substantive; they need to, at long last, accept the results of the 2016 election. Trump himself talks about the election constantly, reveling in the memory, even in stump speeches during the 2018 midterms and now in the 2020 presidential cycle.
There is a kernel of truth here: Many of Trump’s opponents really haven’t gotten over the 2016 results, and many are quick to call his presidency illegitimate. This does not, however, render substantive objections to his decision on policy and legal grounds void, nor does Trump’s win mandate that Americans treat him with deference and loyalty.
Trump is not the first president to try to argue that his election meant he ought to get his way. When, in January 2009, Republicans challenged Barack Obama’s stimulus plan, the new president glibly replied, “I won.” But Obama soon learned it didn’t work that way. Constrained by Republicans and by the law, he couldn’t simply muscle his way through.
At times, Obama did test the bounds of legality. Having said that he couldn’t unilaterally grant “Dreamers” status to stay in the United States, he then turned around and did so. But more often, he tried to defend his moves on their substantive merits and persuade the public to back him—and he often failed, as he bitterly acknowledged.
Read: Barack Obama blames the messenger
The Trump administration doesn’t bother with persuasion. Confronted with the lack of precedents for his behavior, the president and his aides shrug. Mulvaney could have argued that previous commanders in chief have done just what Trump did. (Trump himself has argued he is acting the same way Joe Biden did as vice president, but the analogy doesn’t hold up.) He could have tried to offer a partial walk-back, arguing that honest mistakes were made. Instead, he said everyone should get over it.