Donald Trump wants us to hear him. And hear him. And hear him. This is a man who, as president of the United States, regularly calls into Fox News programs to launch into long and rambling monologues, who has sent as many as 200 tweets and retweets in a single day, and who famously craves the adoring throngs at his rallies.
Yet as much as Trump demands the spotlight, he is obsessed with controlling what it illuminates. When Trump was a private citizen, this tension manifested in numerous and sometimes bizarre ways, including his prolific use of nondisclosure agreements in his business and personal lives, calling journalists under assumed names to plant flattering stories about “Mr. Trump,” and showing up at public events to claim credit for charitable donations he had never made.
When Trump became president, his unceasing need for glowing publicity became considerably more urgent for him, and more dangerous for the rest of us. It became more urgent because the stakes for Trump were both higher and more measurable; he found himself facing daily approval polls, potential (and actual) impeachment, and an eventual reelection contest. And it became much more perilous to the American people for two reasons. First, the secrets that Trump may wish to keep now involve much more than his personal or business affairs. Rather, they could pertain to virtually any aspect of the federal government’s operations, particularly information that might place those operations, or the president himself, in a negative light. Second, Trump—like a kid with a sugar habit and no self-control left alone in a candy store—can now tap the government’s immense resources, including the Department of Justice and the White House Counsel’s Office, to indulge his desires to hide or manipulate information.