Imagine growing up heir to a fortune in New York City, attending an Ivy League university, marrying a series of models, getting paid millions of dollars to host a reality-TV show, getting elected president … and then constantly casting yourself as a victim.
That apparent compulsion is defining Donald Trump’s presidency.
Scarcely a week goes by without Trump whining that he has been mistreated by the media, a political rival, a TV personality, or a legislator. He is John McEnroe; the presidency is his U.S. Open. We are the crowd, transfixed in spite of ourselves by unnerving tantrums, which betray the fact that he is too volatile and too weak to master himself.
His victim mentality is deepening along with Robert Mueller’s probe.
Last year, Trump chose to hire Paul Manafort, an obviously unethical abettor of foreign interests with connections to the Kremlin, to lead his presidential campaign. Later he chose to fire FBI Director James Comey, then to tell Russian dignitaries that doing so eased pressure on an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The whole episode was an almost farcical own-goal.
Yet this week, as the FBI was preparing to hand down a criminal indictment of his former campaign manager, Trump was tweeting that he is being subjected to a “witch hunt,” as if he bears no responsibility for staffing his campaign with multiple people who reached out to Russian contacts, then brazenly lied about those interactions.
Even his own son bears some responsibility for the suspicion of collusion.
Still, his apologists validate his victim mentality. Take Rush Limbaugh’s most recent effort to bolster the Trump-as-victim narrative, offered Monday as Manafort was indicted:
They had learned, the Democrats in the media had learned that standard dirty tricks did not work on Trump, such as the Access Hollywood video.
The things that have always worked from the media and the Democrat Party playbook to take out Republican candidates or Republican elected officials had not worked on Trump. They fired every weapon they had. They’d used as much ammo as they could muster to get rid of Trump in the traditional Democrat, drive-by-media, dirty-tricks technique. But none of it stuck. None of it worked.They could not dent Trump’s bond with his voters. And there were enough of them, of course, to elect him president.
So they decided that they had to go outside the appearance of politics-as-usual. And what better way than to purchase and construct and write an intelligence document that was sourced by people in the Russian government and MI6.
What’s most striking about that passage isn’t the attempt to discredit the dossier produced by Christopher Steele. It’s the characterization of the Access Hollywood tape as a “standard dirty trick” of media Democrats—as if anyone other than Trump himself is to blame for donning a lapel mic, getting on an NBC bus with Billy Bush, and telling him, “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
If you’re a Rush Limbaugh listener, you know that the talk-radio host would’ve immediately aired and then exalted in audio of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama making those same statements, and that you’d regard his doing so as obviously fair game. Whether one thinks those comments suggest the many women accusing Trump of sexual improprieties are telling the truth (Trump predictably maintains that all 16 of them are victimizing him with lies), or that the comments are hyperbolic “locker-room talk,” the claim that it’s a “dirty trick” to play a recording of Trump talking is nonsense.
Meanwhile, another Trump apologist managed to cast Don Jr. as the victim even as he lied about a meeting that he held with a Russian promising dirt on Hillary Clinton:
Do these people ever hold their allies responsible for anything?
And at its most extreme, the impulse among Trumpists to portray themselves as victims inspired the deplorable act of creating a protest sign that said “Rape Melania” to create the false impression that opponents of the president were saying that.
All of this is doing damage to the country.
Hate hoaxes are always wrong. America looks weak when its president and his apologists are constantly portraying themselves as victims. Children are ill-served by their example. And the military is mistreated when the president keeps passing the buck to generals when Americans are killed abroad. For all of those reasons and more, Trump’s supporters should stop tolerating this ongoing victim mentality:
"Clinton campaign & DNC paid for research that led to the anti-Trump Fake News Dossier. The victim here is the President." @FoxNews— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 25, 2017
Trump voters were promised a winner who would “drain the swamp” and make America great again. What they’ve gotten instead is a serial failure who never confronts or addresses his own failings, and will therefore never remedy or overcome those failings.
“Take your life in your own hands, and what happens?” Erica Jong wrote. “A terrible thing: no one to blame.” So expect more “blame, finger-pointing, and pity parties fueled by pessimism, fear, and anger.” And wonder not that just 33 percent of Americans tell Gallup they approve of Trump’s erratic, victimhood presidency. His disordered behavior will keep on harming the country for the duration of his tenure.