The vain hope of Donald Trump “becoming presidential” is by now not only a punch line, but a stale one. Yet Trump still awakes each day as commander in chief. This week has shown the dramatic problems caused by Trump’s confusion of his public roles as president of the United States and as a candidate and the leader of the Republican Party.
Trump’s response to an attempt to bomb a series of Democratic politicians and Trump critics shows the confusion plainly. Since Tuesday evening, when the first suspicious package was discovered at the home of the liberal donor George Soros, Trump has vacillated between relatively staid comments and outrageous provocations. The head-spinning reversals are reminiscent of the mixture of condemnation and commiseration he offered white supremacists after a march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.
“In these times, we have to unify,” Trump said Wednesday afternoon. “We have to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.”
Yet the very same evening, the president blamed critical press coverage for creating an atmosphere that led to the attacks. He was just warming up. Thursday morning, he tweeted, “A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News. It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!” By Friday morning, he was evidently espousing the view, wafting from fetid far-right fever swamps, that the attacks were a false-flag operation designed to hurt the Republican Party.