Donald Trump is a devoted sloganeer, from “You’re fired” to “Make America great again.” But slogans grow tired and lose their oomph with time and repetition, which means it’s important to keep refreshing and replacing them.
Enter “presidential harassment.”
On Thursday, with the government shutdown in its 13th day, with no sign of abating, and the new Democratic majority taking over the House, the president tweeted this:
The Shutdown is only because of the 2020 Presidential Election. The Democrats know they can’t win based on all of the achievements of “Trump,” so they are going all out on the desperately needed Wall and Border Security - and Presidential Harassment. For them, strictly politics!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2019
There is, as they say, a lot going on here. Trump is probably not wrong to suggest a 2020 connection. Democrats are staunchly opposed to the wall as a waste of money, but they also want to deprive him of a victory on a key campaign promise, undermining his reelection hopes. (There’s a lot of politics in this shutdown fight for Trump, too, of course—he was signaling a willingness to compromise until he was assailed by right-wing media figures.) And who knows what the scare quotes around Trump’s name are meant to be? (Maybe there’s a weird Dave-style switch just waiting to be discovered?)
But it’s that simple phrase, “presidential harassment,” that jumps out. This is the eighth time he’s employed it, according to factba.se, with uses coming more frequently of late. The nascent rise of the phrase is an indication that Trump feels newly embattled, but it also underscores the way he tries to construe any criticism of himself as illegitimate.