By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – The man just cannot help it.
President Donald Trump’s escalation of his childish feud with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” demonstrates – once again – that the current leader of the free world has all the emotional maturity and discipline of a two-year-old crack addict. This president can’t control his temper or rein in his ego, even when his actions are damaging him, his party and his country.
Trump erupted Thursday morning via, as usual, Twitter:
“I heard poorly rated @Morning Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”
The reaction to Trump’s Twitter storm was immediate and fierce – even from Republicans.
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said: “Obviously, I don’t see that as an appropriate comment.”
U.S. Sen Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine – whose votes Republicans desperately need if they want to pass their replacement for the Affordable Care Act – took a harder edge.
Sasse tweeted: “Please just stop. This isn’t normal and it’s beneath the dignity of your office.”
Collins, if anything, was more forceful: “This has to stop – we all have a job – 3 branches of gov’t and media. We don’t have to get along, but we must show respect and civility.”
Other Republicans, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said Trump was demeaning his office and said his actions were what was wrong with American politics.
All of this is true, but not likely to make much difference.
This president clearly suffers from some sort of compulsion. He lacks the self-control to resist any provocation – large or small, real or imagined – even when responding undermines both his and the country’s interests.
Trump may have reminded one interviewer that he was “the president and you’re not,” but it is apparent he has no idea what being president means.
And he has no intention of learning.
I could write at length about the meanness and misogyny in these Tweets and other Trump statements, but that’s not likely to accomplish much. The people who have made their peace with the president’s constant demeaning and degrading of women aren’t likely to see the light now. They condone it, so they own it.
Instead, I’m going to focus on the way Donald Trump’s lack of maturity and restraint are hurting the GOP.
Republicans need to craft and pass some alternative to the Obamacare they have fought, campaigned and railed against for the past seven years. They have come up with two versions of a bill to do so – each of which is less popular with the public than sexually transmitted diseases.
Republicans desperately need to shift the national discussion on health care from the 22 million or 23 million Americans who will lose their coverage if either GOP measure becomes law to the hoped-for deficit reduction the bills might contain. To do that, they need to dominate the national discussion – focus Americans’ attention on health-care reform and pound away with their message.
But they can’t do that because the Tweeter-in-chief in the White House – their own president – throws at least one temper tantrum every 12 hours and draws every eye and ear in the nation his way when he does.
Republicans in the Senate and House literally cannot fight through the noise generated by Trump’s insatiable ego needs.
The sad thing, from a Republican perspective, is that, if anyone could move the national discussion about health care back in their direction, it would be a Donald Trump who stays on message.
I’ve covered politics for a long time and seen some gifted communicators – Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama – occupy the Oval Office. But I never have seen a president who can swallow up the nation’s bandwidth with the ease Trump does. When he stays on message, he’s almost impossible to beat.
The problem is that he seems to have the attention span of a fruit fly, so he can’t stay on message.
That’s what Republicans are going to have to deal with – a president who can’t help them.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.