When leaders are under pressure, the nature of their character comes to the fore. Are they made of sterner stuff? Do they wilt in the heat? Do they have the capacity to persevere in the face of adversity?
Americans are getting a good look at what Donald Trump is made of. The emerging picture is one of a man who doesn’t appreciate getting caught, and who’s ill-equipped to handle the pressures of a job he’s never fully understood.
Aaron Blake’s assessment yesterday afternoon rang true:
The idea that President Trump has finally gone over the edge is an overwrought journalistic genre. Oftentimes, people simply forget all that has come before when they declare him to be particularly unwieldy or off the rails at a particular moment. And his opponents are far too anxious to find examples of Trump finally reaching a threshold that suggests he has completely thrown caution to the wind and may be just giving up.
All of that said, it has been some week for Trump – even by his standards.
Yesterday, in particular, was a difficult day for the flailing president. It began with a series of hysterical tweets, one of which included all-caps profanity.
It was soon followed by an Oval Office appearance alongside Sauli Niinisto, the president of Finland, who appeared stoic as Trump accused a congressional leader of treason, pointed to alleged spies in the White House, and labeled his country’s journalists “truly the enemy of the people.”
The Republican also whined at great length about the Washington Post while responding to an article he didn’t like in the New York Times. He was, by all appearances, confused.
Two hours later, Trump and Niinisto held a press conference in which Trump appeared to completely unravel, offering what one reporter described as “a roller coaster display of the grievances, victimhood, falsehoods and braggadocio.”
At one point, Jeff Mason of Reuters asked, “Mr. President, can you just make clear, right here: What do you or what did you want President Zelensky to do with regard to Joe and Hunter Biden?”
When Trump refused to answer directly, Mason pressed on, again and again, offering the American president the chance to answer. The Republican visibly struggled to keep his emotions in check – and never got around to answering Mason’s straightforward question.
What struck me as amazing wasn’t just Trump’s unraveling, but also the larger context: the scandal that’s likely to lead to his impeachment is barely two weeks old. New revelations come to the fore practically every day, and each do more damage to the president, his standing, and his credibility.
If Trump is melting down now, what will his emotional state be like a month from now?
The Republican added yesterday, “There are those that think I’m a very stable genius.” At this rate, those unnamed observers will soon have to change their minds.