Donald Trump is aware of the fact that many believe he just sits around the White House watching far too much television, which is why it seemed oddly perfect when we recently learned that the president likes to tell his visitors that Barack Obama spent too much time in the White House watching television.
One of the Republican’s go-to moves is projection: Trump identifies his faults, and as a defense mechanism, he projects those faults onto his perceived foes.
This week, however, the current president seems to have taken his fondness for projection to a new level.
* Sunday, March 3: After House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) raised the prospect of Trump running afoul of the law, Trump tweeted that Schiff may have run afoul of the law.
* Tuesday, March 5: Accused of obstructing justice, Trump said via Twitter that Democrats “are obstructing justice.”
There’s nothing in reality to suggest Democrats obstructed justice – the allegation is effectively gibberish – but the president has a knee-jerk reaction to most allegations. If he’s accused of something, Trump reflexively concludes his perceived enemies are guilty of that exact offense.
It’s unsettling just how often this comes up.
Take the Russia scandal, for example. Confronted with allegations that his political operation colluded with Russian attackers, Trump said Democrats colluded with Russia. Told that the Kremlin supported his candidacy, Trump responded by saying Russia supported Democrats. Accused of being a manipulated pawn for Vladimir Putin, Trump accused Barack Obama of being Putin’s “patsy.”
As we discussed last summer, like an intemperate child, his I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I instincts are finely tuned after extensive practice.
Look no further than the 2016 campaign: whenever Hillary Clinton would criticize Trump, it was a near certainty that Trump would then made the identical accusation against Clinton. After a while, as regular readers may recall, this got a little creepy.
Clinton accused Trump of being unstable and reckless, so Trump said Clinton is “unstable” and “reckless.” Clinton said Trump mistreated women, so Trump said Clinton mistreated women. Clinton accused Trump of bigotry, so Trump said Clinton’s a “bigot.” Clinton questioned Trump’s temperament, so Trump said Clinton had a bad “temperament.” Clinton said Trump makes a poor role model for children, so Trump said Clinton sets “a terrible example for my son and the children in this country.”
And, of course, Clinton accused Trump of being a “puppet” for his allies in Moscow during a 2016 debate. Trump, showing all of the sophistication of a slow toddler, responded, “No puppet. No puppet. You’re the puppet. No, you’re the puppet.”
This tactic may help Trump feel better, but he could use some fresh material.