President Donald Trump holds a chart as he talks with reporters after receiving a briefing on Hurricane Dorian in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, in Washington.
Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Even as a hurricane nears, Trump won’t focus on governing

Updated

The Rachel Maddow Show, 9/4/19, 9:00 PM ET

Trump lies about storm harder to ignore than his usual nonsense

Rachel Maddow looks at a recent string of particularly bald-faced lies by Donald Trump, capped by an adamant insistence on a falsehood about the forecast of Hurricane Dorian that is particularly pernicious since the deadly emergency nature of the storm
Over Labor Day weekend, a deadly hurricane neared the nation’s southeast coast, while wreaking havoc in the Bahamas. Donald Trump published a variety of storm-related tweets – including, in one instance, warning a state that wasn’t in danger – but he also made clear just how divided his attention was.

Was the president focused on the latest mass shooting? Not exactly. He actually aired a Festivus-like airing of grievances, complaining about Debra Messing, AFL–CIO President Richard Trumka, four progressive congresswomen of color, news organizations., and former FBI Director James Comey. At one point, Trump even suggested Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts should investigate Comey, once again reminding the public that Trump doesn’t know what Supreme Court justices do.

The president also canceled a scheduled visit to Poland and went golfing.

Perhaps Trump would become more focused as the holiday passed, the week progressed, and the threat of the hurricane grew more acute? I’m afraid not. On the heels of yesterday afternoon’s hurricane-map fiasco, Trump published a fresh round of tweets this morning about Alabama having been in Hurricane Dorian’s path – simply admitting he was wrong several days ago apparently wasn’t an option – before turning his attention to an actress the president apparently doesn’t like.

President Donald Trump on Thursday amplified accusations of McCarthyism leveled at actress Debra Messing after the “Will & Grace” star made a public plea for a list of Trump donors in Hollywood and disparaged black Trump voters.

“Bad ‘actress’ Debra The Mess Messing is in hot water,” Trump wrote in a pair of tweets, claiming that Messing wanted to create a “ ‘Blacklist’ of Trump supporters, & is being accused of McCarthyism.”

NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin raised a point this morning that resonated with me: “It used to be partisans would scour press reports for any stray detail that offered even a hint a president was less than focused on a hurricane, now the president just tweets for multiple days about Debra Messing and weather charts and golfs and that’s just kinda how it is.”

There are a variety of pillars that help define the Trump presidency – corruption, incompetence, uncontrollable dishonesty, et al. – but we’re occasionally reminded of my personal favorite: the man simply does not care about governance. No matter the circumstances, no matter the venue, no matter the severity of the threat, Donald Trump isn’t especially interested in doing the job.

He wants to be president, but he doesn’t want to be burdened with presidential tasks.

There were some hints along these lines before the Republican’s election. In May 2016, for example, then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, sat down with the Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman and the two discussed the search for a running mate and the kind of person Trump was looking for.

“He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do,” Manafort said. “He sees himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”

As we discussed at the time, it was a surprising acknowledgement. Trump had already spent months leaving no doubt that he didn’t care about public policy or even how government works, and the question was how long it would take for the Republican to take a more constructive interest in day-to-day governance – i.e., the parts of the job Trump “doesn’t want to do.”

The answer, we now know, is never.