Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., stands on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., in between television interviews on Feb. 14, 2015.
Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty

On MLK weekend, Trump picks fight with civil-rights hero John Lewis

The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/13/17, 9:00 PM ET

Congressman Lewis: I don't see Trump as a 'legitimate president'

Rachel Maddow reports on how the uproar over the entanglements between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have only increased, and shares Meet The Press video of Congressman John Lewis citing Russia’s interference as a delegitimizing factor for the Trump…
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a legendary champion of civil rights and a celebrated public servant, sat down with NBC News’ Chuck Todd late last week and said what many Democrats believe, but have been reluctant to say.

“I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president,” Lewis said. Explaining that he intends to boycott Donald Trump’s inauguration this week, the Georgia Democrat added, “It will be the first one that I miss since I’ve been in Congress. You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong, is not right.” Lewis pointed to Russia’s illegal intervention in the election on Trump’s behalf as reason to question the Republican’s legitimacy.

The smart move for the president-elect would’ve been to simply say nothing and to continue to prepare for his inauguration. But as is too often the case, Donald Trump just couldn’t help himself, turning to Twitter on Saturday morning to once again lash out against someone who dared to criticize him.
“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!”
So let me get this straight. On Martin Luther King Day weekend, Donald J. Trump, just six days from his inauguration, thought it’d be wise to feud with one of the most honorable and respected Americans alive.

Against a backdrop of widespread concerns about his judgment, the president-elect just made matters far worse.

There’s no shortage of angles to a story like this, but perhaps it’s best to package them into a series of questions Team Trump might want to answer:

* When Trump says John Lewis is a man of “no action or results,” does he understand the scope of Lewis’ legacy?

* When Trump condemns Lewis’ Atlanta congressional district as being “horrible” and “crime-infested,” does he realize that these descriptions in no way reflect reality? Did the president-elect make assumptions about the district because of Lewis’ race?

* Can Trump explain why he shows far more respect towards Vladimir Putin than he does John Lewis?

* How does Trump feel about his criticism causing a dramatic boost to John Lewis’ book sales?

Aside from these relevant details, broader concerns about the president-elect’s temperament, discipline, and capacity for self-control are intensifying. In this case, he heard John Lewis question his presidency’s legitimacy, so he lashed out instinctively and wildly, without any meaningful forethought. It’s become his signature move: Meryl Streep said something critical? Attack. Vanity Fair gave one of his restaurants a bad review? Attack. “Saturday Night Live” hurt his feelings? Attack.

He simply can’t help himself. Trump’s ego just cannot handle criticism, no matter how mild or legitimate, so his self-destructive instincts override his judgment. These qualities, which were quite evident ahead of Election Day, appear to be getting worse as Trump’s presidency draws closer.

I don’t expect Trump to mature any time soon, but for his sake and ours, I hope that he at least learns to pace himself. The president – every president – is one of the most criticized people on the planet. It’s effectively in the job description. The person in the Oval Office can either accept – and possibly even learn from – the criticisms or he/she can be consumed by detractors.

Trump already appears determined to pursue the latter course.

In an interview that aired last night, President Obama told “60 Minutes” that having “thick skin helps.” It’s an important point, which Trump appears unable to benefit from.

Donald Trump and John Lewis

On MLK weekend, Trump picks fight with civil-rights hero John Lewis