Donald Trump offered his definition of “leadership” in a tweet in 2013: “Whatever happens, you’re responsible. If it doesn’t happen, you’re responsible.” The future president liked this so much, he ended up publishing the same phrase four times over the course of a couple of years.
In fact, before reaching the White House, the New York Republican had all kinds of thoughts about the importance of people in positions of authority taking responsibility. In a 2012 tweet complaining about Barack Obama – one of many such missives – Trump wrote, “Obama’s complaints about Republicans stopping his agenda are BS since he had full control for two years. He can never take responsibility.”
When Trump entered politics, he signaled to voters that his approach wouldn’t change. In his infamous 2016 convention speech, the then-candidate declared, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”
And yet, as it turns out, his posture seems quite different now that he’s in office. Take this morning, for example.
Q: Does the buck stop with you over this shutdown?
TRUMP: The buck stops with everybody.
Remember, it was just last month when the president – on camera, for all the world to see – told Democratic leaders, “I am proud to shut down the government for border security…. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it…. I will take the mantle of shutting down.”
Now, however, the “buck stops with everybody.”
It’d be less ridiculous if it weren’t part of a pattern in which Trump seems to have a responsibility allergy.
As regular readers may recall, one of the earliest controversies of Trump’s presidency came after he authorized a mission in Yemen, which claimed the life of Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens. The president couldn’t have dealt with the developments in a worse way.
“This was something that was, you know, just, they wanted to do,” the president said, referring to U.S. generals. “They came to see me they explained what they wanted to do, the generals … and they lost Ryan.”
Several months later, with most of his legislative agenda having gone nowhere, Trump said during a cabinet meeting, “I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest. [Senate Republicans] are not getting the job done…. We’ve had other things happen, and they’re not getting the job done.”
Around the same time, the president resisted even acknowledging the deaths of four U.S. Army Special Operations soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger. Eventually, Trump commented on the Americans’ deaths – but only to make clear that he didn’t authorize the mission.
With this president, the buck never stops with him.