Yesterday morning, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Donald Trump, urging the president to designate a senior military official to oversee a new mission: producing and distributing critical medical equipment. The senator's critique was forceful but fair.
"The existing federal leadership void has left America with an ugly spectacle in which States and cities are literally fending for themselves, often in conflict and competition with each other, when trying to procure precious medical supplies and equipment," Schumer wrote. "The only way we will fix our PPE and ventilator shortage is with a data-driven, organized and robust plan from the federal government. Anything short of that will inevitably mean this problem will remain unsolved and prolong this crisis."
Trump could've taken Schumer's advice. He also could've ignored the correspondence. But instead the president decided to write a letter of his own. It began:
"Thank you for your Democrat public relations letter and incorrect sound bites, which are wrong in every way."
Trump's letter went on to defend his administration's response to the coronavirus crisis, complain about impeachment, brag about public-opinion polls, talk up the prospects of Schumer facing a primary challenge in 2022, and reflect on "how bad a senator you are." (Given Trump's track record, the grammatical choices suggested the president had a hand in writing the letter himself.)
Soon after, the president appeared in the White House press briefing room, where he declared, "This is not the time for politics." No, of course not. Heaven forbid. It is, however, apparently the time to reflect on impeachment and a possible Senate primary in New York two years from now.
In case this wasn't quite odd enough, Schumer's office reached out to journalists last night, explaining that the Senate Democratic leader spoke with Trump twice yesterday, and during the second call, after clarifying exactly what he expected from the White House, "the president said he was already in the process of sending a 'very nasty letter' to Sen. Schumer, but he would try to stop it from going out and would apologize to Sen. Schumer if he didn't stop it in time."
Trump's letter was nevertheless soon after posted to the White House website.
Schumer spoke to MSNBC's Chris Hayes last night and said he was "appalled" at the president's missive. The senator added that Trump needs to "stop the pettiness" because "people are dying."
But pettiness appears to be one of the few things Trump cherishes. He's focused on the television ratings for his press briefings. He's talking up his numbers on Facebook. He's demanding that governors show him "appreciation," while suggesting his personal grievances are influencing his policy decision-making.
It may be bizarre, but it's also a reflection of who Trump seems to be.
And while none of this is especially surprising, what I find amazing is that the president manages to find the time. Not to put too fine a point on this, but shouldn't Trump be overwhelmingly busy right now? Far too busy to be focusing on television ratings, Facebook numbers, and Schumer's electoral prospects?