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Donald Trump abandons the pretense of dignity

"I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament," Donald Trump boasted last year. There's fresh evidence that his claim was a ridiculous.
US President Donald Trump walks after arriving on Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, April 28, 2017.

As a candidate for the presidency, Donald Trump was eager to boast about a great many things, but he was especially eager to talk about his personal qualities. "I think I have the best temperament or certainly one of the best temperaments of anybody that's ever run for the office of president -- ever," the Republican told an audience in July.

A few months later, during the first presidential debate, Trump declared, in all seriousness, "I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament."

Even at the time, these claims were plainly ridiculous. Donald Trump had proven himself over the course of the race to have the maturity of an intemperate toddler, lashing out wildly at every perceived slight and foe. The Republican's erratic personality was, at times, terrifying in light of the power of the office he sought.

Trump was nevertheless elected, and within days of his inauguration, he maintained a high opinion of his capabilities. "I can be the most presidential person ever, other than possibly the great Abe Lincoln, all right?" he said in his first interview as president. "I can be the most presidential person."

It's against this backdrop that America's classless leader turned to his favorite social-media platform to publish a pair of unusual tweets directed at some of my MSNBC colleagues: "I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"

I was under the mistaken impression that I could no longer be surprised by any of the president's statements. I stand corrected.

The network was unimpressed with the latest in a series of presidential tantrums.

MSNBC responded to President Donald Trump's Twitter tirade Thursday against "Morning Joe" hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski by saying the president is putting personal grudges over the job he was elected to do."It's a sad day for America when the president spends his time bullying, lying and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job," an MSNBC spokesperson Lori Acio said in statement.

A wide variety of members of Congress, including several Republicans, offered similar assessments. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Trump's attack "was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America."

Asked about this at his weekly press conference, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) added, "Obviously, I don't see that as an appropriate comment. Look what we're trying to do around here is improve the tone and civility of the debate, and this obviously doesn't help do that."

The White House, however, doesn't seem to care. Sarah Huckabee Sanders was on Fox News this morning and defended Trump's tantrum, boasting, "This is a president who fights fire with fire and certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by liberal media."

I guess those waiting for a Trump apology shouldn't hold their breath.

It's hard to know or understand the motivation behind presidential messages like the one we saw this morning. Perhaps Trump is trying to distract attention away from the Republicans' woefully unpopular and regressive health care plan. Maybe he thinks online rants help take the focus off his Russia scandal and the reported criminal investigation. Perhaps the pressures of the office are simply proving to be overwhelming.

No matter the circumstances, it matters when the sitting president of the United States adopts an abusive posture towards women. It matters when the leader of a global superpower displays a temperament that raises questions about his ability to do the job.

And it matters when an American leader too often seems incapable of dignity and decency.