Toward the end of his first term, then-President Barack Obama appeared on NBC News' "Meet the Press" and reflected on the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook elementary. "That was the worst day of my presidency," Obama said at the time.
As Donald Trump's first term nears its end, the Republican president spoke to the New York Times yesterday on his tenure and shared a related thought about what he considers his worst days.
His worst moments since taking office, he said, were the day he was impeached, unfairly in his mind, and the night that Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, cast the key vote dooming a Republican effort to revoke President Barack Obama's health care program.
The contrast between the two leaders is instructive. For Obama, the lowest point was confronting the heartbreaking suffering of others. For Trump, the lowest points were his own disappointments.
The Republican really wanted to get away with his illegal extortion scheme, and he really hoped to advance a regressive initiative to take health security from millions of American families. Since both of those efforts fell short, Trump looks back wistfully on those disappointments.
In the same New York Times interview yesterday, Trump acknowledged that he's often asked why he doesn't seem to show empathy toward those who've suffered during the pandemic. "I know, I understand that," the president said. "I do read that a lot and see that a lot. But I feel tremendous sorrow and grief for the -- this should have never happened."
The Times' report noted, "Even as he said he felt empathy, he could not sustain it for even a full sentence before pivoting to whom to blame."
The article added that Trump's day used to begin around 9 a.m., but that proved to be too great a burden on the president who doesn't much care about governing, so his team arranged for his days to start around 11 a.m.
Except, that apparently doesn't work, either: "His staff grows frustrated when he sometimes does not show up until 11:30 a.m. or even later."
Trump, seemingly aware of his reputation, went on to claim, "I don't watch very much TV. Nobody knows what I do." He's made similar denials about his obsessive television watching before, which are belied by, among other things, the president's habit of tweeting at all hours about whatever happens to be on his screen at the time.
Finally, Trump concluded that the presidency is more difficult than he imagined because, as he put it, he has "two jobs": being president and "constantly" feeling the need to defend himself "from a group of maniacs that are totally, that have, you know, that have gone totally off the tracks."
Most presidents learn not to dwell on criticisms and instead focus on the weighty tasks at hand. Trump, who's never understood the office, has convinced himself that defending himself against "maniacs" is one of his principal tasks while in office.