This past weekend, Donald Trump apparently saw some media coverage that cited "officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity." The president didn't care for it, turning to Twitter to declare that any report featuring unnamed sources should be rejected. Such reporting, he said, "allows Fake News to make up a phony quote from a person who doesn't even exist. The American people should demand NAMES!"
It was against this backdrop that Trump said toward the beginning of yesterday's White House press briefing:
"I've spoken to numerous leaders of countries over the last 48 hours, and they are saying we are leading the way. We are really leading the way in so many different ways."
He didn't identify any of the leaders or countries. The president also didn't make much of an effort to explain how, exactly, the United States -- which has more coronavirus cases and fatalities than any other country -- is "leading the way" for the rest of the world.
And if this dynamic sounds familiar -- Trump pointing to international officials who call to tell him how great his work is -- it's because it keeps coming up. Last week, for example, he told reporters, "[O]ther countries are calling us. Countries that you thought were doing well are calling us for help on testing."
A few days later, Trump boasted, "I wish I could tell you stories -- what other countries, even powerful countries, say to me -- the leaders. They say it quietly and they say it off the record, but they have great respect for what we can do."
As regular readers know, the Republican has an unsettling habit of describing conversations that only occurred in his mind and presenting them to the public as if they were real. He also loves to point to "anonymous validators" who mysteriously tell him how right he is.
But as the pandemic continues to take its toll, Trump appears increasingly reliant on praise from people he won't, or can't, identify.
As a result, the president denounces major American news organizations -- with editors, journalistic standards, and a track record of accurate reporting -- that run reports citing officials who do not wish to be named, even while repeatedly pointing to plaudits from unnamed foreign leaders who let Trump know how awesome his awesomeness is.
A cynic might wonder if maybe, just maybe, the president is -- to borrow his phrasing -- peddling phony quotes from people who don't even exist.