On Twitter on Monday morning, President Trump offered a quick course in the qualities that divide his supporters and his critics. There was a gesture of humanity and outreach, some teasing political banter and several doses of unvarnished, breathtaking contempt for opponents.
It was a good reminder for Democrats that the 2020 election should be about personality and temperament as much as policy.
As is his custom, Trump devoted part of his “executive time” Monday to holding forth on Twitter, offering unfiltered views on the Poway synagogue shooting, national and local politics. His first tweet, about the shooting, reflected his ability to connect to individuals in dire circumstances — his vaunted one-on-one skills that are rarely on public display:
I spoke at length yesterday to Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, Chabad of Poway, where I extended my warmest condolences to him and all affected by the shooting in California. What a great guy. He had a least one finger blown off, and all he wanted to do is help others. Very special!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2019
On MSNBC, Chabad of Poway’s Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was even more effusive in his praise of Trump. “He was so gracious and generous with his words. Exceedingly comforting to me, to my community,” the rabbi said.
Set aside for the moment that Trump feels a personal connection to the situation — he has a daughter, a son-in-law and grandchildren who are Jewish — and that he has made his support for Israel a campaign issue. The graciousness he evidently displayed to Goldstein is the kind of humane leadership we want from a president.
But then Trump turned to political topics and changed his tone, excoriating the state of New York for investigating alleged corruption within the National Rifle Assn. leadership. Note the taunting tone he takes in the second tweet:
The NRA is under siege by Cuomo and the New York State A.G., who are illegally using the State’s legal apparatus to take down and destroy this very important organization, & others. It must get its act together quickly, stop the internal fighting, & get back to GREATNESS - FAST!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2019
....People are fleeing New York State because of high taxes and yes, even oppression of sorts. They didn’t even put up a fight against SALT - could have won. So much litigation. The NRA should leave and fight from the outside of this very difficult to deal with (unfair) State!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2019
It’s not clear what triggered Trump’s next salvo, an attack on organized labor. He’s partnered with labor leaders on some major issues (trade in particular), but union campaign donations helped Democrats retake the House the 2016 midterms:
I’ll never get the support of Dues Crazy union leadership, those people who rip-off their membership with ridiculously high dues, medical and other expenses while being paid a fortune. But the members love Trump. They look at our record economy, tax & reg cuts, military etc. WIN!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2019
This is classic Trump. People who disagree with him aren’t simply opponents — they are craven. Or, in the case of New York, they’re lawbreaking oppressors. Having the president of the United States, who appoints federal prosecutors and top FBI officials, accuse you of a crime is no small thing.
Then Trump turned his fire on the political rival who’s been grabbing the most headlines lately, former Vice President Joe Biden. Relax, Mayor Pete, you’ll be back in the Twitter crosshairs soon enough. Trump seems to have settled on “Sleepy Joe” as his demeaning sobriquet of choice for Biden, and it’s pretty clever even if it’s mean:
The Media (Fake News) is pushing Sleepy Joe hard. Funny, I’m only here because of Biden & Obama. They didn’t do the job and now you have Trump, who is getting it done - big time!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2019
I noted a while back that Trump seemed determined to keep the public’s attention focused on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whose report was quite critical of Trump even though it did not call for him to be prosecuted. On Monday, Trump offered this utterly nonsensical comment about Democrats’ efforts to follow up on Mueller’s findings with further investigations:
Bob Mueller was a great HERO to the Radical Left Democrats. Now that the Mueller Report is finished, with a finding of NO COLLUSION & NO OBSTRUCTION (based on a review of Report by our highly respected A.G.), the Dems are going around saying, “Bob who, sorry, don’t know the man.”— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2019
The president closed his executive-time tweeting with the by-now obligatory attack on the news media, this time calling out the New York Times for publishing a political cartoon in its international edition that showed a blind and yarmulke-sporting Trump being led by a guide dog whose face was a caricature of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s. As the Times itself observed in a public apology, the cartoon was laden with anti-Semitic tropes. But Trump said the Times should have also apologized to him for publishing the cartoon. Say what?
The New York Times has apologized for the terrible Anti-Semitic Cartoon, but they haven’t apologized to me for this or all of the Fake and Corrupt news they print on a daily basis. They have reached the lowest level of “journalism,” and certainly a low point in @nytimes history!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2019
Democrats are going to spend the next year or so watching their prospective nominees tear each other apart over their records in office and their positions on single-payer healthcare, college costs and other issues that divide them. And that’s instructive, to a point — many of the dueling proposals have no chance of ever becoming law in this polarized society.
But reading Trump’s Monday morning tweets, I was reminded how much this country needs a president with a steady temperament, a thick skin and a selfless interest in all Americans. Not just the ones who are supporters. That’s a personality test, and Democrats shouldn’t forget to apply it as they try to come up with an alternative to Trump.