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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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?
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.