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Donald Trump’s Pettiness On Display Yet Again

President Donald Trump

While President Trump was on his Asian trip, three players from U.C.L.A’s basketball team were arrested in China on charges of shoplifting, including star player LiAngelo Ball. the brother of Los Angeles Lakers Rookie Lonzo Ball. After some intervention at the Presidential level between President Trump and Chinese President Li Jinping, the three men were released and returned to the United States at which point they were immediately suspended by U.C.L.A. for their behavior on the trip. During a press conference upon his return, Ball accepted responsibility for what happened and gave some thanks to the President for intervening to get him and his fellow players returned to the United States rather than detained in China at the potential mercy of that nation’s criminal justice system. However, in his own comments over the weekend, Ball’s father LaVar Ball, a businessman who had a brief career as a professional football player in the United States and Europe downplayed Trump’s role in the release:

LOS ANGELES — LaVar Ball downplayed his son’s shoplifting incident in China, as well as President Donald Trump’s involvement in getting LiAngelo Ball and two other UCLA basketball players back to the United States earlier this week.

“Who?” LaVar Ball told ESPN on Friday, when asked about Trump’s involvement in the matter. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, who had been detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting, landed in Los Angeles on Tuesday evening and addressed the media on Wednesday before being indefinitely suspended by the team.

Trump, who returned late Tuesday from a trip through Asia, raised the players’ case with President Xi Jinping of China during a visit to Beijing last week. All three players offered thanks to Trump during Wednesday’s news conference.

The players were arrested and questioned on Nov. 7 about stealing from high-end stores, including sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou, where the Bruins had been staying before leaving for Shanghai to face Georgia Tech.

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said Wednesday that the players stole from three stores. They were released from custody after posting bail early Nov. 8, on the condition that they surrender their passports; they had been staying at a lakeside hotel in Hangzhou prior to flying home.

“As long as my boy’s back here, I’m fine,” LaVar Ball told ESPN. “I’m happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, ‘They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.’ I’m from L.A. I’ve seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn’t define him. Now if you can go back and say when he was 12 years old he was shoplifting and stealing cars and going wild, then that’s a different thing.

Perhaps inevitably, this led Trump to lash out on Twitter today:

A day after LaVar Ball, the outspoken father of LiAngelo and Lonzo Ball, downplayed President Trump’s involvement in getting LiAngelo safely out of China without any criminal charges, the president fired back on Twitter.

Trump’s tweet was in reponse to an interview with ESPN where Lavar Ball cast doubt on how much Trump was involved in freeing his son and the other two players.

“Who?” he said when asked about Trump’s involvement. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

LiAngelo Ball and his U.C.L.A. teammates, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, were arrested on suspicion of shoplifting while in China with their teammates. Trump, who was in the middle of a tour of Asia, raised the case with President Xi Jinping of China, and the trio of players were allowed to return to the United States.

The president’s chief of staff, John Kelly, described to The Times how the incident played out.

“Our president said to Xi, ‘Do you know anything about these knuckleheads that got caught allegedly stealing?'” Mr. Kelly said. Unaware of the episode, the Chinese president dispatched an aide to get more information. “The president was saying, ‘It’s not too serious. We’d love to see this taken care of in an expeditious way,'” Mr. Kelly added.

Mr. Kelly added “I bet they learned a lesson in their lives.”

The president made it clear on Twitter that he expected the players to thank him for his involvement, claiming they faced 10 years in jail, though many legal experts weighed in to say the charges wouldn’t likely be that serious. Regardless, once they were home, U.C.L.A. held a news conference to discuss the incident, and all three players thanked Mr. Trump, while LiAngelo acknowledged that he had not used his best judgment. It was also announced that all three had been suspended indefinitely from U.C.L.A.’s basketball team.

Apparently satisfied with their level of thanks, Trump took to Twitter and had another request for them along with some advice.

Here’s Trump’s tweet from early this afternoon:

This comes just says after Trump took to Twitter to demand that the players thank him for his intervention on their behalf:

Which he acknowledged in a later tweet:

To say that the President is being incredibly petty here is an understatement of titanic proportions. For one thing, looking out for American citizens who find themselves entangled in the justice system of a foreign power is part of his job. Expecting to be thanked for doing that job, and even publicly demanding it, is something you’d expect from an attention-seeking narcissist rather than someone with the emotional maturity of an adult, especially one who is supposed to be the leader of the free world. Moreover, it seems apparent in retrospect that President Xi interceded in the release of these three Americans because doing so cost him nothing and potentially gains him more influence over a President that is already proving to be a pushover when it comes to issues such as trade and China’s interests in expanding its control over the South China Sea.Moreover, what Trump did here is no different from what countless other Presidents have done in the past in connection with Americans held on real or trumped up charges, especially in adversarial nations such as China. None of these Presidents made public demands that they be thanked by the person(s) release, and none of them lashed out in public when their role was downplayed by a family member or if such a public acknowledgment of their role in the release wasn’t acknowledged.

The reason, of course, is that Donald Trump is not an ordinary President, nor is he really a mature adult. Even at the age of 71, he is behaving more like a child who expects to be praised for doing the right thing than a man who simply does what he’s supposed to be doing without demanding or expecting praise for it. His reaction today to the relatively innocuous comments from Ball’s father is a prime example of that, and reveals things about his character that are not good in any respect. Basically, we have an American President is saying that he should have left American citizens at the mercy of an authoritarian regime because one of the citizen’s parents didn’t thank him properly for freeing his son. This is petty, childish, and immature. In other words, it’s textbook Trump, and we can expect more of it as long as he’s in office.

Update: This post was update to include a second tweet that Trump sent regarding the remarks of LeVar Bell.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Donald Trump is not an ordinary President, nor is he really a mature adult. Even at the age of 71, he is behaving more like a child who expects to be praised for doing the right thing than a man who simply does what he’s supposed to be doing without demanding or expecting praise for it. His reaction today to the relatively innocuous comments from Ball’s father is a prime example of that, and reveals things about his character that are not good in any respect.

    At one level what we have here is a sort of fantasy, a fable, wherein a random internet troll is suddenly made powerful. He has the intelligence, knowledge and moral core of a Fox News watcher. Just like his voters.

    It borders on being too on-the-nose as a fable. Morons elect a moron and we discover that the moron the morons elected is just a moron. Careful what you wish for. Now the morons are being fleeced by the moron-in-chief because that is, inevitably, how this morality tale has to play out. The idiot 46% killed the farmer and replaced him with Orwell’s Napoleon who (Surprise!) is far worse than the farmer.

  2. Scott says:

    Everything to Trump is transactional. He cannot imagine doing anything for anyone without getting something in return, preferably gaining something in the transaction. Small, petty, narcissistic, he really is a stunted little man.

    Can you imagine what he really thinks about young men and women who join the military or the Peace Corps or any such organization because they want to be of service to their country and humanity?

  3. Chas says:

    The kid did say thanks. .Mr Trump accepted it as genuine and wished them to have a good life.. Then he get’s mad at someone else, and wishes instead of a good life they were rotting in jail.
    Anyone should be able to see the problem here.
    =—
    Mr Trump wants to hold others accountable for what their father says? His own kids should be very concerned.

    On the flip side, mission accomplished for Mr Trump. We are not talking about his being a sexual predator, or how his campaign colluded with Russia at the moment..

  4. CSK says:

    @Chas:

    He has to be at the top of the news cycle, even if it’s for making a horse’s a$$ of himself.

  5. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Scott:

    Can you imagine what he really thinks about young men and women who join the military or the Peace Corps or any such organization because they want to be of service to their country and humanity?”

    We do.

    “He knew what he signed up for.”

  6. SenyorDave says:

    Its all about his base. He showed them what a tough guy he is, and he told them what they wanted to hear. LaVar Ball is ungrateful n****r, and Trump communicated that to his supporters.

    He has acted from the beginning as if he was president only to those who supported him. Save us, Mr. Mueller.

  7. Moosebreath says:

    “Donald Trump’s Pettiness On Display Yet Again”

    The title implies that Trump’s pettiness was ever not on display. If so, when?

  8. MikeSJ says:

    SenyorDave says:
    Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 17:50
    Its all about his base. He showed them what a tough guy he is, and he told them what they wanted to hear. LaVar Ball is ungrateful n****r, and Trump communicated that to his supporters.

    Yep. I think if the players were white Trump would have handled this differently. He cannot stand any push back from black people – he instantly reacts with fury – and his mouth breathing base eats it up.

    Be assured, his base loves this stuff. They agree 100% that “those people” need to know their place.

    It’s as if his base were made up of people who are..what’s the word?….deplorable.

  9. Franklin says:

    I agree with all this of course.

    But I must repeat that the basketball players and apparently their parents are mental midgets on a level with the President. Same with UCLA’s coach or whoever briefed the kids going to China. Were they seriously not told they were going to a different country? Like, not Canada, I mean an actual different country with completely different values and laws?

    And that’s ignoring the part where they are spoiled little kleptomaniacs. Sounds like they came down with a little bout of affluenza or something here.

  10. Mister Bluster says:

    I surround myself with the best people. I know the best people.
    Donald Trump

    TRUMP CAMPAIGN COORDINATOR AND ‘FAMILY VALUES’ REPUBLICAN PLEADS GUILTY TO CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING, FACES LIFE IN PRISON
    Ralph Shortey, former Oklahoma state senator and a county campaign coordinator for President Donald Trump’s campaign last year, will plead guilty to a child sex trafficking offense for soliciting sex from a 17-year-old boy in March.
    Newsweek

  11. Andre Kenji says:

    I’m glad that he did not have to go to Rio to free Ryan Lochte. We already have enough problems.

  12. Bill says:

    @Moosebreath:

    The title implies that Trump’s pettiness was ever not on display. If so, when?

    When and only when Trump is asleep of course.

  13. Monala says:

    @Franklin: it seems to be a common problem with young American men–Otto Warmbler (whose tragic ending should be a hard lesson for others), Ryan Lochte, the idiots shouting “build the wall” during spring break in Mexico. I’m even recalling the young man who was caned in Singapore back in the ’90s.

  14. Jen says:

    @Franklin:
    @Monala:

    This has been a problem for a long time. As I’ve mentioned here before, I grew up overseas; my father was a foreign service officer. We lived in Southeast Asia for a while during the late 60s and early 70s, and there were apparently more than a few American kids who would end up in jails for a variety of offenses, mostly drug charges. They seemed to think that being American was a get out of jail free card–it isn’t. When you break local laws, you end up subject to local law enforcement.

    I saw a similar thought process in Maggie Haberman’s twitter feed on this topic yesterday–a fair amount of commenters suggesting it is the responsibility of the President/US Government to get Americans out of foreign prisons. No, it is not. It’s nice if it can be done, but don’t count on it. When abroad, behave.

    Reverse the expectation: how would Americans feel if foreigners who commit crimes here simply were sent back with a slap on the wrist? This case–the basketball players–was pretty easy. Shoplifting is a crime, but a stupid one. Anything more serious and they likely would have spent considerably more time there.

  15. Not the IT Dept. says:

    I assure you, shoplifting is a crime in Canada too.

  16. wr says:

    But Obama once saluted the troops while holding a coffee cup, so he’s just as bad.

    Just in case MBunge doesn’t get around to this thread…

  17. KM says:

    @Jen:

    They seemed to think that being American was a get out of jail free card–it isn’t. When you break local laws, you end up subject to local law enforcement.

    That’s the natural end result of American Exceptionalism as common philosophy – if we have the best system of laws, then those laws should apply to us everywhere we go by virtue of our citizenship. Everywhere is an American jurisdiction just by having a single American present, 911 is the emergency call number, all judges are addressed as Your Honor, you have “rights!!” and bothering to learn about local restrictions is a waste of time since they’ll cater to American tourist dollars anyway. Since the government serves We the People, that means the diplomatic core exists to bail out idiot Americans and the President has nothing better to do then save people from evil governments bent on punishing them for crimes they’ve committed.

    This goes right back to the stereotype of the Ugly American and the founding of our nation. We’re special. We do what we want. We don’t play by the rules – we *make* the rules. And if – by some strange reason the locals have a problem with that – we expect the might of the US government to “deal” with the issue instead of taking personal responsibility.

  18. Not the IT Dept. says:

    According to my Canadian cousins, almost every summer there is a news article about the American tourist who is amazed he (it’s always a “he”) can’t walk around open-carrying because he’s got a permit and hey, Second Amendment! And even when the nice police officer explains that it doesn’t apply north of the border and he should ask the hotel to keep it in their safe, he still can’t quite believe it.

    There was a great story some years ago about a retired Kalamazoo, Michigan, cop who visited Calgary with his wife and wrote a letter to the editor of the Calgary Herald that he regretted that he wasn’t able to defend himself against a couple of teenagers handing out free passes to the Stampede. Great merriment in the Great White North.

  19. KM says:

    @Not the IT Dept. :
    The Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls has a pedestrian crosswalk with a stunning view of the Falls for nice pictures. As it is the bridge to Canada, it quite clearly crosses an international border and leaves American soil to go walk over a gorge to the other side. It also has 8ft iron turnstiles you have to pass through from the American side to get out there. Kinda obvious point of no return if one doesn’t have a passport, no? The last time I was there, no less then FIVE separate groups of adults were panicking on the bridge because at least one member (a) didn’t have proper ID or (b) wasn’t allowed to leave the country /enter Canada for legal reasons. It was a common question to hear “How far can we go before we hit Customs?” Umm buddy, too late – those giant one-way turnstiles and all the signs were the clue. The line back into the States was an absolute nightmare because people like them need to be processed thoroughly (and sometimes arrested).

    On the other side, those who do have the right paperwork can be stunned to be turned away. DWIs are the most frequent reason, apparently. Since the Canadian drinking age is 19 and a whole lot of young adults are there simply to get their drunk on, I see why this would be a concern. People think Canada is the 51st state and are repeatedly shocked that yeah, they’re a real country and no, they don’t have to accept you or your BS behavior.

  20. grumpy realist says:

    I guess we should be happy that the basketball crew didn’t try to smuggle drugs into the country.

    (What sort of effing basketball player doesn’t understand THOU SHALT NOT SHOPLIFT?!!! Great job, guys. You’ve just added ammunition to all the idiots who think “minorities are a bunch of thieving thugs”)

    Dad seems to have the same level of smarts. “Oh, a little shoplifting is fine….it’s not like my son is out pistol-whipping people and car-jacking. He’s a good boy.” No wonder his son ended up at the center of a diplomatic bruhaha.

  21. Franklin says:

    @Franklin: Not actually sure what the downvotes are for, considering every other comment backs me up. (Maybe I was a little harsh with the name-calling and/or the comparison to Trump’s mental prowess, LOL.)

    I went to China with family, and was told I shouldn’t even spit on the sidewalk. I didn’t need to be told not to shoplift, of course. Somehow I survived without causing an international incident.

  22. KM says:

    @Franklin:
    I’m betting it was the “mental midgets” comment. While the truth is these players are not the sharpest crayons in the pack for what they did, the Trump comparison was a little harsh.

    To be clear: nobody’s right in this mess but they are all wrong for different reasons. The players were wrong to steal and disrespect the laws of another nation- they deserved legal punishment. Their families were wrong to expect the government to step in and save them from said deserved punishments. Trump was wrong for bragging about it like it was a personal favor and then getting bitchy when there wasn’t enough groveling from everyone even peripherally involved. However, of the 3 Trump’s the one that’s dragging this out in public after having dealt himself in and keeps making it about himself.

    This is stupid. They’re all being stupid. But as Doug pointed out, Trump’s the one being petty and immature by not letting this stupidity go. He’s the goddamn President so we kinda expect him to *not* be a mental midget as compared to your average idiot… or in this case, shoplifting basketball players. It’s a matter of scale.

  23. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    All three parties in this episode are idiots.
    You have young college basketball players who are idiots.
    You have a washed up former football practice squad player that’s an idiot.
    And you have a POTUS that’s an idiot.
    Guess which one concerns me most? Yeah…the one with the nuke triggers under his pillow.

  24. grumpy realist says:

    @KM: Actually, for Trump, his huffing and puffing is pretty weak sauce compared to what he usually says when he flies off the handle.

  25. MarkedMan says:

    With the caveat that I don’t know enough about what is normal for party identification following an election, this strikes me as the most hopeful news I’ve seen in a while:

    To be sure, as 2017 has worn on, most self-identified Republican voters have remained steadfast in their support — about 80 percent in all polls. But the number of people who professed to being Republicans has declined. At the start of the Trump presidency, 31 percent of voters surveyed in the Gallup poll identified with the GOP. By October, only 24 percent did.

  26. Jen says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Don’t get too excited. Party ID has been in decline for a while, that 24% ID’ing as Republicans isn’t too far off of Gallup’s numbers from January of 2016, where it was 26%, with Democrats at 29%:

    http://news.gallup.com/poll/188096/democratic-republican-identification-near-historical-lows.aspx

  27. Mister Bluster says:

    The reason, of course, is that Donald Trump is not an ordinary President, nor is he really a mature adult…This is petty, childish, and immature. In other words, it’s textbook Trump, and we can expect more of it as long as he’s in office.

    General H.R. McMaster is said to have made the disparaging remarks about his boss during a meeting with Oracle CEO Safra Catz in July.
    During the meeting General McMaster mocked Mr Trump calling him an “idiot” and a dope, adding he had the intelligence of a “kindergartner”, five sources told BuzzFeed News…
    General McMaster, who serves as Mr Trump’s top adviser on national security matters, also reportedly told a sixth source that the president lacked the intelligence to understand the matters before the National Security Council.
    Telegraph.co.uk

  28. AndyZep says:

    Trump knows that the media will respond with articles like this and that the overkill response hurts his opponents more than his actions hurt him. The simple fact is that the Dad is a complete ingrate, but even though the guy is a complete ingrate the more presidential thing to do would be to ignore him. But if Trump does this with everything then it is just the media hammering away at him non stop with everything and Lavar Bell would have been on TV either way. So Trump treats the guy the way you treat an ingrate, not very presidential but people understand it. Then the media over-reacts and they take this jerk and try to paint him as a saint. The media predictably reacts in such a distasteful way that by the time it is all said and done the public knows three things. One that Trump does not take abuse lying down, and the second and most Important thing they know is that the media is untrustworthy and uncontrollably biased. The third thing they know is that the media is hostile towards their values. Now the media is conflated with Lavar Bell and his shoplifting criminal son. You can’t look at CNNs Angela Rye the same now. She is now forever associated with a stupid shoplifting entitled brat and it is hard to unsee that association.

  29. Mike Schilling says:

    On Display Yet Again implies that it was ever off display.