An Unsurprising, yet Disturbing, Headline

On Trump's anger.

trump-inauguration-speechVia Politico:  ‘He is stubborn and doesn’t realize how bad this is getting’

“In some ways, Trump would rather have people calling him racist than say he backed down the minute he was wrong,” one adviser to the White House said on Wednesday about Charlottesville. “This may turn into the biggest mess of his presidency because he is stubborn and doesn’t realize how bad this is getting.”

That that Trump lacks understanding of the very serious situation we are in (and that he is helping create) is not a surprise.  Nonetheless, this simply demonstrates why he is not suited to be in a position of responsibility, let alone occupy the presidency.

For Trump, anger serves as a way to manage staff, express his displeasure or simply as an outlet that soothes him. Often, aides and advisers say, he’ll get mad at a specific staffer or broader situation, unload from the Oval Office and then three hours later act as if nothing ever occurred even if others still feel rattled by it. Negative television coverage and lawyers earn particular ire from him.

I have worked for someone who frequently used anger as a “management” tool (to use the term loosely).  It is toxic and unproductive.  It is profoundly disturbing for POTUS to behave this way.

In regards to presidents and anger, the piece does note:

Trump is by no means the only president to be driven by his temper at times. Bill Clinton, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon all were famously known for their anger, while John F. Kennedy had a reputation for speaking sharply to staff, said Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian and clinical associate professor of public service at New York University. Nixon’s aides dealt with his vitriol by trying to build walls around him to protect the public from his moods as an internal set of West Wing checks and balances. It’s harder to set up those guardrails for the tweeter in chief.

“It’s not unusual to have presidents motivated by anger,” Naftali added. “The difference with Trump is the lack of filter, so we’re seeing much more of his thinking than we ever saw with past presidents.”

I would add, in regards to Trump, that his anger takes place in the context of profound ignorance of both his job and the world around him, and is linked, almost exclusively it would seem, to his ego and insecurities.

For Trump, anger serves as a way to manage staff, express his displeasure or simply as an outlet that soothes him. Often, aides and advisers say, he’ll get mad at a specific staffer or broader situation, unload from the Oval Office and then three hours later act as if nothing ever occurred even if others still feel rattled by it. Negative television coverage and lawyers earn particular ire from him.

White House officials and informal advisers say the triggers for his temper are if he thinks someone is lying to him, if he’s caught by surprise, if someone criticizes him, or if someone stops him from trying to do something or seeks to control him.

It would seem, in fact, that part of his inability to deal with the events in Charlottesville was that he was not going to be controlled by staff.  At a minimum, calm rationality is needed at this time and we are not going to get that from this president.

FILED UNDER: US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    To be perfectly honest, Dr. T, at this point it’s hard to get outraged over yet another instance of how totally unfit for the office Trump is.

  2. teve tory says:

    I used to spend time with a lot of scientists, mostly physicists. A principal difference between being smart and being stupid, in my experience, is that very often smart people will quickly admit when they’re wrong, adapt to the new info, and progress forward. Many stupid people will refuse to admit it, dig in, and create endless bullshit justifications, and remain wrong.

  3. CSK says:

    Is he gibbering with fury over that interview Steve Bannon gave to Bob Kuttner at The American Prospect, or has no one brought it to his attention yet?

    http://www.prospect.org/article/steve-bannon-unrepentant

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Everybody gets angry, but how one deals with and channels that anger are what makes the difference. trump uses his anger to make other people small. He has to because he is so small and insecure himself.

  5. Hal_10000 says:

    He is who we thought he was. Throughout the campaign, we warned that he was not temperamentally suited to be President.

  6. Kylopod says:

    “It’s not unusual to have presidents motivated by anger,” Naftali added. “The difference with Trump is the lack of filter, so we’re seeing much more of his thinking than we ever saw with past presidents.”

    Actually I think the biggest difference is that Trump lacks any sense of remorse or shame. The operating principle in all his behavior is that he’s always right, and he never apologizes for anything he does or says.

  7. grumpy realist says:

    @Kylopod: like any standard narcissist.

  8. Matthew Bernius says:

    “In some ways, Trump would rather have people calling him racist than say he backed down the minute he was wrong,” one adviser to the White House said on Wednesday about Charlottesville. “This may turn into the biggest mess of his presidency because he is stubborn and doesn’t realize how bad this is getting.”

    I think what a lot of people are still struggling to understand is that for his core supporters (like those who post in support of him here), this is a feature, not a bug. Yes, other presidents have had anger issues. However, we cannot underestimate the importance of Trump’s public performance of anger.

    His version of “Muscular Conservatism” and it’s necessary anger is really attractive to people who like the idea of finally fighting (figuratively and increasingly literally) liberals, progressives, and everyone who they perceive as threatening “their America.”

  9. teve tory says:

    Axios:

    Trump started with a pretty clean slate but has methodically alienated:

    The public: Gallup has his approval at 34%, down from 46% just after the inauguration.
    Republican congressional leaders — Senate Majority Mitch McConnell in particular.
    Every Democrat who could help him do a deal.
    The media.
    CEOs.
    World leaders.
    Europe.
    Muslims.
    Hispanics.
    African Americans.
    Military leaders.
    The intelligence community.
    His own staff.

    And who’s happy?

    Steve Bannon.
    Saudi Arabia.
    Breitbart.
    David Duke.

  10. CSK says:

    @teve tory:

    And if Trump cans Bannon, he loses Breitbart.

    That leaves him with David Duke and Saudi Arabia.

  11. teve tory says:

    worth remembering that jon chait wrote an article in april called “Before this is over, republicans are going to wish hillary clinton won.”

  12. CSK says:

    The other day I predicted that Trump would throw himself another campaign rally before the end of the month to shore up his ego. I was right. He wants to rally in Phoenix this coming Tuesday.

    The mayor of Phoenix has asked him not to do so.

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK:

    That leaves him with David Duke and Saudi Arabia.

    Also, quite probably, the Mercers. Which means Bannon, who is their creature, may be moved out of sight, but not necessarily out of Trumps inner circle.

    However, Tony Schwartz, the co-author of The Art of the Deal, tweets that Trump will resign, probably by the end of the year. I agree, I think at some point Mueller or a representative will explain to Trump that unless he resigns his reputation will be ruined, he and his family will be bankrupted, and he may go to jail. With this background, Bannon’s call smells like the opening of a campaign by Bannon to normalize himself preparatory to a book deal.

  14. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:

    I could argue that if Trump cans Bannon, he loses the Mercers. Weren’t they subsidizing Bannon and Breitbart well before they jumped on the Trump Train?

    I’ve wondered if Bannon is testing Trump, pushing to see how much he can get away with before Trump loses it and yells “off with his head.”

    I’d like it if Schwartz would expand on his tweet.

  15. teve tory says:

    remember, we’re only 14% into the trump presidency (if he lasts 4 years.) Still 86% more to go.

  16. grumpy realist says:

    Here’s part of a comment I made over at TAC:

    Overall re Bannon: I’m just wondering if Bannon is looking at the total hash Trump has made of his presidency and realized that if he, Bannon, wants to leave with any possibilities in the future at all he’s going to have to jump ship pretty soon before the Trumptanic slips completely under the water. So this is his way of baiting Trump into firing him. And if Trump doesn’t fire him maybe it’s a way of steering Trump back towards something Bannon thinks is more viable. (Bannon realizes that a political party based on white nationalism isn’t going to make it in the US) After all, Bannon still has the backings of the Mercers and could conceivably now run for office himself.

    Anyone else got any ideas as to what’s going on? (Let’s not be gullible enough to believe that Bannon really thought he was off the record. He’s not that dumb.)

  17. the Q says:

    Trump is Roy Cohn’s clone….without the AIDs….Trump is fast approaching the Joe Welch “at long last, have you no sense of decency sir” moment.

    I watched the Army McCarthy hearings and Cohn was the evil genius behind the throne, who sketched out the mad, angry, accusatory strategy that Tail Gunner Joe used to cow and shred his opponents – and it worked – till they went after Fred Fisher, a young associate of Welch’s who McCarthy tried to humiliate during the nationwide broadcast. Hence Welch’s emotional, exasperated retort.

    Trump is classic Cohn…never give an inch, never admit mistakes….destroy your accusers with lies, distortions, anger, bombast…until they give up or go away.

    It worked beautifully for Trump during the GOP primaries then against “lock her up” Hillary.

    Just as it worked for Cohn/McCarthy…for awhile….then the inevitable disgrace and fall.

    The true existential crises is not Trump…after all, when Trump is forced from office, his 35%ers will still have the right to vote for some equally crazed GOP alternative.

  18. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @gVOR08: Yes, we seem to be covering the same ground every day–Trump is not only manifestly unqualified to be in charge but also endorsed and supported by a Congress and party that doesn’t care and is feckless and cowardly.

    Yet, this is still superior to the alternative–a relatively baggage-free President Pence. If the GOP weren’t feckless and cowardly, they’d have thrown Trump under the bus by now and have gone on with their plans to return us to 1850 or so.

  19. Kari Q says:

    @the Q:

    Trump is fast approaching the Joe Welch “at long last, have you no sense of decency sir” moment.

    He passed that long ago and no, he doesn’t. We all know that. We also know that his supporters hate liberals, the media, and the elite more than the love anything, including their lives, their family, and the United States.

    I’m wondering what will happen to Trump’s numbers if we enter a recession. Will his supporters still cling to him then?

  20. grumpy realist says:

    @Kari Q: Oh course. And they’ll claim that It’s All The Liberals’ Fault.

    Sorta like what the Brexiters are going to do vis-a-vis the EU when the U.K. economy collapses. It’s always Someone Else’s Fault.

  21. DrDaveT says:

    @CSK:

    That leaves him with David Duke and Saudi Arabia.

    Don’t forget Russia. They’re the Powerball winners in all of this.