Trump Likes ‘President for Life’ Idea

The President jokingly praised his Chinese counterpart's power grab at a fundraiser. But he seriously doesn't understand the rule of law.

CNN (“Trump on China’s Xi consolidating power: ‘Maybe we’ll give that a shot some day’“):

President Donald Trump bemoaned a decision not to investigate Hillary Clinton after the 2016 presidential election, decrying a “rigged system” that still doesn’t have the “right people” in place to fix it, during a freewheeling speech to Republican donors in Florida on Saturday.

In the closed-door remarks, a recording of which was obtained by CNN, Trump also praised China’s President Xi Jinping for recently consolidating power and extending his potential tenure, musing he wouldn’t mind making such a maneuver himself.

“He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great,” Trump said. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”

The remarks, delivered inside the ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago estate during a lunch and fundraiser, were upbeat, lengthy, and peppered with jokes and laughter. But Trump’s words reflected his deeply felt resentment that his actions during the 2016 campaign remain under scrutiny while those of his former rival, Hillary Clinton, do not.

“I’m telling you, it’s a rigged system folks,” Trump said. “I’ve been saying that for a long time. It’s a rigged system. And we don’t have the right people in there yet. We have a lot of great people, but certain things, we don’t have the right people.”

Without more to go on than the words themselves, I’m prepared to dismiss the “Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday” as a lame attempt at humor. It’s really hard to tell when he’s joking, since he’s so bad at it.

I’m actually more concerned about what seems a genuine belief on his part that anytime things don’t go his way, it’s because “the system is rigged” and we need to get “the right people” in there to make sure he gets what he wants. While most previous presidents, certainly in the modern era, have expressed frustration when Congress won’t cooperate or the courts make rulings that go against them. Many have pushed the envelope to egregious levels with Executive Orders, Executive Agreements, and other means to get what they want. But all of them have also seemed to at least understand that we have a system of laws and that they’re subject to that system. We’re reminded almost daily that Trump does not share that understanding.

UPDATE: Jazz Shaw provides the following audio clip of Trump’s remarks on Xi:

Jazz is right here: Trump is clearly joking around here, reacting to a prodding audience.

But here’s the thing: we wouldn’t have needed the audio to know Barack Obama, George H.W. Bush, or even Bill Clinton was joking.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Well, he does have a point. The system IS rigged…. in favor of people who think the laws don’t apply to them and rich enough to see to it they never do. trump’s problem is that he doesn’t seem to understand that he no longer exists in that system.

    Being President is quite a bit different from a con artist, name dropping (his own of course), money laundering, real estate developer.

  2. Terrye Cravens says:

    Trump is a dictator wannabe. Gives me the creeps.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    We’re reminded almost daily that Trump does not share that understanding.

    In the most literal sense. He lacks understanding. He is deeply, willfully ignorant, which is why the ignorant 46% love him. Stupid loves stupid.

  4. MBunge says:

    We’re reminded almost daily that Trump does not share that understanding.

    Except…you know…that Trump has never actually DONE anything to demonstrate that. And it’s particularly revealing to make such a criticism of Trump while, as far as I can tell, totally ignoring the mountain of evidence that entrenched, non-democratic, bureaucratic interests have been actively working to undermine and delegitimatize a sitting President.

    Let’s quote Chuck Schumer, shall we?

    “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

    That is the world that existed before Trump came on the scene. A world where not only a sitting U.S. Senator but one of the most powerful members of the governing elite openly confesses he knows better than to “take on” the intelligence community. Not because the intelligence community is right but because of how effective they are at “getting back at you.”

    By the way, those flames of violence and chaos that were going to consume the Middle East after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital? When exactly is all that going to start? I need to know because I’m trying to play my vacation.


  5. MBunge says:

    @michael reynolds:

    And if Trump is stupid, what does that make you?


  6. michael reynolds says:

    It makes me a guy who understands non sequitur, an understanding that has obviously escaped you.

  7. michael reynolds says:


    Inside the White House, aides over the past week have described an air of anxiety and volatility — with an uncontrollable commander in chief at its center.

    These are the darkest days in at least half a year, they say, and they worry just how much farther President Trump and his administration may plunge into unrest and malaise before they start to recover. As one official put it: “We haven’t bottomed out.”

    Trump is now a president in transition, at times angry and increasingly isolated. He fumes in private that just about every time he looks up at a television screen, the cable news headlines are trumpeting yet another scandal. He voices frustration that son-in-law Jared Kushner has few on-air defenders. He revives old grudges. And he confides to friends that he is uncertain about whom to trust.


    In an unorthodox presidency in which emotion, impulse and ego often drive events, Trump’s ominous moods manifested themselves last week in his zigzagging positions on gun control; his shock trade war that jolted markets and was opposed by Republican leaders and many in his own administration; and his roiling feud of playground insults with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Your boy is losing his sh!t. Everyone but you knows it.

  8. He talks like an authoritarian. We are just lucky he does not understand government enough to translate those thoughts to more power.

    We have seen attempts to subvert our basic institutions (e.g., requesting loyalty from Comey and then firing him). That action, and his ongoing attempts to criticize and manipulate the DoJ, are not small things.

    More broadly, working to convince large swaths of the population that all we need are the right people in positions of power is to say that government is not about laws, norms, or institutions, but about who is in office alone. That is the definition of government by men, rather than government by laws.

  9. Stormy Dragon says:


    Devin Nunes Calls Colbert’s Jokes About Him A ‘Danger’ In This Country

    Republicans are also jealous of countries that have outlawed Lèse-majesté.

  10. Kathy says:

    For all his dislike of third world countries and latinos, trump speaks an awful lot like a gringo cacique. Of all the world’s leaders, he’s most like Nicolas Maduro.

    As for the claim that he’s done nothing:

    1) It’s a clear admission that he conducts himself in an improper and potentially hazardous manner

    2) He has done plenty already, like alienating America’s allies and trading partners, gotten played by hostile leaders like Xi and Kim, and sealed more tightly the right’s Fox News echo chamber.

  11. al-Ameda says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Devin Nunes Calls Colbert’s Jokes About Him A ‘Danger’ In This Country
    Republicans are also jealous of countries that have outlawed Lèse-majesté.

    Devin Nunes should be thanking god (or Paul Ryan) that he’s not the subject of an ethics investigation with respect to the stunts he’s pulled as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

  12. Daryl’s other brother Darryl says:


    Except…you know…that Trump has never actually DONE anything to demonstrate that

    Well…except the clear-cut obstruction of justice he’s been actively undertaking.

  13. Daryl’s other brother Darryl says:

    This guy is losing his shit…it’s obvious to EVERYONE and yet everyone is just standing by and watching it in real time.
    Who is going to have the balls to do something???

  14. Gustopher says:

    He’s an obese septuagenarian who eats terribly and doesn’t exercise. He might have gotten his wish to be President for Life.

  15. CSK says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    I could be wrong, but I think that most Republicans in the house and senate would be thrilled to see him gone. Would that it were possible that Barry Goldwater and others could talk him into resigning, as they did Nixon. But it’s not August 1974, and Trump isn’t Nixon. And Nixon didn’t have the kind of violent, vengeance-driven supporters that Trump does.