You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Donald Trump’s Rant Proves He Doesn’t Care About Most Americans (Column)

Confusingly, President Donald Trump engaged with history from his bully pulpit during his press conference on Tuesday. Speaking from the gilded lobby of Trump Tower in New York City, Trump attempted to take questions about infrastructure, and instead was met with a chorus of questions about his response to the Aug. 12 fracas in Charlottesville, Va., in which self-proclaimed white supremacists and neo-Nazis violently descended on the college town for two days of fighting that ended with three dead. Trump pivoted, in just half an hour, from his strongest condemnation of the perpetrators yet to a defensive, scattershot breakdown that blamed “both sides” for the violence. During that denouement, he tried to complicate the issue of Confederate monuments in America by throwing out that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slaveowners.

It was so unlike Trump to call to historical fact that it was a little destabilizing — an almost nuanced argument about how to reclaim history, albeit one that seems to not understand that unlike Jefferson and Washington, Robert E. Lee decided not just to own slaves but to stake his life and reputation on commanding an army battling for the right to keep slaves, across the South, forever.

It would be terrifyingly and mind-numbingly simple for Trump to acknowledge that racism is bad and move on. But no; he has to get into it. Following events in Charlottesville that struck a nerve for many Americans because it looked like a Nazi rally, except on American soil, Trump’s tack is to needle and pick at American history.

It is not new that the president has little regard for the truth — specifically, for those facts that do not personally satisfy him. This feeds directly into a bullying disdain of the press, who in his mind are uncovering material inconvenient to him. Trump’s self-delusion about “fake news” is something impossible to understand; for an incredibly media-savvy man, his capacity for self-deception is simply unparalleled. But even though it is expected, it is alarming to watch the president of the United States use excoriating language about the assembled journalists as if it were transitional filler, like “um” or “anyway” — laying into the press corps, indiscriminately, with accusations that they don’t report facts or are unfair or biased or false.

It’s also not new that the president only cares to serve his base. His inauguration speech, written by Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, actually used the words “America first” in an unabashed and polarizing pander to his white nationalist core supporters. Trump doesn’t really see himself as the president of America, but instead as the perpetual winner; he has no idea what public service looks like.

And yet it is still alarming and disheartening to see it all in action. In Tuesday’s press conference, Trump presented peak Trumpism; he rejected a much-documented, incredibly obvious phenomenon for a narrative more convenient to him, which he quite possibly made up on the spot, because it feels better to him. It is impossible to deny Trump’s force of personality, which briefly makes nearly any claim appear plausible. What undercuts Trump’s charisma is how blatantly self-serving he is, at all times. He could not even end the press conference without sneaking in a reference to one of his properties — while standing in the lobby of another and coming off of a vacation at a third.

Observers of the media have said time and again that Trump is a kind of wizard with his own brand management, and I don’t disagree. But it is fascinating how even here, with the simplest possible path to uniting and inspiring most Americans, he just can’t do it. To be sure, Trump is a racist — he waged a racist war against President Obama, called Mexicans “rapists,” has plans to build a wall on the border, and did his best in the first days of his term to ban Muslim immigration — but you can be a racist and still condemn white supremacy. Trump does not care about unity. His skill is in provoking and antagonizing most of us, and in satisfying the mean-spirited impulses of others, and in keeping his name in the papers. He’s like the Jerry Springer of presidents, where America is the crying family on the couch; he knows how to tear us apart, but like all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, he doesn’t know how to put us back together again.

Watching that press conference is watching a president who doesn’t care about most Americans. Overwhelming disgust at the neo-Nazi rally only seems to strengthen his resolve to defend some “very fine people” who he insists were “innocently” protesting. Trump’s approval rating is the lowest it’s ever been and he is so put off by the onslaught of bad press about him that he has taken to relying on two packets of positive propaganda, presented to him in the morning and afternoon.

The message is clear: Trump isn’t there to make us happy; we’re here to make him happy. The look on his face, at the press conference Tuesday afternoon, suggests we aren’t doing a good enough job.

More TV

  • The Last OG

    TV News Roundup: 'Last O.G.' Sets Season 2 Premiere Date on TBS

    In today’s TV News Roundup, “The Last O.G.” announces its Season 2 return date and Variety has the exclusive first look at Fox’s new legal drama “Proven Innocent.” FIRST LOOKS Related Chris Evans, J.K. Rowling and More Celebrities React to Trump Press Conference: ‘This Is Insane’ Netflix has announced its new limited series “Black Earth Rising” [...]

  • Matt Walsh

    'Veep' Star Matt Walsh to Lead ABC Comedy Pilot 'Happy Accident'

    Matt Walsh has been tapped for a lead role in the upcoming ABC single-camera comedy pilot “Happy Accident.” In the series, two Pittsburgh families – a father (Walsh) with three adult daughters, and a hotel lounge singer with her med student son – are forced together after a decades-old secret is revealed. Related Chris Evans, J.K. [...]

  • Jane Fonda

    'Grace and Frankie' Renewed for Season 6 at Netflix

    Netflix has renewed “Grace and Frankie” for a sixth season ahead of the Season 5 premiere this Friday. The series stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as the titular characters who found their lives turned upside down when their husbands (played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston, respectively) revealed they were gay and left the [...]

  • CBS' Armando Nunez to Receive Variety

    CBS' Armando Nunez to Receive Variety International Achievement in TV Award

    CBS Corp. veteran Armando Nuñez will be honored in April with Variety‘s International Achievement in TV Award at the MipTV conference in Cannes. The award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated leadership and innovation in the international television marketplace. Nuñez, president and CEO of CBS Global Distribution Group and CBS’ Chief Content Licensing Officer, has spent more than [...]

  • CBS News

    NAACP Slams CBS News' 2020 Team's Lack of Black Representation (EXCLUSIVE)

    The NAACP has slammed CBS News for not including any African-American journalists on its 2020 election coverage team. CBS News came under fire over the weekend after an associate producer tweeted out an image of the news outlet’s 2020 team. Related Chris Evans, J.K. Rowling and More Celebrities React to Trump Press Conference: ‘This Is Insane’ In [...]

  • Mic Alum Marc Paskin Joins UTA

    Mic Alum Marc Paskin Joins UTA News & Broadcast Wing

    Marc Paskin, an alum of ABC News and Mic, has joined UTA’s News & Broadcast division as an agent. Based in New York, Paskin will focus on finding next-generation journalism stars and those who work in the converging worlds of TV and digital. Related Chris Evans, J.K. Rowling and More Celebrities React to Trump Press [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content