Why does President Trump, who holds the world most powerful political office, waste his time, energy and insults belittling a quartet of first-year congresswomen?
On Sunday, the president unleashed his now-notorious tweetstorm on the four Democratic congresswomen — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — known as the “squad” in Capitol Hill circles.
A lot of people say it’s because he’s a racist or a sexist or a misanthrope with daddy issues.
He may be all of those things, but I think the main reason is simpler than that.
It’s because he’s weak, very weak, and he knows it.
His White House has no legislative agenda. After the departure of Alexander Acosta as secretary of labor, Trump has more than a dozen high-level “acting” officials, leading in such areas as the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He’s no closer to abolishing Obamacare or building a wall on the Mexican border than he ever was, even though he has claimed falsely at rallies that the wall “already is being built.” It is not.
But he shows his weakness most vividly in his angry tough-guy act. We see it when he bullies the less powerful with empty threats to distract from his presidential shortcomings, trigger the liberals and give his support base a thrill.
Bullies, as his parents should have taught him long ago, are cowards inside. They don’t want to fight, they only crave the feeling, however groundless and deluded it may be, that they have won.
“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly ... and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.”
Yes, Mr. President, members of Congress are “telling” people how our government should be run. That’s why people elected them.
But it is not part of Trump’s job to declare, as he then typed in the same tweet, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came....”?
Places from which they came? Right. Like Michigan, Minnesota, Massachusetts and New York. “Go back” where? Is he too lazy to bother with learning anything about the people whom he insults before he insults them?
All four women are American citizens — born in the United States, except Omar who is a naturalized citizen, born in Somalia. But, to Trump, all Democratic women of color in Congress apparently look alike.
I hope our country’s president is not as deranged as he sounds. Surely he knows that our elected lawmakers — regardless of race, sex, religion or national origin — have as much of a right to praise or criticize our country as he did when he launched his presidency with his dark “American carnage” inaugural address.
Now his rant about the squad sounds like the “America Love It Or Leave It” bumper stickers from the Vietnam War era.
And his rhetorical attempt to devalue their citizenship sounds like birtherism on steroids — or, to put it more bluntly, identity politics for white folks.
In that vein, Trump was asked at an impromptu news conference Monday if he was concerned that white nationalists had found common cause with him after he said the four progressive Democrats should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
“It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” Trump said. “And all I’m saying is if they want to leave, they can leave.”
Yes, many people agree with President Trump, I am sure. Many of them are racists and sexists, although, as Trump said about Mexican immigrants, “some, I am sure, are good people.”
Yes, Trump appears to be sticking with his base-focused strategy to the end, even though his lack of outreach has made him the first president since polling began to fail to rise above 50 percent approval in major polls this late in his presidency.
Perhaps Trump is old, bold and craven enough to rely on duplicating the narrowly focused divide-and-conquer strategy that managed to win the Electoral College in 2016 with all of that dark “American Carnage” divisiveness.
That’s not a very brave approach, but he is not a very brave man. He’s just weak.
Page is a Chicago Tribune columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.