By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – Donald Trump’s head must be an odd and lonely place to live.
His visit to Great Britain demonstrates how desperate he is to be accepted and respected. He was so pleased to be in the presence of monarchy that he accepted the mild public chastisements of Queen Elizabeth II with an almost obsequious delight. So long as he could sit in the company of royalty, he would swallow lectures about duty with a smile pasted on his face.
But it goes beyond a desire to belong to the best clubs with the upper crust.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
The president clearly needs to see himself as the master of every situation – a man who manipulates others rather than one who is manipulated by others, a user rather than the used.
But now, nearly two and a half years into his presidency, it’s difficult to see any place in which Donald Trump has imposed his will.
Around the globe, other leaders look to him not for leadership but as either a pliant tool or a momentary distraction. North Korea’s murderous dictator Kim Jong Un persuaded Trump to make major concessions regarding America’s military presence in the region while offering nothing in return. The Saudis cajoled the American president into condoning murder just so they can buy more weapons to wreak more havoc. And Russian thug Vladimir Putin sees Trump as a cross between a lap dog and a chair cushion.
Closer to home, the conventional wisdom is that the Republicans in Congress are his playthings, but a more discerning look suggests the opposite.
The GOP caucuses in the Senate and House line up with him because he is useful to them, not the other way around. On his watch, they have secured the things most important to them – the elevation of conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court and deep, deep tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy.
The issue the president has said he cares most about – the wall – remained lodged at the bottom of the Republican priority list during the two years the GOP controlled both chambers of Congress.
Now, as the president threatens to impose tariffs on Mexico, the Republican leaders in the Senate tell him they have the votes to override the trade barriers he wants. At the very least, these members of his own party weaken Trump’s hand in negotiating with the Mexican government.
Then there are the Democrats in the House. Trump likes to boast that he’s bullied them so much they’re afraid to move forward on impeachment.
The greater likelihood is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has decided time is on the Democrats’ side. The longer the president stonewalls, the more probable it is that the investigations into his affairs and conduct will occur during an election year.
That may not concern the president, but it could put some Republican senators in purple states in difficult, damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situations should questions of removal from office or censure surface just as Americans get ready to go to the polls..
And Donald Trump in the Oval Office energizes and mobilizes Democrats more and better than any Democratic leader can.
Pelosi moves with all deliberate speed because Donald Trump is a useful foil for her.
Still closer to the president’s heart, it seems that few serve him for reasons other than self-interest. His relationships with his wives, with the other women about whom he brags, with his supposed “friends,” with his staffers, even with his children – with the possible exception of his daughter Ivanka – all seem to be transactional.
His sons accompany him on a state visit to Britain. While the president pursued a primal desire to be accepted in the best circles, his older male offspring turned the trip into an opportunity to film an amateur “Boys Gone Wild” video.
At taxpayer expense, at that.
What should have been a moment of triumph for the patriarch turns into just another controversy.
Donald Trump doesn’t present things this way, of course.
In his illusion-fused telling, he knows nothing but victory and adulation.
People most often retreat into fantasy when reality is too painful to confront.
It must be hard to be this president – to fight so hard, hunger with such fervor, to reach for so much.
And then find only emptiness reaching back.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.