Donald Trump obviously relishes the role of bully. But his greatest talent by far lies in playing the victim.
He's a victim of Adam Schiff. A victim of Nancy Pelosi. A victim of all Democrats, really, and of his own seedy henchmen (Michael Cohen, Lev Parnas) and of the "deep state" and of the "fake news media" and of the entire establishment, whatever that is.
He's a victim of so many forces so many times over that even "martyr" doesn't do justice to his lot, which is what you get when you multiply Job in the Old Testament by Mel Gibson in "Braveheart" and add the protagonist of "Unbroken."
No president has ever been treated so badly. I'm not being sarcastic. I'm taking dictation: He has made this exact claim — repeatedly.
His victimhood is front and center in his defense against the articles of impeachment and in the legal papers filed by his lawyers on Monday, as his trial in the Senate moved forward.
The lawyers write of a process "rigged" against Trump. They portray his Democratic accusers as unhinged tormentors, too consumed with his destruction to see how unimpeachably he has really behaved. The 171-page document is so soggy with Trumpian self-pity it weeps.
It's so bloated with Trumpian hyperbole it waddles. On just one of those pages, his lawyers recount how Democrats exercised "shameful hypocrisy" as they "concocted an unheard-of procedure" and held those infamous "secret hearings in a basement bunker" while journalists "happily fed the public a false narrative" and the poor president was denied any rights whatsoever. This is the bodice ripper of political sob stories. It's a Harlequin harangue.
It expands on — and continues in the precise spirit of — a preliminary legal brief that his lawyers filed last weekend. "The scream of a wounded animal" was how two legal experts who contribute to The Atlantic assessed that argument. They could as easily have been describing the rest of Trump's presidency, the whole of his political career and much of his life.
He's always right and yet always wronged. He demands that we marvel at his invincibility even as we tremble at his degradation. He can vanquish any enemy — and his enemies are legion! — but look at how he's pushed around. Trump takes a textbook oxymoron and gives it presidential form. Behold, at the Resolute Desk, a jumbo shrimp.
"This goes all the way back to his childhood," Michael D'Antonio, the author of The Truth About Trump, told me. D'Antonio said that at the military-themed boarding school that Trump attended, he was known for complaining to superiors about unfair treatment. "It's a strategy for him. He believes and has said that whining is a way to get what you want."
Timothy O'Brien, who wrote the Trump biography TrumpNation, recalled that in the 1980s, when Trump failed to get the support that he wanted from Mayor Ed Koch for an enormous development in Manhattan, he threw himself a pity party, railing that "the system and local government were conspiring against him."
Trump similarly fashioned himself as a beleaguered hero battling dark forces when he bought into the fledgling United States Football League and sought to make it competitive with the National Football League. Goaded by Trump, the USFL filed an antitrust suit against the NFL.
The suit was a bust; the NFL was ordered to pay US$3 in damages. But that didn't throw him off his game, which he upsized for his presidential campaign.
As the conservative columnist Rich Lowry noted in August 2015: "By Trump's own account, he's the baddest, smartest thing going, except if you ask him a challenging question, in which case he kicks and screams and demands to know how anyone could treat him so unfairly." Lowry crowned Trump "the most fabulous whiner in all of American politics."
The CNN anchor Chris Cuomo subsequently asked Trump about Lowry's words.
"I am the most fabulous whiner," Trump conceded. "I keep whining and whining until I win."
He whined operatically as November 2016 approached and it seemed that he'd lose to Hillary Clinton. "The election is going to be rigged," he pouted, ever the victim. Then he beat Clinton — and
Written by: Frank Bruni
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