It is not just at home that Trump often seems most concerned with serving his own ends.
Speculation is mounting Trump will try to stage another propaganda coup by meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the UN General Assembly later this month.
It’s not surprising to see a President seeking to maximize personal political advantage. But no modern President has taken a course that appears to make a conventional reading of America’s national interest so subordinate to his own goals or done so little to separate the role of head of state from his personal impulses.
Trump’s frenetic activity violates long-accepted guardrails governing the commander in chief’s role. It also poses a fundamental question. What, or who exactly, is the Trump presidency — and potentially four more years in office — actually for?
Or are they offering Democrats a potentially powerful and so far untapped election argument that Trump is really only interested in himself, burnishing his ego and adding to his wealth while forgetting the plight and dreams of most Americans?
Trump’s voters see success
For many Trump supporters, the President’s constant trolling of the Washington establishment is fulfillment in itself of the promise of his shock election victory in 2016, highlighting a disconnect between the establishment media and his voters.
When Trump tarnishes the credibility of governance at home and America’s reputation abroad, he horrifies the Washington elite. But in much of America, such transgressions appear remote and not immediately damaging. To his voters, it’s more important that he’s fulfilling his promises like building a wall and rebuking allies for not paying enough for their self-defense.
Trump’s China trade war might have won bipartisan support in Washington as an overdue recalibration of American foreign policy if carried out in a less knee-jerk way.
But the workers and farmers who he says will benefit most from the trade war are currently being disadvantaged by his tariffs. And the administration has shown little sign of long-term planning that might result in enduring prosperity for such communities past the next recession.
Instead, the impression in recent days has been of a President engineering the governing system to his own political and material benefit and manipulating his power to destroy shared truths and to delegitimize competing centers of power.
Such action has raised questions about the credibility of the President’s words and the probity of the US government itself.
Asked on “Meet the Press” whether the credibility of the President’s words had been eroded, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt let a few awkward seconds pass, then replied, “No.”
Former GOP Rep. Charlie Dent worries about the long-term impact of Trump calling the word of the government into disrepute.
“The sad part is it just seems that the President … he seems to be at war with the truth and fact. And the serious question is, you know, how do we recover from this someday?” Dent said on “CNN Tonight” on Friday.
Sharpie-gate reveals Trump’s ego
It was an inconsequential detail that could have simply been explained away as a misstep but that became a metaphor for Trump’s volcanic ego and refusal to ever admit he’s wrong.
Some critics argue that the media, by pointing out every twist of the controversy, played into Trump’s narrative of distraction.
The manipulated map that Trump showed with Dorian’s false path drawn on with a Sharpie exemplified his attitude to fact — and using the machinery of government to dispute it.
There’s been a strong instinct for self-celebration and preservation in his presidency — right from the first moments when he forced his spokesman Sean Spicer to spread falsehoods about his inauguration crowd
Trump’s need for self-preservation also saw him use the tools of his office to spend months discrediting special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe that at one point seemed to threaten his presidency.
An Irish boondoggle
Trump’s refusal to fully divest from his businesses and relentless promotion of his properties as President underscores how he has used his political career to benefit his bottom line.
The stay triggered days of contradictory messaging over whether the President had told Pence to stay there, or if the resort was simply close to the vice president’s ancestral roots.
But an administration keen to avoid any scent of corruption would never have put itself in this position in the first place and would surely have avoided the President’s hotel.