Lost in the fire hose of daily Trump news is the basic notion that the president is anything but presidential. Donald Trump continues to behave more like an incontinent mid-level radio or Fox News screecher, abandoning all links to the decorum or decency for which most previous presidents have exemplified. Whether we agreed with those past presidents is one thing, but generally speaking even the most nefarious presidents still carried themselves with a level of restraint and respectability which Trump has never embraced minus sporadic occasions when he's not required say words in public.
One of the many things we never used to see out of presidents were full-on tantrums, emphasized with all-cap lettering conveying bellicose threats against perceived enemies. Trump, on the other hand, seems to enjoy shrieking into the void in order to stir up his Red Hat army. We all remember almost exactly a year ago when Trump repeatedly threatened "fire and fury" against North Korea. Today, however, he only praises the virtues of the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un.
We can only assume Trump thinks this kind of lashing out is effective, based on his self-proclaimed success with the North Korea talks, because he did it again late Sunday night. In response to a speech by President Hassan Rouhani in which the Iranian leader said any U.S. attack against his nation would be met with the "mother of all wars," Trump tweeted: "To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!"
Yep. That was the sitting American president in his own words. Not a parody account -- and trust me, in disbelief I triple-checked the account when I first read the tweet.
There are so many problems with this, it's difficult to know where to start. One major issue is that very few world leaders take this sort of threat seriously because it's all part of the white-noise spewing out of the Oval Office or, as the case may be, out of Trump's bathroom in the White House residence. Trump's crying wolf again. Like always. Apart from Iran itself, the general reaction online was mainly to stop, look, blink -- Trump's yelling at his TV again -- then continue on with whatever it is we're doing.
Another problem with Trump's screeching is that it contradicts everything he's said, before and especially since Helsinki, about talking to our enemies. Regarding Russia, a nation whose president ordered an ongoing cyber-war against America -- a war that's underway right now -- Trump has never once yelled like this at anyone in the Russian government. Not Putin, not Medvedev. No one. Why? He and his staff claim it's because we're supposed to talk to our enemies otherwise, BOOM! Nuclear war.
For instance, on July 18, Trump tweeted: "Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia. They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!"
With Putin, Trump's false choice is either talking or war, and Trump prefers talking. But with Rouhani, Trump jumps right to threatening a nuclear missile attack and doesn't even bother to talk. Put another way, Trump wants to avoid war with Russia, but he appears to be rushing to a war footing with Iran, which, by the way, isn't busily trying to disrupt our elections. (Incidentally, Russia is reportedly providing military aid to the Taliban. Another action Trump is happy to overlook.)
This tells us two things. First, Trump can't threaten Russia using the same all-caps screaming. He can't do it because he's compromised by Putin in innumerable ways, and he's desperately trying to hang onto his Trump Tower Moscow deal until after his presidency. Second, it tells us Trump's disciples are okay with their cult-leader yelling at brown-skinned Muslims as opposed to white villains like Putin. The issue of war is only relevant when dealing with the latter, Iran, and yet it's never on the table, not even additional sanctions or digital counterattacks when it comes to Russia. The truth is, many of us aren't even seeking or demanding a counterattack against Russia. We'd be happy if Trump merely ordered an all-out effort to safeguard our elections while condemning Putin with maybe half the decibel level of his Iran and North Korea "fire and fury" threats.
But he'll never do that. And his public excuses are proving as flimsy as his presidential legitimacy.