Over the weekend, Ari Fleisher, who served as White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, neatly summed up the current occupant of the Oval Office. President Donald Trump, he wrote on Twitter, “enjoys waving red flags in front of bulls.”
Mr. Trump is blessed by unhinged political foes consumed by their unbridled hatred for everything he does. But all too often, the president himself appears eager, in a consciously self-destructive sort of way, to feed and sate his vocal critics at his own expense.
Take the recent dust-up over the administration’s decision to hold an economic summit next year at his Florida golf resort.
Among the thin veneers that House Democrats have used to launch an impeachment probe against Mr. Trump is the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits federal officials from receiving benefits from foreign states without congressional approval. It’s intended to stop foreign governments from currying favor with federal officials through lavish gifts or even bribes. Whether the clause applies also to routine business transactions remains a matter for debate. Nevertheless, Nevada Rep. Dina Titus is leading hearings on the issue of whether the president is essentially accepting illegal payoffs when foreign nationals stay at one of his hotels.
Given all this, what on Earth possessed administration officials and the president to think it was a good idea to even consider holding next year’s high-level G-7 meeting at the Trump National Doral resort near Miami? White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had the unenviable task last week of rationalizing the decision as the logical culmination of a comprehensive vetting process involving a dozen potential host locales for the international gathering. Who believes this?
By Sunday, the White House had finally pulled the plug on the Doral location amid the inevitable hullabaloo. Surely the reaction couldn’t have been a surprise. But the incident again highlights how Mr. Trump appears dismissive of his own political interests as long as he can satisfy some deep-seated need to effortlessly manipulate the emotions of his detractors.
“What you have in recent days,” a former communications director for Sen. Ted Cruz told the Wall Journal on Monday, “are landfills of toxic talking points. It’s systemic mismanagement.”
The president may enjoy waving red flags in front of bulls. But absent the discovery of self-restraint, sooner or later he’s going to get gored.