An odd way to put it, but I think he’s onto something.
Some people close to Trump speculated that he might be consciously trying to remake the news environment — creating a bizarre spectacle to displace criticism of his tepid response to the massacre of dozens of Muslims in New Zealand, the timing of the administration’s decision to ground Boeing’s 737 Max jets, and frenzied anticipation around the expected release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.
But the saga has left even White House aides accustomed to a president who bucks convention feeling uncomfortable. While the controversies may have pushed aside some bad news, they also trampled on Trump’s Wednesday visit to an army tank manufacturing plant in swing state Ohio.
“For the most part, most people internally don’t want to touch this with a 10-foot pole,” said one former senior White House official. A current senior White House official said White House aides are making an effort “not to discuss it in polite company.” Another current White House official bemoaned the tawdry distraction. “It does not appear to be a great use of our time to talk about George Conway or dead John McCain. … Why are we doing this?”
Maybe, and hear me out, there’s no strategy and Trump is just scratching his latest psychological itch, no matter what political damage it does to him. It was probably the revelation last week about McCain aide David Kramer circulating the Steele dossier to the media that set him off and now he’s just going to have to talk himself through his anger. Some people do that in therapy. POTUS does it in Oval Office photo ops and midwestern rallies.
Even the hosts of his favorite show are mystified:
“The problem is he swapped his own message by going after George Conway and in that speech inexplicably segueing to go after John McCain,” Kilmeade said Thursday morning, referring to the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. “It makes absolutely no sense.”…
Kilmeade said McCain had rivalries with several other politicians and presidents as well, again lamenting that Trump’s attacks on McCain took away from his noteworthy successes such as job creation and a strong economy.
Like I say, I think Mooch hits on why Trump’s hostility to McCain is one of the few things he’s said or done in the past year that really did cost him approval points, if only temporarily. Some Americans admired McCain the man and resent seeing him attacked posthumously; many casual voters, though, probably know little about him or his war service but simply find it strange and off-putting on a human level to watch the president badmouthing a rival who died recently. It is, in fact, an unnatural act to kick a coffin, an advertisement of abnormality. My hunch is that most people come away from Trump ranting about Maverick feeling not so much indignant on McCain’s behalf, as most of the chattering class is, but wary that the most powerful man in the world can’t seem to escape his weird compulsion to do it. One thing every politician wants to be is relatable. Dunking on a dead opponent many months after he lost his ability to cause you trouble isn’t relatable. It has a distinct “Captain Queeg talking about the strawberries” vibe to it.
“Queeg 2020” doesn’t feel like a winning campaign.
But whatever. I think POTUS is convinced that he’s going to win 40 states next year no matter what and, even if he doesn’t, that there’s really no point in having this job if you can’t indulge vendettas on the grandest stage.
“I think it’s stupid,” former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci says of President Trump’s attacks on the late Sen. John McCain.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 21, 2019