Donald Trump, auteur-in-chief

Trump has this idea that the Executive Branch is an extension of the Trump campaign, the Trump brand, or even the Trump family. If the FBI director is someone whom Donald Trump technically employs, and Donald Trump can fire him, then it follows that he ought to be on Team Trump. Instead of being loyal to the country or the law, Trump imagines that everyone on the federal payroll ought to bend the knee. James Comey made the mistake of continuing to appear in headlines or stories that angered Trump, so he had to go. Sad!…

But as predicted, Trump makes everything about his personal relationships and how they play on TV. When foreign leaders pay him a visit, he does not offer the usual canned, anodyne public statements about their meetings, with their talk of “mutual interests” and “cooperation.” Instead, he casts himself and foreign leaders in an ongoing series of buddy-cop movies and romances. “President Xi, we have a, like, a really great relationship,” Trump said to the AP. “Great relationship with Merkel, one of the best,” he told Time. “She loves Ivanka.” There are dramatic reconciliations, too. Weeks after blowing up at Australia’s prime minister, Trump met him and smiled to kick off the next act: “It got a little bit testy. But that’s okay,” he said. Luckily for our nation’s place in the world, Trump treats other leaders like movie-star peers. (He has great “chemistry” with Xi.)

Employees, meanwhile, are afforded no such deference. In fact, James Comey is almost no different to Trump than a media antagonist such as Joe Scarborough or Rosie O’Donnell. The FBI was just part of a media-scape polluted with stories that don’t flatter Trump. It was time, as Trump likes to say, to fire Comey “like a dog.” And then tweet about it. Get the casting agents to Pennsylvania Ave., pronto.

Will this scandal hurt Trump’s presidency? Almost certainly, but only by doing further damage to the public’s already-low opinion of the White House’s competence. Who wants to work in an administration that will turn on you like this if circumstance should temporarily put you at public odds with the boss?

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