On Tuesday, President Donald Trump –accompanied by his wife, Melania, and his daughter and son-in-law — traveled to Pittsburgh to offer condolences to the victims of a shooting at a Jewish synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood. He did so despite urgings from the city’s mayor to postpone his trip until the funerals for the 11 victims could be completed. And despite the fact that no members of Congress joined him on the trip.
And then, on Wednesday morning, he tweeted this:
“Melania and I were treated very nicely yesterday in Pittsburgh. The Office of the President was shown great respect on a very sad & solemn day. We were treated so warmly. Small protest was not seen by us, staged far away. The Fake News stories were just the opposite-Disgraceful!”
Clearly the President has a victim mentality here. He was performing his presidential duties of mourning with those who lost loved ones and visiting with the injured but the protesters — and the media that covered them — had treated him very, very unfairly.
It’s a remarkable bit of myopia. And a revealing reminder that Trump not only sees absolutely everything through the lens of himself first, second and last, but also that the way he sees himself is as the unfairly maligned victim. Always.
Remember the context here. Over the weekend, 11 people were gunned down in a synagogue. It was the single most deadly attack on American Jews in history. But, for Trump, the key is that some people are criticizing his visit — and covering people who protested his divisive rhetoric.
His capacity to make any story about him — and to turn it into a grievance — is truly startling. And telling.
The key to Trump is this: He has always viewed himself as an outsider, scorned by the “in” crowd but, secretly, better — smarter, richer, cooler — than all of them. Growing up, his father, Fred, was a big-time developer but in Queens, not Manhattan. Trump went into Manhattan as a developer but the established, old money crowd wouldn’t let him into their clubs. (In the words of President Kanye West: “I know they don’t want me in the damn club/They even made me show ID to get inside of Sam’s Club.”) He came to Washington in 2011 amid speculation about him entering politics and the insider DC crowd laughed at him.
“I meet these people they call them ‘the elite,'” Trump said at a campaign rally this summer. “These people. I look at them, I say, ‘That’s elite?’ We got more money, we got more brains, we got better houses, apartments, we got nicer boats, we’re smarter than they are, and they say they’re elite? We’re the elite. You’re the elite. We’re the elite.”
That grievance-based view of the world found remarkably fertile ground among primarily white voters barraged by almost-constant economic anxiety and a growing sense that the culture in which they grew up was being eroded in front of their eyes. So great was their grievance — and sense of victimhood — that they were willing to overlook (or look past) the fact that Trump was a billionaire, who had come from significant wealth, and was living very high on the hog in New York City and Florida. Not exactly someone who shared their worries about ends meeting or paying for their kids to go to college.
As President, Trump has kept up his insistence that the elites are out to get him. The best example is his ongoing battle with the so-called “deep state” — Trump’s conceit that there is a coordinated effort within the federal bureaucracy (focused on the Justice Department) to undermine his presidency. He has repeatedly insisted that he is the target of a “witch hunt” being run by special counsel Robert Mueller, a probe pushed by Democrats who can’t accept the results of the 2016 election. (The special counsel was created by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Mueller himself is a Republican.)
This tweet from Trump is indicative of his broader view of how he is being persecuted in all of this:
“‘Clinton campaign & DNC paid for research that led to the anti-Trump Fake News Dossier. The victim here is the President.’ @FoxNews”
That victim complex has also led him to take the side of high-profile men accused of sexual assault or misconduct — from Bill O’Reilly to Roger Ailes to Brett Kavanaugh — all while bemoaning the allegations leveled against him by more than a dozen women over the course of the 2016 campaign.
“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign,” Trump said in 2016. “Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”
(Sidebar: He never sued any of the women.)
The Point: Despite being a child of privilege, a billionaire and a man who was elected president on his first run for public office, Donald Trump always always always sees himself as an aggrieved victim. Even when 11 people were gunned down in a place of worship just days ago.