Political News

The volcanic temper of Donald Trump

Posted September 14

When Donald Trump found out that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate Russia's involvement in the 2016 election, the President went off.

This, from the New York Times, is stunning:

"Almost immediately, Mr. Trump lobbed a volley of insults at Mr. Sessions, telling the attorney general it was his fault they were in the current situation. Mr. Trump told Mr. Sessions that choosing him to be attorney general was one of the worst decisions he had made, called him an 'idiot,' and said that he should resign."

Making the episode all the more painful? Trump and Sessions weren't alone in the meeting. Vice President Mike Pence, White House counsel Don McGahn and several other aides were present, according to the Times report.

This temper tantrum from Trump is not an isolated incident. Far from it.

Trump fumed backstage before his Phoenix campaign rally last month as TV cameras showed a less-than-full arena. George Gigicos, who was handling the advance work for the event, was let go as a result of Trump's displeasure.

Earlier that month, Trump had -- stunningly -- doubled down on his "both sides" comments about the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, a decision, according to Politico, "driven in part by his own anger -- and his disdain for being told what to do."

At his Mar-a-Lago resort back in March, Trump was enraged by the media narrative that his White House was in chaos. He lashed out -- alleging that former President Barack Obama had ordered Trump Tower wire-tapped during the 2016 campaign. He provided no evidence -- either then or ever. And every intelligence agency in a position to know has concluded that no such wire-tapping ever happened.

"He was pissed," Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax and a Trump friend, told The Washington Post at the time. "I haven't seen him this angry."

An August phone call with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell devolved into a "shouting match ... as an irate Trump expressed his frustrations about the congressional investigation into Russian interference with the US election last year and fumed about a Russia sanctions bill Congress passed that would tie Trump's hands on the matter."

Shortly after Trump took office, a phone call he held with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull quickly turned testy. "I have had it," Trump told Turnbull. "I have been making these calls all day and this is the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous."

On the 2016 campaign trail, Trump's temper was legendary -- and often reared its head in debates.

"First of all, Rand Paul shouldn't even be on this stage," Trump said at the start of a September 2015 Republican debate. "I never attacked him on his look and believe me there's plenty of subject matter there -- that I can tell you."

Trump repeatedly clashed with then-Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly -- on and off the debate stage -- over what he believed were unfair questions directed at him. In the second general election debate, Trump was combative and angry -- insisting Hillary Clinton should be jailed and repeatedly referencing the Bill Clinton sex scandal of the 1990s.

You get the idea. Trump's temper is a feature, not a glitch. He pops off. He attacks those around him, casting about for people to blame when something doesn't go to his liking. (He is also not terribly introspective, meaning he very rarely blames himself for mistakes that occur on his watch or even that he makes.)

It's an open question as to whether Trump's temper -- and the actions he takes while mad -- matter to the public.

Just 35% of voters said they thought that Trump had the temperament to be president, as compared to 55% who said Clinton did, according to the 2016 exit poll. Somewhat remarkably, Trump still won the votes of one in every five voters who said he wasn't temperamentally fit for the White House.

In the eight months since he's been President, Trump's temperament -- he has described himself as "modern-day presidential" -- has not worn well with the public, however. In an August CNN poll, 55% said they thought that Trump has "lowered the stature" of the office. More than six in 10 said Trump's actions in office made them less confident in his ability to serve as President.

What is clear is that Trump, at 71 years old, isn't changing. He is who he is -- temper and all. Voters are going to have to decide whether (and how much) it matters to them.

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