Trump’s self-defeating obsession with 2016 victory hasn’t faded

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 24: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump speaks before signing an executive order establishing regulatory reform officers and task forces in US agencies in the Oval Office of the White House on February 24, 2017 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day, Trump stated he would cut 75 percent of regulations.

 

Not quite two weeks ago, Donald Trump was bothered by national protests about his secret tax returns that he declared via Twitter, “The election is over!” Kellyanne Conway added a day later that Democrats should move forward “instead of still talking about the election.”

Yeah, about that….

More than five months after his victory and two days shy of the 100-day mark of his presidency, the election is still on Trump’s mind. Midway through a discussion about Chinese President Xi Jinping, the president paused to hand out copies of what he said were the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map.

“Here, you can take that, that’s the final map of the numbers,” the Republican president said from his desk in the Oval Office, handing out maps of the United States with areas he won marked in red. “It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us.”

He had copies for each of the three Reuters reporters in the room.

This might be one of the saddest political reports I’ve ever seen. Here was a sitting president of the United States, in the Oval Office, talking to Reuters about China, when all of a sudden Trump thought it’d be a good time to not only think about his election victory nearly six months ago, but also to present the reporters in the room with their own copies of the map that makes him feel good about himself.

Remember, this isn’t a joke. The Reuters report isn’t satire intended to make the president appear ridiculous. There’s actually a photo of Trump behind his desk yesterday, holding up the vote-totals map for the Reuters journalists.

It’s sometimes hard not to wonder whether we’re trapped in some cartoonish version of reality.

There was a running joke for a while about the president’s habit of referencing his 2016 electoral-vote totals, even when there was no reason to, sounding very much like a grown man who can’t stop talking about the time he won the big game in high school.

Time magazine reported, “New presidents often like to talk about their campaign win as a mandate for their policies. But President Trump has taken the practice farther than most, reminiscing about his unexpected campaign win and recounting his exact Electoral College margin at unexpected times.”

That was in February – after Trump visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Some of the problems with this extend from the president’s confusion about reality. He’s insisted several times that he won a “historic landslide” (he didn’t) and his electoral-vote totals were the highest “since Ronald Reagan” (they weren’t). This dynamic is made even more cringe-worthy by Trump obsessing over what happened last November, rather than focusing on the present, the future, and the fact that his presidency is off to such an embarrassing start.

But even looking past this, what Trump doesn’t seem to appreciate is how self-defeating his preoccupation is. There’s no doubt that he managed to win the 2016 presidential election, but by keeping the focus on what happened six months ago, Trump inadvertently brings attention to the dubious circumstances that led to his rise to power.

This was, after all, an election in which Trump received nearly 3 million fewer votes than his rival, and benefited from an illegal espionage operation launched by a foreign adversary.

In other words, common sense suggests the president should be eager, perhaps even desperate, to leave Election Day 2016 in the past, hoping Americans overlook how he reached the Oval Office. And yet, even now, Trump just can’t help himself.

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