Berman: The President is a counter-puncher

President Donald Trump's attack on the Navy SEAL commander who oversaw the raid against Osama bin Laden is drawing new attention to the seesaw dynamic of a President who lavishes praise on the military even as he goes after its leaders and heroes.

Posted: Nov 20, 2018 7:44 PM
Updated: Nov 20, 2018 7:44 PM

The fiction that Donald Trump is a "counter-puncher" is getting a workout as his defenders try to justify the President's attacks on everyone from US Rep. Adam Schiff ("little Adam Schitt") to the special counsel Robert Mueller ("gone absolutely nuts.") The myth holds that Trump is a tough guy who fights back. In fact, he is a fragile man running out of safe places to hide.

Like so much about Trump, the counter-puncher theme is a clever marketing ploy used to obscure obvious flaws. In the past he promoted himself as a business titan to cover the shame of multiple massive bankruptcies. Today, as a politician, he poses as a victim when he's actually a frightened bully. No one is ever on equal footing with the President of the United States, which means that whenever he "punches" anyone, he lowers himself.

Who does Trump fear? He fears the independent counsel, whose investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 election threatens to expose the inner workings of the campaign and of Trump's opaque business empire. He fears Schiff and other House Democrats he's belittled because they will soon chair powerful committees that will launch their own investigations into Trump's administration and, perhaps, his long-hidden tax returns.

The President's insecurities all seem to revolve around his fear of being unmasked as a fraud. The tax returns, for example, would allow everyone to compare his claims to great wealth -- in 2015 he said he was worth $10 billion -- with black-and-white reality. More to the point, we could all see how he has benefited from various tax maneuvers and discover just how much corporate welfare the Trump Organization has lapped up over the years.

Beyond his finances, Trump fears being revealed to be a naïf who has been outplayed by others with power. In the case of the Saudi killing of American-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump seems afraid to listen to the audio evidence Turkish officials handed over to the United States. He seems to be in denial about what his brutal pals are willing to do.

Trump's first overseas trip as President began with a stop in Riyadh, where he joined in a ceremonial dance and went all in with one of the most repressive regimes on Earth.

The desperation in Trump's denial, whether it has to do with Khashoggi's killing or domestic politics, can be seen in the tortured effort he makes to persuade us that what we see with our own eyes isn't true.

The results of the 2018 election are a perfect case in point. Trump's instinct brought him to frame the election as a "tremendous success," even as his party lost control of the House and he became vulnerable to the opposition for the first time in his presidency.

Trump likely failed to detect the nation's displeasure with him, and his party, because he is apparently afraid to go anywhere outside the parts of the country where he's sure to draw an adoring crowd. (His did make a brief trip to California after the campaign in the wake of the deadly wildfires.)

The America he saw at his rallies was whiter, more rural and less educated than America overall. Obviously wary of any place where he wouldn't be hailed as a hero, he didn't hold a single rally in the Northeast or on the West Coast. In both those regions, Republicans suffered major election losses. If timid Trump had taken the risk of going to these places, he might have had a more realistic sense of how he is faring. But information that runs counter to the narrative he prefers may make him uncomfortable.

The President's need for safe spaces is not just a matter of campaign strategy. In March, USA Today noted that Trump had seen less of the country than any president in 40 years. Whenever possible Trump has traveled to his own properties -- the Mar-a-Lago resort is a favorite -- where he can surround himself with sycophants, rest in his own comfy bed and tweet insults at the people he fears.

Although he talks tough, Trump has yet to leave his comfort zone to make a visit to a war zone to visit US troops -- the men and women fighting for America. Except for Kennedy, every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has performed this duty. President Barack Obama did it a little over two months into his first term.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump "has spoken privately about his fears over risks to his own life, according to a former senior White House official." The unnamed official said, "He's afraid of those situations. He's afraid people want to kill him."

A bit of concern would be natural, but as the ultimate VIP, a president who goes to Iraq or Afghanistan, for example, should not tremble. (Obama went to both in his first 14 months in office.) But like any man who brags about how much he loves to fight, Trump long ago revealed himself to be a fearful fellow. Face to face with real combat troops he might be confronted with actual courage and feel diminished

Comfort is prized by our fragile-flower President, who spins fantasies of denial to avoid painful realities. His recent interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News was a frightened fantasist's tour de force. "I did well in France," he says after a trip where he skipped a ceremony to honor the war dead because, he claims, fog kept his helicopter grounded and the Secret Service forbade him to travel by car. In fact, the Secret Service cannot order a president to do anything, and other heads of state made the trek to honor the dead.

Did the Saudis lie to him about Khashoggi? "You know, who can really know?" says Trump whose advisers say they did.

As the President's claims about his trip to France and Khashoggi demonstrate, what he fears most is the truth. Frightened of facts, he dismisses critics as unfair enemies and unpleasant realities as "fake news." He can't learn from his mistakes because he is afraid even to consider them.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 115088

Reported Deaths: 3255
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7973177
DeSoto703979
Harrison522384
Jackson457884
Rankin394086
Madison383194
Lee357380
Forrest304678
Jones292484
Washington258399
Lafayette250443
Lauderdale2478135
Lamar225538
Oktibbeha202454
Bolivar201677
Neshoba1849111
Lowndes179962
Panola170040
Leflore167187
Sunflower162349
Warren154855
Monroe150673
Pontotoc147220
Marshall143129
Lincoln140157
Pike138456
Copiah137536
Scott125429
Coahoma124937
Grenada122638
Yazoo122234
Simpson121549
Union118825
Tate116839
Leake115041
Holmes114760
Itawamba113925
Pearl River113660
Adams108544
Prentiss106120
Wayne101722
Alcorn100112
George99218
Covington97527
Marion95042
Tippah90322
Newton86627
Chickasaw85526
Tallahatchie84526
Winston84121
Hancock84028
Tishomingo81241
Attala79426
Clarke75851
Clay69321
Jasper68717
Walthall63927
Calhoun62612
Noxubee59817
Smith59416
Montgomery54923
Yalobusha54514
Claiborne53716
Tunica53517
Lawrence51814
Perry49423
Carroll49312
Greene47818
Stone47514
Humphreys43816
Amite42513
Quitman4206
Jefferson Davis41011
Webster37613
Benton3416
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32615
Sharkey28514
Jefferson27610
Franklin2423
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 155915

Reported Deaths: 2674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23129377
Mobile16849315
Tuscaloosa10296140
Montgomery10197197
Madison928096
Shelby733863
Baldwin663769
Lee653465
Calhoun456761
Marshall438150
Etowah426551
Houston414834
Morgan412035
DeKalb338829
Elmore320053
St. Clair292542
Limestone284230
Walker277292
Talladega265335
Cullman244024
Lauderdale226242
Jackson214915
Franklin205231
Autauga204831
Colbert200532
Russell19443
Blount192525
Chilton186932
Dallas186527
Coffee176311
Dale175151
Covington174029
Escambia172530
Chambers135044
Clarke134317
Pike133513
Tallapoosa131787
Marion107629
Barbour10319
Marengo100822
Butler100740
Winston92213
Geneva9007
Lawrence85032
Pickens84718
Bibb82814
Randolph82316
Hale76730
Washington74412
Clay74112
Cherokee73314
Lowndes70928
Henry7086
Bullock64817
Monroe64610
Crenshaw60630
Perry5896
Fayette57413
Wilcox56712
Conecuh56113
Cleburne5568
Macon53420
Lamar4905
Sumter47221
Choctaw39012
Greene34216
Coosa2033
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