In the days after the 2016 election, some conservatives began mocking liberals expressing their distress as “special snowflakes,” so delicate and tender that they needed to retreat to their “safe spaces” where the world’s cruel realities wouldn’t intrude on them. But now we know who the most special snowflake of all is, the one whose feelings are so fragile that he must be nestled within a supportive cocoon lest he fall to pieces. I speak of course of the president of the United States, who exists in a floating safe space that is never quite safe enough.
Just look at the bizarre press conference he held on Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. As has become his habit, Trump bypassed the major news organizations to take questions only from conservative outlets, in this case one from the Christian Broadcasting Network and one from Townhall, whom he knows won’t be mean to him. And when the subject of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn came up, Trump was all bitterness and resentment — not at Flynn, but at the news media and the intelligence agencies. Keep in mind as you read this that Trump himself supposedly fired Flynn for his misconduct in lying to members of the administration about his discussions with the Russian ambassador:
Michael Flynn, General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he has been treated very, very unfairly by the media, as I call it, the fake media in many cases. And I think it’s really a sad thing that he was treated so badly. I think in addition to that, from intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked. It’s criminal action, criminal act, and it’s been going on for a long time before me, but now it’s really going on. People are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton. I think it’s very, very unfair what’s happened to General Flynn, the way he was treated, and the documents and papers that were illegally — I stress that — illegally leaked. Very, very unfair. [Trump]
So Flynn, whom Trump fired for his lies and deception, is the real victim here, and the real villains are the news media and the intelligence agencies. Huh?
As writer Amy Sullivan noted, these are the words of someone who was forced into a decision he didn’t want to make and now can’t help but complain about it, even if it makes him look bad. And this is one of the things Trump seems to find particularly galling about the presidency: He’s not allowed to do what he wants.
He’s not the first president to chafe at the constraints of the office. The physical isolation irks many presidents; Harry Truman supposedly called the White House “the crown jewel of the federal penal system,” something Bill Clinton liked to repeat. Ronald Reagan regularly complained that he really wanted “to just walk down the street to the corner drugstore and look at the magazines. I can’t do that anymore.”
But that’s not what bothers Trump, who is something of a homebody anyway. The problem for him is that when you’re president, for all the power you have, other people keep getting in your way. Bureaucrats undermine you, Congress doesn’t follow your orders, lawyers tell you what you’re not allowed to do, celebrities mock you, jerks on Twitter question the size of your inaugural crowd. That’s not even to mention the dastardly media, which doesn’t appreciate your brilliance, skill, and good intentions. Not only that, you’re constantly presented with decisions where you’re forced to choose between two bad options, which is no fun at all.
All this is why we see Trump complaining not just about the content of the criticisms and obstacles he faces, but the process. When a judge overturns his executive order, it’s a “so-called judge,” someone who shouldn’t have the authority to tell him what he can and can’t do. Other presidents disagreed with rulings that went against them and said so, but they didn’t launch a personal attack on the judge.
That’s because Trump, special snowflake that he is, takes everything personally. If leaks are coming out of the government, it must be because people are out to get him — and he assumes that everyone’s motives are as petty as his. Does he actually think that people in the FBI or the intelligence agencies leaked the information about Michael Flynn because they were “trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton”? He probably does.
Anyone who follows Trump on Twitter knows that “unfair” is one of his favorite words. Despite the fact that he has gone through life screwing over everyone he could, from the contractors he refuses to pay to the suckers who bought seminars at Trump University, Trump is always ready to complain that he’s being treated unfairly, which usually means that people aren’t showing him the deference and appreciation he feels he deserves. His political opponents? Unfair. The courts? Unfair. The media? Unfair. In a fair world, everyone would let him do what he wants, then applaud him for doing it.
Unfortunately for Trump, that is not the world the president of the United States lives in. The Oval Office may be secure, but it’s no safe space. Which is why he’s going to find this to be a very long four years.