David Brooks is already thinking about what he wants to give Trump for his seventy-first birthday, and he has a few ideas (“A Gift for Donald Trump,” New York Times, 2/10/17):
My first thought was that prudence was the most important gift one could give him.
Luckily for David, there’s currently a 1/2-off sale on prudence at Nordstrom in the color of your choice—“The Color of Your Enemy’s Blood” red or “White Power” white (duh)—but once Trump instructed him and the nation to never, ever buy from Nordstrom because they stopped carrying his daughter Ivanka’s clothing line, David had to come up with something else:
So, upon reflection, the gift I would give Trump would be an emotional gift, the gift of fraternity.
(Pssst! David! There’s a 2-for-1 fraternity promotion going on at Macy’s!)
Brooks isn’t the only one to dabble with the idea that all the president needs is a friend. Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush similarly made Trump out to be a pitiable figure, even if accidentally:
Usually around 6:30 p.m., Mr. Trump retires upstairs to the residence to recharge, vent and intermittently use Twitter. With his wife, Melania, and young son, Barron, staying in New York, he is almost always by himself, sometimes in the protective presence of his imposing longtime aide and former security chief, Keith Schiller. When Mr. Trump is not watching television in his bathrobe or on his phone reaching out to old campaign hands and advisers, he will sometimes set off to explore the unfamiliar surroundings of his new home.
Citing that same article Chris Cillizza picked up on that thread and ran with it:
The simple fact is that Trump has never had real friends in the sense you or I think of the term. The relationship world of Trump has long been split into two groups: 1) His family and 2) people who work for him. And people who work for you are rarely your actual friends.
Look. Trump got to where he is by bluster and bullying. The idea that he is some loner who doesn’t know how to make friends and is therefore like the jerk in middle school who jostled kids for their lunch money is excusing him for decades malfeasance. He attacked and continues to attack anyone who raised an eyebrow in his direction, and he spits out policy proposals specifically tailored to target and hurt people, particularly minorities. And he doesn’t do what the typical conservative does, which is to disguise those harmful policies in the abstract and purposely-distracting language of “freedom” or “principles”—he feeds the violent id of the Republican base by implicitly and explicitly saying that people are going to be punished.
There is no reason to believe that a seventy-year-old man is capable of changing, say, his views on women when ten years earlier he bragged about grabbing them “by the pussy.” There is no reason to believe a man who insisted upon the guilt of the Central Park Five, even after they were exonerated, and who refused to rent apartments to black people, and who threatened to send the military to Chicago, is going to have suddenly become enlightened about his own racism. There is no reason to believe someone who has repeatedly stiffed contractors and employees has an ability to discover sympathy for the white working class who voted for him.
So while Brooks does this:
I doubt that Trump will develop a capacity for fraternity any time soon, but to be human is to hold out hope, and to believe that even a guy as old and self-destructive as Trump is still 0.001 percent open to a transformation of the heart.
I’ll remind him that he better also hold out hope for the party that continues to enable him. They equally share in the culpability of Trump’s actions every day they can’t straightforwardly denounce him and take real action to mitigate the damage he can do. At the same time, I will not feel sorry for Donald Trump. He doesn’t need a hug.
Trump is pitiful, not pitiable. Holding out “hope” for him is a waste of time. And it gives him a pass on everything he’s done so far.