We know that Donald Trump knows little about policy and seems to care even less. What drives him seem to be greed and a pathetic need for approval, blended in with some nasty instincts. But we do know that he seems to enjoy most the pomp and ceremony of his office, as evidenced by his eagerness to be given the full royal treatment on his visit to the UK. He has always been driven by a desperate need for acceptance by those whom he seems to consider his betters, those who are more successful than him in business and those who belong to high society. Becoming president would enable him to feel superior to all those whom he felt had looked down at him all these years.
But all that is falling apart. The UK visit keeps receding into the distance. And now the annual Kennedy Center gala that features the president and spouse as chief guests who host a reception for the honorees has also fallen apart. The event will still go on but Trump will not be there nor will he host the reception. That will hurt. As James Hohmann writes, this setback and the abandonment by all the other elites on his various advisory panels will really stick in his craw.
People in his orbit say the president has been in a sour mood about all of this. He stormed the barricades, but now he’s the one under siege. Unlike most of the criticism he’s engendered since taking office, the past week has actually impacted his bottom line. The value of the Trump “brand,” which he once said is worth billions, has taken a bath since he declared that some “fine people” were protesting alongside the neo-Nazis and white supremacists at the University of Virginia.
Make no mistake, Trump cares deeply about these snubs. He has spent his entire life trying to get onto the A-list. He’s a Queens kid who has tried hard to win acceptance in Manhattan. The pomp and circumstance of the presidency were big draws when he chose to run. He was genuinely excited about the ceremonial duties of the office after he unexpectedly won the election. More than most presidents, whatever he may say to the contrary, he has shown a love for ceremonies like the one at the Kennedy Center.
What he does not like, and goes to great lengths to avoid, is public humiliation. After his experience at the 2011 White House Correspondent’s Dinner, when Barack Obama and Seth Meyers ridiculed him from the stage, he announced that he’d skip this year’s. He didn’t throw the ceremonial first pitch at the Nationals home opener, as past presidents have, because he was afraid of getting booed.
As an alpha male, Trump seems to take special satisfaction when people who are richer, cooler and better looking than him kowtow. It seems silly to have to write this, but it’s true: Having his ring kissed seems to be one of Trump’s favorite parts of the job. But there’s not been very much ring-kissing lately.
And now universities are under pressure to take back any honorary degrees they gave him.
Live by shallowness and vanity, die by shallowness and vanity. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving person.