Finley: Trump gets exactly what he wanted
Something within Donald Trump can't abide the calm.
He gets twitchy when the seas are smooth. A week ago, the president was ascendant. His job approval numbers hit an all-time high, approaching the 50 percent mark.
The focus in Washington had turned from the constant turmoil of his White House and toward the escalating feud in the Democratic Party. His great congressional nemeses — the so-called Squad of four freshmen women, including Detroit's Rep. Rashida Tlaib — were under fire from their own House colleagues for trying to take down Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
And Trump, who revels in being reviled, couldn't stand it. My prediction, voiced on my radio show last week, was that the president would do something to disrupt his positive trajectory.
Sure enough, on Sunday he took to Twitter, his favorite weapon of self-destruction, to viciously attack Tlaib and her fellow travelers, Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley. In doing so he let loose the racist trope, "Go back where you came from."
President Trump is not so clueless that he didn't understand the fury that would ensue. Suddenly, it was all about him again. The condemnation resolution that passed the House was his dream come true. Trump knows the more hate that is directed his way, the more love he gets from his base.
Wednesday night he basked before supporters at a worst-of-America rally, going full Il Duce as the crowd chanted "Send her back," in reference to Somalia-born Omar. Trump could have stopped this shameful show, but he was enjoying it too much.
I can't say whether the burst of racism by Trump was impulsive or calculated. But I suspect the latter.
Trump's already high favorability numbers with Republicans rose with the outrage (they fell, though, with the independents who will be critical to his reelection.)
More importantly to his campaign, he forced Democrats to throw their arms around the Squad and derailed Pelosi's work to mute their influence and exposure. Trump effectively coated the four comrades with Teflon.
No matter how obnoxious the Squad members get, how anti-Semitic their expressions, how divisive they are within the party, how much damage they do to the Democratic brand headed into the 2020 election, Pelosi can't touch them. She has to grit her teeth and applaud their showboating, endure their insults and allow them to become the faces of the party.
Trump, who couldn't care less what label is attached to him — racist, misogynist, xenophobic, so what? — walks away, in his mind, with a victory.
"We won," is what he told his disciples at the rally. And winning is all that matters.
Dragging the White House down to the level of a junior high cafeteria — his immature riff on Pete Buttigieg's name was right out of "Mean Girls" — unleashing a wave of hate on America and trashing our tradition of embracing legal immigrants as our own, are vehicles to carry himself back to the center of the storm.
That's where Trump sleeps best at night. Our world may be crashing against the rocks, but all is well now in his.
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