Trump quickly refocused on his personal grievances

Trump talked to his unrequited love object the New York Times again yesterday, in another desperate attempt to get them to see him as he sees himself.

In lengthy and at times contradictory remarks on Thursday about the news media — which he deemed “important” and “beautiful,” but also “so bad” and “unfair” — Mr. Trump called himself “a victim” of unfair coverage and declined to accept responsibility for a rise in threats against journalists since he took office.

“I do notice that people are declaring more and more fake news, where they go, ‘Fake news!’” the president said during an Oval Office interview with The New York Times. “I even see it in other countries. I don’t necessarily attribute that to me. I think I can attribute the term to me. I think I was the one that started using it, I would say.”

Did it work? Did they start admiring him because of his genius at inventing and disseminating the label “fake news”?

When Mr. Sulzberger said that foreign leaders were increasingly using the term “fake news” to justify suppressing independent scrutiny, Mr. Trump replied: “I don’t like that. I mean I don’t like that.”

No, admiration is missing from that passage. Solemnly quoting that ridiculous blurt is not a symptom of newfound admiration.

But, in a common pattern whenever the president speaks about the press, Mr. Trump quickly refocused on his personal grievances. “I do think it’s very bad for a country when the news is not accurately portrayed,” he said. “I really do. And I do believe I’m a victim of that, honestly.”

As if anyone doubted his belief. Of course he believes that; it’s what a narcissist and psychopath would believe.

Sulzberger pressed him on the global effects of his tantrums and libels.

“We’re seeing leaders of journalistic organizations saying very directly that governments feel like there is a climate of impunity that’s been created,” the publisher said. “You know the United States and the occupants of your office historically have been the greatest defenders of the free press.”

“And I think I am, too,” Mr. Trump interjected. “I want to be. I want to be.” He quickly added: “I guess the one thing I do feel, because you look at network coverage, it’s so bad.”

He wants to be, he wants to be – meaning, he wants people to say that about him. He doesn’t in the least actually want to be a great defender of the free press, because that would interfere with his entertainments.

The interview arose from a dinner invitation extended by the president to Mr. Sulzberger, who assumed leadership of The Times a little more than a year ago, when he replaced his father, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., in a generational changing of the guard. Instead of a dinner, the publisher requested an on-the-record session, with Times reporters included, and Mr. Trump agreed.

Oh that’s cold. Trump wanted to do a buddy thing with Sulzberger, but met a “this is our work, it’s not a matter of friendship” response. Cold. In reality that could perfectly well have everything to do with journalistic reasons and nothing to do with disgust and loathing, but Trump is too thick to grasp the journalistic reasons so he’s bound to think it’s entirely because Sulzberger doesn’t love him. (That being said, I imagine Sulzberger does feel a pretty lively distaste for Trump the person, but who knows. People have funny tastes.)

It was not the first time that the two men had debated Mr. Trump’s rhetoric concerning the press.

In July, the publisher met with the president in the Oval Office for an off-the-record chat. Nine days later, Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he and Mr. Sulzberger had discussed “the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ Sad!”

That same day, the publisher released a statement saying that the president had misrepresented their exchange. He called Mr. Trump’s attacks on journalism “dangerous and harmful to our country.”

Yet Trump still asked him: “Wanna come over for dinner? Just the two of us?”

Sulzberger tried again to explain the broader consequences. Trump pretended he totally got it.

“I understand that,” Mr. Trump replied before pivoting, once again, to complaints about how he has been covered.

“I don’t mind a bad story if it’s true, I really don’t,” the president said. “You know, we’re all, like, big people. We understand what’s happening. I’ve had bad stories, very bad stories where I thought it was true and I would never complain. But when you get really bad stories, where it’s not true, then you sort of say, ‘That’s unfair.’”

Of course, he’s not a good judge of the truth of stories about him, because he has the narcissist’s ability to see only what comports with the narcissist’s self-image. Everybody does that some, but narcissists can’t do anything else.

Haberman asked him what he thinks a free press does.

Mr. Trump replied that it “describes and should describe accurately what’s going on anywhere it’s covering, whether it’s a nation or a state or a game or whatever.”

“And if it describes it accurately and fairly,” he added, “it’s a very, very important and beautiful thing.”

What Mr. Trump considers fair, however, is almost always in line with what he considers flattering.

Precisely. He’s unable to do anything else.

When Mr. Sulzberger noted that all presidents had complained about how they were depicted by the news media — “tough coverage is part of occupying the most powerful seat on Earth,” the publisher said — Mr. Trump replied, “But I think I get it really bad. I mean, let’s face it, this is at a level that nobody’s ever had before.”

And there’s a reason for that. He will never understand what that reason is.

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