They say if you want to get the measure of a man, have a look at who his friends are. That may be true, but you’ll gain a much faster insight about him if you consider his enemies. What we now know for certain about Donald Trump is that, like the paranoid and mistrustful Richard Nixon, he keeps a very long list of them. That list now includes celebrities, former associates, politicians and journalists. It’s also growing by the day. Before he even becomes president, Trump’s been making increasingly dramatic threats and lashing out in public and private, in meetings and on Twitter, giving us a worrying preview of what his vindictive administration will be like when it commences.
But it’s not just that he’s already behaving like a tyrant. It’s who he’s behaving like a tyrant toward that tells us something fundamental about him.
Last Monday morning he summoned the nation’s leading news anchors to his gold plated tower. Thinking they would hear new details about what kind of access to him they would have, they attended. Into the tower came Lester Holt, Charlie Rose, George Stephanopoulos, Wolf Blitzer and others for an off-the-record chat and presumably to discuss the lessons of the hard fought presidential campaign. But what they actually got was a defiant slap in the face and this message: You got it all wrong.
The meeting took place in a big boardroom and there were about 30 or 40 people present, including the top news anchors from all the networks, the New York Post reported.
Trump started in on CNN chief Jeff Zucker first telling him, “I hate your network. Everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed.” He had barbs for everyone present and he held nothing back.
“We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful, dishonest media who got it all wrong,” he continued.
What Trump fails to realize is that he’s no longer a private citizen and he’s certainly not a monarch: he’s the incoming President of the United States. If he can’t handle the constant media criticism then he’s applied for the wrong job.
Meanwhile, it may have escaped your attention but Trump’s most impassioned supporters are what some outlets call the “alt-right.” Your Yankee grandfather’s generation would have simply called them fascists. Trump’s profoundly anti-immigrant campaign inspired the alt-right, our own homegrown fascists, to pick him as their savior. The frequent slurs against people from Mexico and the proposal to ban Muslims from the U.S. ensured the enthusiastic support he has received from white supremacists – a fact that he has done practically nothing to change.
Since his win an alarming number of bias attacks against minorities have occurred across the country, including attacks on immigrants, LGBT people, and damage to private property, vandalized with neo-Nazi graffiti extolling Hitler and Trump.
Did Trump lament these developments? He did not. Instead he attacked the cast of a Broadway musical for respectfully asking his vice president Mike Pence to work on behalf of all Americans and uphold their inalienable rights.
Trump takes no offense at the verbal and physical attacks made in his name, but he was enraged by a polite request made by a multiracial group of actors on a Broadway stage, and he demanded an apology from them.
The contrast is stark. Last weekend a group of white supremacists gathered in his name at the Ronald Reagan federal building, just a few blocks from the White House, to celebrate his election. Trump, who always attacks without holding back, had not one word to condemn them.
By choosing Steve Bannon, a man that some Democrats have already openly called a Nazi, to help direct his administration, Trump gave what some have called a wink to the alt-right, because Bannon has managed one of its most preferred media platforms and is overseeing its expansion.
So there is no question that we are in a dangerous and unprecedented new moment now. Trump apparently doesn’t understand the baleful forces he unleashed during the primaries or more worryingly he doesn't actually care. In Trumpland you either aid his ambitions or you find yourself berated and blacklisted.
One particularly warm relationship he appears to have is with the Russian president. In fact, reports show that before he spoke to the Pentagon he spoke to Vladimir Putin. On Monday Putin reciprocated by moving his nuclear missiles closer to Europe in an alarming show of force.
While Trump spends all of his time attacking his enemies on Twitter, he should be much more worried about his friends out there in the real world.