On Day 1,001, Trump Made It Clear: Being ‘Presidential’ Is Boring

DALLAS — At one point during one of his most unpresidential of days, President Trump insisted that he knew how to be presidential.

“It’s much easier being presidential, it’s easy,” he told a stadium full of more than 20,000 boisterous supporters in MAGA hats and T-shirts cheering his every word on Thursday night. “All you have to do is act like a stiff.”

He buttoned his suit coat, pursed his lips, squared his shoulders and dropped his arms rigidly at his sides. “Ladies and gentlemen of Texas,” he then droned in a sleep-inducing staccato monotone the way he imagined most of the other 44 presidents had done. “It is a great honor to be with you this evening.”

The crowd loved it, roaring with laughter. Transforming back into the unpresidential president America has come to know, Mr. Trump added, “And everybody would be out of here so fast! You wouldn’t come in in the first place!” Being presidential, he was saying, is so boring. Who wants that?

After 1,000 days in office, Mr. Trump has redefined what it means to be presidential. On the 1,001st day of his tenure, which was Thursday, all pretense of normalcy went out the window. It was a day when he boasted of saving “millions of lives” by temporarily stopping a Middle East war that he effectively allowed to start in the first place, then compared the combatants to children who had to be allowed to slug each other to get it out of their system.

It was a day when he announced without any evident embarrassment that officials of the federal government that answers to him had scoured the country for a site for next year’s Group of 7 summit meeting and determined that the perfect location, the very best site in all the United States, just happened to be a property he owned in Florida.

It was a day when he sent out his top aide, an adviser who has served as “acting” White House chief of staff for nearly 10 months without ever being granted the respect of earning the title outright, to try to quell the whole impeachment furor, only to have him essentially admit the quid pro quo that the president had so adamantly denied.

It was a day that ended with a rally where one of the warm-up acts, the Texas lieutenant governor, declared that liberals “are not our opponents, they are our enemy,” and the president called the speaker of the House “crazy,” a rival candidate “very dumb,” a House committee chairman a “fraud” and the governor of another state a “crackpot.”

After 1,000 days of the Trump Show, the capacity for surprise has long since diminished and comments or actions that would have sparked days of front-page coverage and howls from Capitol Hill now barely register. The shocker that consumed Twitter three hours ago is so quickly overwhelmed by the next one that it seems impossible to digest any single moment to assess its meaning or consequences.

“Unconventional” was the word the president himself used repeatedly on Thursday.

He used it specifically to describe his let-them-go-to-war policy with respect to two American allies, Turkey and the Kurds, followed by a cease-fire days later. All part of the plan, he assured Americans. Just a little “tough love” to get the two sides to resolve their differences.

Never mind that their differences are nowhere near solved, even as bodies are strewn in northern Syria, Kurds are forced out of their homes and Russia, Iran, Bashar al-Assad and even the Islamic State are celebrating.

“We were a little bit unconventional,” Mr. Trump explained, offering his foreign policy doctrine in a setting that was itself a little bit unconventional, a Louis Vuitton workshop near Keene, Texas, where they make Parisian bags while cattle graze outside. The president had stopped by in between a Fort Worth fund-raiser and his Dallas rally to cut the ribbon on the new factory as a favor to Bernard Arnault, the luxury industry giant, bringing French sensibility to the Lone Star State.

“Louis Vuitton — a name I know very well,” Mr. Trump said to laughter, even as he mispronounced the name he knows well. “It cost me a lot of money over the years.”

Fortunately for him, his Trump National Doral near Miami will soon have plenty of new business as the leaders of not just France but also Germany, Britain, Canada, Italy and Japan — and maybe Russia — will descend on the club next spring along with thousands of officials, diplomats, journalists and others who attend each year’s G7 summit meeting.

Mr. Trump left it to his staff to announce the selection, as if it were somehow an independent decision, and they insisted that he actually would not make money because he would provide the property “at cost.” The notion that it might make the United States look like all those countries it used to lecture about self-dealing was of no concern. The president knew it would be controversial, his top aide said, and boldly went ahead anyway regardless of the anticipated blowback, as if it were an act of political courage.

By now, the notions of what is presidential and what is unconventional have taken on new meaning, long since divorced from anything that came before. On the 1,001st day of the Trump presidency, he charged forward, writing new rules for himself and the country.

If to the outside world it looked like his presidency was unraveling and the president himself melting down, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi said this week, to Mr. Trump, it was just another day in the never-ending battle with convention.

The chief narrator of the battle, of course, remains its chief protagonist. At the American Airlines Center on Thursday night, Mr. Trump once again relived election night 2016, probably the high point of his political life, casting it as a moment of miracles for himself and the nation, before the scandals and the special prosecutor and the impeachment inquiry.

He replayed the primary fight with Senator Ted Cruz, who was standing off to the side of the stadium, recalling their debates for the Republican nomination. “You can’t beat Ted Cruz if you don’t interrupt him,” Mr. Trump offered by way of a political lesson.

He replayed the general election fight with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, still one of his favorite punching bags. “Remember the emails?” he called out to the crowd. Yes, they remembered.

And then, as he often does, he recreated election night itself as it played out on television nearly three years ago. “Donald Trump has won the state of Utah,” Donald Trump boomed in his best news anchor voice. Then he went on in his own voice: “And we won Florida! And we won South Carolina! And we won Georgia! And we won North Carolina! And we won Pennsylvania!”

For an hour and twenty-seven minutes, he went on with all the winning — winning against Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton and China and the “fake news” and the “radical left,” offering his greatest hits spliced with enough untrue whoppers to keep fact checkers busy for days. He soaked in the applause, in no hurry to head back to Washington where investigators and enemies awaited.

He has been doing this now for 1,001 days. Whether it will last another thousand days or nearly another thousand beyond that remains unclear. But his presidency, so unpresidential and unconventional, is definitively his. “I’ve been a politician for three years,” he exclaimed. “I can’t believe that.”

On that, at least, he was not alone.


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