Since the first day that Donald Trump toted his boxes and family photos into the Oval Office, he has shown a talent for smashing things. Traditions, international relationships, even his own positions on the issues. The past week saw that skill on sharp display.
In just four days, President Trump has suggested he’s all for new background checks on guns, except when he isn’t. He’s pondered ending birthright citizenship, even though attempting such a move would fly in the face of Supreme Court precedent. He has dabbled in anti-Semitism, joked that he should get a Medal of Honor despite never serving in the military, and suggested Russia should be treated better. He’s implied that if anything is going wrong it is Barack Obama’s fault, and if anything is going right, he — Trump — deserves the credit. And yes, he called off an international trip because it turns out Greenland is not for sale. Seriously.
Any part of that could be expected from this cyclonic commander in chief, but even for Trump, all of it at once is a bit much and one might wonder why he was courting so many contentious headlines. I suspect the answer is simple: Because he’d rather face the uproar over any of those matters than the one that makes him squirm the most — the economy. Critics have long accused him of picking fights, throwing mudpies, and pitching fits to distract the media and the public whenever something comes along to steal his spotlight, especially if it reflects badly on him.
Now, it may seem counterintuitive. The economy has been President Trump’s only true success story in terms of broad, public support. Unemployment is low. Wages are rising. He has a lot to brag about. But the economic indicators and analysts suggesting we may be crashing into a recession clearly have him rattled.
So yeah, he’s happy to bellow about Denmark, insult Jewish people, spin like a top over gun laws, go after immigrants, and incite outrage with schoolyard taunts. Because any of that is better than facing up to a terrifying truth: If his economic success story collapses, Trump’s re-election plans suddenly look very shaky.