There's a paragraph in the latest column by David Brooks that suggests something about Donald Trump's nature:
George Marshall was no idealistic patsy. He understood that America extends its power when it offers a cooperative hand and volunteers for common service toward a great ideal. Realists reverse that formula. They assume strife and so arouse a volley of strife against themselves.
By "realists," Brooks mean Trump and those in his administration who've defended his rebukes to the international community, most recently the rejection of the Paris accord. Brooks quotes a Wall Street Journal op-ed by H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn defending Trump's dealings with the rest of the world.
But McMaster and Cohn aren't the problem. Trump is. Maybe some of his other aides -- Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller -- are goads to Trump. But the problem starts at the top.
Brooks writes about people who "assume strife and so arouse a volley of strife against themselves." The problem with Trump is that that's what he likes. He feels truly alive when faced with "a volley of strife against" himself.
He thinks he can outlast (or, in his previously life, outlitigate) any opponent. He needs to see himself as the alpha dog, and he can't be sure if he's the alpha dog unless there's a beta. So he works hard at making enemies. He creates strife for the sake of creating it.
Most Republicans seem to live by Cleek's Law -- "Today’s conservatism is the opposite of what liberals want today, updated daily" -- because that's what stirs the blood of the GOP voter base. But most of these GOP pols themselves actually want to attain certain policy goals, not necessarily for themselves but on behalf of their paymasters. Their donors want low taxes and minimal regulations, and the voting restrictions on Democratic-leaning groups that will guarantee the permanence of these Randian policies, so GOP pols deliver. They also know that religious right donors, large and small, want restrictions on abortion and LGBT people, so they're for those as well.
But they want to deliver the goods for their backers and then run a victory lap. They don't want to spend all their time fighting. It upsets them when their voter purges and bathroom bills are challenged in court or subject them to boycotts and corporate outrage.
Trump isn't really like this. He's shown very little interest in legislation. He likes to fight because he likes to fight. He's a Republican because whenever he's turned on the TV over the past however many years, the channel that wallows in the pleasure of combat for its own sake has been Fox News -- a channel created by a man who also found an ugly sort of bliss in endless war.
But endless war works on TV, because viewers like conflict. Government isn't supposed to work that way. Ordinary GOP politicians seek victories based on whatever the base has been riled up about, but then they want to seem good-natured and Boy Scout-y. Think Scott Walker or Mike Pence.
Not Trump. He does, as Brooks writes, "assume strife" at all times, and thus he brings it on himself. He does this because it's what he wants most of all.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog