“I can handle things. I’m smart! Not like everybody says, like dumb. I’m smart and I want respect!”
This morning’s presidential Twitter outburst recalls those words of Fredo Corleone’s in one of the most famous scenes from The Godfather series. Trump tweeted that his “two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” and in a subsequent tweet called himself a “very stable genius.”
Trump may imagine that he’s Michael Corleone, the tough and canny rightful heir—or even Sonny Corleone, the terrifyingly violent but at least powerful heir apparent—but after today he is Fredo forever.
There’s a key difference between film and reality, though: The Corleone family had the awareness and vigilance to exclude Fredo from power. The American political system did not do so well.
Michael Wolff’s scathing new book about the Trump White House has sent President Trump spiraling into the most publicly visible meltdown of his presidency. Until now, Trump’s worst moments have occurred behind closed doors, and have become known to the public only second-hand, leaked by worried officials, aides, and advisers. Yesterday and today, we have seen a Trump temper-tantrum in real time on Twitter, extended over hours, punctuated only by stretch of fitful presidential sleep. Trump’s tweets yesterday focused largely on the blockbuster Wolff book, “Fire and Fury.”
It may not be the newsiest—arguably it is the least newsy—but the most important moment in Wolff’s book are words attributed at second or third-hand to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the time of Donald Trump’s election. “He will sign anything we put in front of him.”