With his approval rating tumbling to historic lows and his legislative agenda dead, Trump returns to obsessing over his successful and far more popular predecessor.
Insecurity remains a cornerstone trait for Donald Trump, and lately he’s been advertising his own self-doubts by obsessing over his predecessor, President Barack Obama.
Whether that's now being spurred on by the stress of the unfolding North Korea crisis, Trump’s tumbling approval rating, the enveloping Russia investigation, or his inability to get any major legislation passed through Congress, we're not sure. But Trump continues to signal his deep, weird resentment over Obama and the Democrat’s winning ways.
On Thursday morning, the fixation took the form of a retweet, when Trump dug up a five-day-old post that asked followers to rate Trump versus Obama:
Who is a better President of the United States? #ObamaDay
— ProgressPolls (@ProgressPolls) August 4, 2017
Obviously, a Twitter poll isn’t scientific. And the truth is a Twitter poll is the only place that Trump could find a survey where he tops Obama. Public Policy Polling, for example, pointed out that in its recent polling, which is scientific, "voters said 53-40 they wished Obama was still President."
Trump’s historical bad approval rating today stands in exact contrast to the widespread support Obama enjoyed his first 200 days in office, as he worked to pass a series of landmark bills that helped rescue the U.S. economy.
And it’s not just Americans who pine for Obama. According to a new Pew Research Center survey that included 37 countries, just 22 percent have confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs, compared to 64 percent who felt that way about Obama during his final years in office.
This comes on the heels of a BuzzFeed report that diplomats they spoke to believe Trump's foreign policy is "chiefly driven by an obsession with unravelling Barack Obama’s policies" and that he is "obsessed with Obama."
One European diplomat told the site that Trump's "only real position" is undoing the work Obama put in place during his two terms.
Trump's dangerous decision to ratchet up the tension between the United States and North Korea (then going golfing) would seem to fit the pattern of this envy-based foreign policy, particularly since Obama used traditional diplomacy in the region.
Meanwhile, Trump on Tuesday boosted a Fox News tweet trying to claim he’s better in a global crisis that Obama:
— The Five (@TheFive) August 10, 2017
And Wednesday, Trump fantasized that he already upgraded the supposedly weak military that he had inherited from Obama:
My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2017
As many experts have explained, updating the U.S. nuclear arsenal would takes years — if not decades — not the six months Trump has been in office.
Trump's recent behavior continues his pattern of petulance about his much more popular and successful predecessor, like when he decided to end a successful program promoting learning for girls in developing countries. The sin of the "Let Girls Learn" program, in Trump's perspective, was that it was started by Michelle Obama. That's a no-no under Trump.
Trump allies have echoed his obsession, forcing the government to waste money in a futile effort to prove Trump's inauguration was as popular as Obama's. (It wasn't.)
Probably not helping Trump’s fragile ego this week was the news that the Illinois legislature recently passed a law naming Obama’s birthday, Aug. 4, “Barack Obama Day” across the state. The day will be in honor of a man who “dedicated his life to protecting the rights of Americans and building bridges across communities.” The bill passed both houses of the legislature without a singe “No” vote.
Question: Does anyone think Trump’s birthday will ever be celebrated as a holiday?
“Trump wants to be Obama — held in high esteem. But, alas, Trump is Trump, and that is now and has always been trashy,” New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote in June. “Trump accrued financial wealth, but he never accrued cultural capital, at least not among the people from whom he most wanted it.”
America dislikes Trump, and increasingly looks back wistfully at Obama's tenure. The anxiety over this disconnect is driving Trump's dangerous foreign policy, as he longs for the respect and adoration that Obama so easily accumulated. But he can't have it so Trump's reduced to lashing out via weird, obsessive tweets.
Oliver Willis also contributed to this article.