“You. Are. Nuts.”
With three little words, George Conway, or Mr. Kellyanne Conway as Trump refers to the man a pillow away from his longest-serving aide, dropped his devastating legal and clinical evaluation of the president for an informal one we can all grasp.
It took a few hours for Trump to respond. On his way to board Marine One to go to a meeting with labor leaders in Lima, Ohio, Trump called Conway “a whack job” who’s doing a “disservice to his wonderful wife and family,” something Trump has experience with.
You’d think there were nothing going on in the world given how much time Trump has spent attacking Conway and the late John McCain, the war hero who Trump insists isn’t one and who he contends handed off the Steele dossier to the FBI during the campaign in an attempt to hurt him. He didn’t.
Many Republicans — even McCain’s dear friend Sen. Lindsey Graham, who once called Trump a car wreck for shaming McCain — are only whispering their defense of McCain now that they tremble at the thought of offending Trump, the snowflake-in-chief. But Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson stepped up and spoke frankly, calling Trump “deplorable” and vowing to say more on the Senate floor.
As for Conway, he tried counseling Trump quietly, his early tweets epistles of constitutional advice advising the president that his Muslim ban was too restrictive to pass muster with the Supreme Court. But as time wore on, he's gradually become more clinical as Trump's conduct has become more troubling. Trump went on a two-hour self-indulgent rant before CPAC like a third-world despot and shortly after Conway tweeted similarities between the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Trump’s behavior. That prompted Trump’s latest rash of responses culminating in this morning’s tweet that Conway is “VERY jealous of his wife's success & angry that I, with her help, didn't give him the job he so desperately wanted.”
To be clear, Conway turned down the job of Solicitor General when he concluded Trump would be at constant loggerheads with his Justice Department after he fired James Comey.
Trump raved on, “I barely know him but just take a look, a stone cold LOSER & husband from hell!”
He knows about husbands from hell, but does he know the Conways have children old enough to read?
Good luck convincing folks that Conway is just another coffee boy. Conway introduced his wife to Trump after he represented the developer in a dispute. The Conways then bought an apartment in Trump Tower. Donald often asks George for free legal advice. Both have been guests at Trump’s formal social occasions although Kellyanne goes out more often without her husband, who prefers staying home and reading.
But it’s not a spat between the Conways that’s at issue. No one can see inside someone else’s marriage.
It’s Trump’s impulsive, over-the-top reaction to criticism from one partner in that union that’s revealing.
Trump may protest but Conway has a front-row seat at the Trump show. By overreacting, Trump proves the lawyer’s larger point that he’s not in control of his anger but controlled by it. Conway wrote that Trump doesn’t have enough time left over from “waging little battles with everyone about everything” to “concern himself with affairs of state.”
At any time, Trump could have sat down with Conway to discuss his lawyerly take on matters rather than bitterly and publicly attacking him. By doing so, he’s made a minor, albeit incisive, critic into a household name, a story on the front page of the Washington Post and at the top of Access Hollywood. And for all his professed admiration for Kellyanne, he’s forced her to take sides — Trump’s against her husband. She said the president has the right to counterpunch, and even praised him for his restraint.
“He [Trump] left it alone for months out of respect for me,” Conway told Politico’s Daniel Lippman Wednesday. “You think he shouldn't respond when somebody, a non-medical professional, accuses him of having a mental disorder? You think he should just take that sitting down?”
In a telephone interview, Sally Quinn recalled a conversation with Kellyanne, which also included Maureen Dowd and Andrea Mitchell, at the British Embassy this month. “Before Kellyanne said it was off-the-record,” Quinn said, “she scolded the press for writing about her husband’s anti-Trump tweets in this day and age when a woman should be judged solely on her own career and merits.”
Take her husband’s tweets in the same spirit: Just as it doesn’t take a zoologist to tell a lion from a tiger, it doesn’t take a psychiatrist to discern the difference between someone in control of his feelings and someone who’s lost it.
George gets under Donald’s very thin skin because Trump’s temper is so frighteningly volcanic and because he’s used to being lathered with praise by a docile staff so anxious to avoid it, they’re afraid to mention the egregious things he does. And by Republican sheep, Isakson aside.
Republicans in the Senate have an even more preposterous excuse for Trump’s going nuclear on George, arguing that it’s all part of fake news the couple, with Trump’s help, are creating in hopes of being the new odd couple of politics, James Carville and Mary Matalin, whom they got a good look at during Clinton’s impeachment, which the Conways cheered on. What they missed is that while Matalin loudly criticized Clinton, Clinton never struck back.
Part of Trump’s petty obsessions come from being ever more isolated, without a support system, serving as his own chief of staff and press secretary, clocking hours of executive time as he watches TV alone, calling up friends, but not listening to them. Read his tweets from the government shutdown and see a lonely man who doesn’t see the enormous good luck he’s had but all the ways he’s been slighted and unappreciated. He used to say everything twice to convince people of his rightness, now it’s more like three and four times these days as it was at Wednesday’s driveway press conference. He was still stewing when he arrived in Lima and took yet another swipe at McCain. He recounted how it was up to him to give the green light for the state funeral McCain wanted but that he was never adequately thanked for it.
There’s not enough gratitude in the world to fill Trump’s gaping hole of need. Nixon, the last president to be under siege, talked to portraits in the White House as Watergate closed in on him but at least confided his fears in Henry Kissinger, whom he asked to pray with him. Maybe that’s why Trump made a rare trip to church last Sunday.
If only Trump could pray the rage away. For his part, Conway explained to the Washington Post that he defuses his own rage over “the mendacity, the incompetence” with a morning tweet “so I can get it off my chest and move on with my life that day. That’s basically it. Frankly, it’s so I don’t end up screaming at her about it.”
Sad. Conway added that it’s time for “the media, Congress, the Vice President and Cabinet, and all Americans, to think “seriously *now* about the president’s mental condition and psychological state."
Those of us screaming should tweet more, yell less, and heed Conway’s advice. Thanks to Trump’s hating on Conway, we can hear him now.
Margaret Carlson is a columnist for the Daily Beast. She was formerly the first woman columnist at Time magazine, a columnist at Bloomberg View, a weekly panelist on CNN’s "Capital Gang" and managing editor at the New Republic. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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