There has been a lot of speculation about whether Trump is a genius for throwing temper tantrums at crucial moments so as to distract the media from his scandals by, say, ranting about Hamilton and SNL. Perhaps this is all part of his plan; a clever use of misdirection.
No. It’s much simpler than that.
Trump is a narcissist with no impulse control. Any benefit Trump gets by distracting the media with his rants lies solely with the inability of the press to properly deal with having a manbaby in the White House.
Exhibit A is Trump’s latest hissy fit, an embarrassing meltdown he had over Vanity Fair. On Twitter, he lashed out with typical childishness.
Has anyone looked at the really poor numbers of @VanityFair Magazine. Way down, big trouble, dead! Graydon Carter, no talent, will be out!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2016
What could he be doing? What game is he playing? What’s his angle?
The answer is: Nothing. He’s screaming about Vanity Fair because Vanity Fair had the courage to write a review of the restaurant in Trump Tower (the one that made his infamous “taco bowl”).
The review was scathing, hilarious, and by all accounts pretty much spot on. Every mediocre staple of the Trump brand of paper-thin glitz is represented in the failings of Trump Grill.
As my companions and I contemplated the most painless way to eat our flaccid, gray Szechuan dumplings with their flaccid, gray innards, as a campy version of “Jingle Bells” jackhammered in the background, a giant gold box tied with red ribbon toppled onto us. Trump, it seemed, was already fighting against the War on Christmas.
But what really seems to have gotten under Trump’s skin was the recognition of the truism, first observed by Fran Lebowitz, that Trump is “a poor person’s idea of a rich person.” Trump hates that.
“They see him. They think, ‘If I were rich, I’d have a fabulous tie like that.’” Nowhere, perhaps, does this reflection appear more accurate than at Trump Grill (which is occasionally spelled Grille on various pieces of signage). On one level, the Grill (or Grille), suggests the heights of plutocratic splendor—a steakhouse built into the basement of one’s own skyscraper.
On another level, Trump Grill falls somewhat short of that lofty goal. The restaurant features a stingy number of French-ish paintings that look as though they were bought from Home Goods. Wall-sized mirrors serve to make the place look much bigger than it actually is. The bathrooms transport diners to the experience of desperately searching for toilet paper at a Venezuelan grocery store. And like all exclusive bastions of haute cuisine, there is a sandwich board in front advertising two great prix fixe deals.
Graydon Carter, the long-time editor of Vanity Fair, earned a personal dig by Trump in his tweet because the two have history. Long before the world was taking Trump seriously as a presidential candidate, Carter was already shredding Trump where it hurts. He once gave Trump the name “short-fingered vulgarian” at his time for the irreverent Spy magazine. The name stuck. Trump has never gotten over it. Short-fingered vulgarians rarely do.
It’s also clear that Carter has Trump pegged to an uncanny degree. He hurts Trump because he understands Trump. In 2015, he wrote about Trump,
Like so many bullies, Trump has skin of gossamer. He thinks nothing of saying the most hurtful thing about someone else, but when he hears a whisper that runs counter to his own vainglorious self-image, he coils like a caged ferret.
And it’s certainly the case that his actions since becoming president-elect have been very much that of a vainglorious caged ferret. Not a lot of thinking, just instinctual lashing out at those who bruise his ego.
Featured image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images