Donald Trump loves being treated like a king and he suffers terrible insecurities about the legitimacy of his election.
The former was evident is his response to Saudi Arabia; the latter is on self-destructive display in his reaction to everything Russia.
Trump’s obsession with the investigations reveals his deep-seated concern that his Kremlin cohorts may just have tipped the outcome in his favor.
While Russian interference with our election now seems incontrovertible, we can never know whether Moscow made the decisive difference.
However, another lurking threat to Trump’s legitimacy has attracted virtually no attention.
Politicians can and do change their minds. The view from Air Force One differs from the panorama visible on the campaign plane.
But democracy requires some important correlation between words uttered on the campaign trail and actions taken in the Oval Office.
Without such linkage, elections are a farce.
If voters can’t count on some relationship between what a candidate says and what he or she will later do, they are denied the possibility of making a reasonable choice.
Imagine a candidate standing up at their convention, making 100 promises to the American people, but closing with a pledge to carry out half those policies, but do the opposite of what he promised on the other half. And oh, by the way, the candidate refuses to say which promises fall into which bucket.
Such a candidate would garner no support and rightly be judged a threat to democracy.
No candidate has so thoroughly turned his back on his own campaign promises, more often, or more completely, than Donald Trump.
Some of the places he landed are better than the policies he started with. Some are far worse.
But that is beside the (or at least, this) point. No reasonable voter could have intuited his actions in office from his clear and unambiguous statements on the campaign trail.
Some of the points of difference are small. Trump criticized former President Obama for appearing to bow before the Saudi King. Trump himself bowed and curtsied.
He criticized Hillary Clinton for not covering her head in the presence of the King. Trump’s wife and daughter behaved exactly the way Clinton had.
Other reversals are fundamental about-faces on core policy.
Trump promised to declare China “a currency manipulator” — an ascription which carries concrete legal consequences — “on day one.” Instead, on day 83, he declared that China was “not a currency manipulator.”
Trump promised to “rip up” the Iran nuclear agreement, but is abiding by it, instead.
During his campaign, Trump argued that Obama’s failure to use the specific words “radical Islamic terrorism” rendered the former president’s battle against terrorism futile.
Standing before the leaders of 50 Muslim nations, Trump chickened out, refusing to utter the words “radical Islamic terrorism,” retreating to the Obama formulation, which he had branded unacceptable.
Others of Trump’s reversals leave millions of his fellow Americans in the lurch.
He promised that under his healthcare plan no one would lose their coverage. In fact, he had no plan at all, but backed one that will strip 24 million Americans of their insurance.
He claimed his plan would guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions. It doesn’t.
He promised he would never cut Social Security or Medicaid, but proposed a budget that slashes both.
Again, the point is not whether you prefer his original position or his revised view.
The point is, he misled the entire nation about his position on issue after issue.
No one who voted for him could have known what they were getting.
Completely dissolving the bonds between campaign promises and presidential policy undermines the very foundation of democracy. Trump’s campaign was built on a foundation of lies.
And that, by itself, casts serious doubt on his legitimacy.
Mellman is President of The Mellman Group and has helped elect 30 U.S. senators, 12 governors and dozens of House members. Mellman served as pollster to Senate Democratic leaders for over 20 years.