Kellyanne Conway is walking a Dangerfield line.
“We got no forbearance. We got nothing. We got no respect,” the Trump strategist told CNN’s Anderson Cooper last week, complaining about media coverage of her boss. “This man is president of the United States!”
Conway raises a fair question: Why hasn’t the president-elect been given more respect?
Here’s a fair answer: He hasn’t earned any.
To Trump’s many self-assigned superlatives, he can now add another: the sorest winner. With charity for none and with malice toward all but his supporters, he has in the past two months set a new standard for gracelessness in victory.
Instead of brushing off criticism, as a president-elect can afford to do, Trump in recent days marked Martin Luther King weekend by telling off civil rights icon John Lewis (a King acolyte) and his “falling apart” and “crime infested” congressional district. He bemoaned “Saturday Night Live” spoofs as a “hit job” and used the words “crap” and “sleazebag” in his public statements. He called the top Democrat in the land the “head clown” and accused the American intelligence community of acting like Nazis.
He responded to criticism from Meryl Streep by calling her an “over-rated” actress and a “Hillary flunky who lost big.” He likewise cheered that his “Celebrity Apprentice” replacement Arnold Schwarzenegger got “swamped” in ratings compared with “the ratings machine, DJT. … But who cares, he supported Kasich & Hillary.” Trump said the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee is discussed only because “the loss by the Dems was so big that they are totally embarrassed!”
At a news conference last week, Trump continued to gloat about the “beautiful scene on November 8th,” and he invoked his vanquished opponent five times. This campaign-style news conference followed Trump’s “thank you” tour of campaign-style rallies in states that he won and preceded the disclosure that the incoming administration was weighing punishment for the press – upending more than a century of precedent and evicting journalists from the White House.
The losers often have hard feelings after elections. But this much enmity from the winner is extraordinary. Trump, after his election-night promise to “bind the wounds of division” and be a “president for all Americans,” never attempted reconciliation. A day later, he falsely condemned “professional protesters, incited by the media,” and at year end he taunted opponents via Twitter: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”
This explains Trump’s short honeymoon. His favorability rating jumped from 34 percent during the campaign to 44 percent in late November in a Quinnipiac University poll as Americans gave their new leader the benefit of the doubt. But that same poll showed his favorability back down to 37 percent. Views about his honesty, leadership and ability to unite the country dropped similarly.
His behavior during this time has not been what one typically calls presidential. He has echoed both Vladimir Putin and WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange on Twitter and blasted away in all caps. He attacked Vanity Fair magazine editor Graydon Carter after an unfavorable review of a Trump Tower restaurant. His attack on a local steelworkers union president resulted in death threats.
Trump has used Twitter to attack everything from the “Hamilton” musical to the Chinese government, and, in one tweet, he appeared to commit the United States to attacking North Korea to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States.
Above all, Trump has continued to taunt his former opponents: “President Obama campaigned hard (and personally) in the very important swing states, and lost. … Vladimir Putin said today about Hillary and Dems: ‘In my opinion, it is humiliating. One must be able to lose with dignity.’ So true! … I spent FAR LESS MONEY on the win than Hillary on the loss!”
In a typical stop on his victory tour, Trump blasted the “dishonest press” at length and said he “trounced” his opponents.
“I love this stuff. Should I go on with this just a little bit longer?” he asked. He did, mocking those who said that “there’s no way that Donald Trump can break the blue wall, right? We didn’t break it – we shattered that sucker. … That poor wall is busted up.”
Yep, he shattered that sucker. And now he’s shattering any chance of earning the respect his office deserves.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.