Opinion

Melinda Henneberger: Too often, Trump focuses on his feelings instead of facts

President Trump and spokesman Sean Spicer like to talk tough, but they seem awfully fragile when criticized, writes Melinda Henneberger.
President Trump and spokesman Sean Spicer like to talk tough, but they seem awfully fragile when criticized, writes Melinda Henneberger. TNS

We’ve been hearing an awful lot about the tender feelings of our new president and his top aides, who as White House spokesman Sean Spicer has told us are already beaten down — demoralized and frustrated — after only a few days on the job. “Trump turns out to be the biggest snowflake of them all,’’ tweeted conservative pundit Bill Kristol, who knows a safe-space seeker when he sees one.

This is nothing new for the president, who is as volatile and voluble as his predecessor was cool and careful. In fact, he’s not only made a habit of blurring the line between feeling and reality, he has found that one leads to the other.

That’s why, in a 2007 deposition for his lawsuit against a New York Times reporter who’d written that Donald Trump was not as wealthy as he claimed, he suggested that even his fortune depended in part on his own sense of it: “My net worth fluctuates and it goes up and down with the markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings.”

The biographical facts of his life, too, have been based on how he regards them; in a 2015 book, Trump said he’d “always felt that I was in the military” because he’d attended a military school. During his campaign, Trump claimed a great many counter-factual truths, including suggesting that he’d been first to spot terrorism on the global horizon, “cause I can feel it.” And when asked last summer about his various misstatements, what he told Ted Koppel was, “I feel I’m an honest person.’’

So, just because he’s compared CIA officials to Nazis is no reason not to tell those officials that “there is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump.” Who, by the way, is not really the 70-year-old they saw standing before them: “I feel like I’m 30, 35, 39 … I think I’m young … I feel young.”

In both business and politics, he has been rewarded for this approach, and his highly emotional presidential campaign played as well as it did in part because his supporters liked the way he made them feel.

Now that he’s commander in chief, the tough talker who constantly mocked Barack Obama as weak and Hillary Clinton as winded really needs to buck up. But until he and his team decide that it’s time to distinguish his truth from the truth, we’ll continue to dispute non-facts like the claim that CIA officers gave President Trump a five-minute standing ovation — when what Spicer seems to have meant is that that’s how it felt to the president.

Spicer also said during his first official White House briefing that “it’s just unbelievably frustrating when you’re continually told it’s not big enough, it’s not good enough, you can’t win.”

Pssst; you did win, though, and I shouldn’t have to tell you that whining that your little feelings have been hurt is blood in the water of the shark tank.

Meanwhile, even the low unemployment rate, which Candidate Trump once said was 42 percent, depends on the president’s state of mind: “It’s not just a number to him. … He’s not focused on statistics as much as he is on whether or not the American people are doing better as a whole,” Spicer explained.

This kind of disconnect can only lead to more sad days in Trump World — and out here in the real world, too.

During his first full day in office, President Donald Trump visited the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Virginia to thank intelligence officers for their service. “There is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community an

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