His own worst enemy

By JACK RYAN,

President Trump’s biggest problem often is not his politics. It’s his thin skin, which limits his effectiveness as the leader of the country.

His recent dustup with Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., is a perfect example of how the president can be his own worst enemy.

Apparently annoyed by Cummings’ leadership of the House committee that is investigating the president’s potential ethics issues, as well as by Cummings’ criticism of the administration’s immigration policies, Trump lit into the lawmaker’s hometown of Baltimore.

Trump called Baltimore a “rodent-infested mess” where no one would want to live, among other insults. This prompted immediate return fire that the president is a racist. After all, poor Appalachian counties beset by opioid addictions have the same problems as Baltimore, but Trump doesn’t trash them. The difference is that voters in Appalachia supported Trump, while Democratic stronghold Baltimore did not.

Marc Thiessen, a conservative columnist for The Washington Post whose work appears regularly on this page, did an excellent job of pointing out the error of Trump’s ways.

“Trump is wrong to attack Cummings for conducting vigorous oversight of conditions on the southern border; as chairman of the House oversight committee, that is his job,” Thiessen wrote this week. “But Democrats want to have it both ways. They want to criticize what they see as inhumane conditions in U.S. detention facilities ... but then call Trump a racist for criticizing inhumane conditions in Baltimore.

“The tragedy of Trump’s presidency is that he should be championing the people of Baltimore rather than using their plight to attack one of his critics. In 2016, Trump visited a black church in Detroit and gave a major speech in Charlotte in which he promised black Americans, “Whether you vote for me or not, I will be your greatest champion.”

Thiessen pointed out that Baltimore has had more homicides than New York City in recent years, even though the Big Apple has 14 times more residents. The national poverty rate is declining, but Baltimore’s is unchanged — and almost twice the level of the whole country’s. Finally, Sen. Bernie Sanders once compared the city to a Third World country and said half of its buildings are uninhabitable.

Thiessen hit the mark perfectly. If Trump was going to smack Cummings by criticizing Baltimore, his smartest play would have been to point out that the city has been under almost total Democratic control since the mid-1960s — and look what’s happened to it since then.

But, as we all know, that’s just not the president’s style. Making everything personal obviously has served him well over the years, and his base of supporters revels in this kind of commentary, praising him for telling it like it is.

Trump should be a shoo-in for re-election next year. The economy’s doing pretty well (in spite of his perpetual tariff wars), and that typically gets presidents re-elected. It seems that only Trump’s incessant insults are holding him back.

Jack Ryan, Enterprise-Journal