(CNN)Donald Trump l-o-v-e-s a good scapegoat.
That fundamental truth is made plain in a key excerpt from a forthcoming book by New York Times reporters Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin.
In advance of the January 2021 Senate runoffs in Georgia, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said that he believed Trump’s continued focus on the 2020 election was about something other than contesting the results.
“What it looks to me like he’s doing is setting this up so he can blame the governor and the secretary of state if we lose,” McConnell told the reporters for the book in December 2020. “He’s always setting up somebody to blame it on.”
Yes! That exactly!
The history of Trump in public life is one of him constantly looking for people and ways to distribute blame so that it doesn’t land on him. Because in his mind, he can do no wrong.
* Trump’s loss in the 2016 Iowa caucuses was because Ted Cruz cheated — or something.
* The FBI investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election was because then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.
* The coronavirus was China’s fault.
* The early testing snafus for the virus were Barack Obama’s fault.
* The long battle against the virus was Anthony Fauci’s fault.
* The rocky response to Hurricane Maria was Puerto Rico’s fault.
* His loss in the 2020 election was the fault of Republican governors like Doug Ducey of Arizona and Brian Kemp of Georgia who were insufficiently loyal to him. Oh, and also Vice President Mike Pence for not overturning the Electoral College results even though he had no ability to do so.
* The January 6 riot at the US Capitol was Nancy Pelosi’s fault.
* His ongoing legal problems are the fault of “vicious, horrible” prosecutors.
There’s dozens of these examples. And they all tell the same story: If and when anything goes bad for Trump, he immediately looks to find someone to blame. It’s almost Pavlovian.
It’s also the exact opposite of leadership.
Remember that cliche about the presidency: “The buck stops here.” It’s based in a fundamental notion of how Americans think about the presidency and leadership more generally. Whether a leader is directly responsible for a problem in their organization, the blame necessarily lies with them — in at least some measure — because they are the one sitting at the top of the pyramid.
Good leaders take more blame and less credit than they deserve. Trump is, quite literally, the exact opposite of that formula. He seeks to take credit for any piece of good news and to deflect blame onto an underling for anything that is perceived to have gone wrong.
“I don’t take responsibility at all,” Trump said in March 2020, when asked about his administration’s botched handling of nationwide testing for Covid-19.
That quote is a pretty good summation of not just his presidency, but his outlook on life too.