By Philip RuckerAugust 23, 2017 at 8:14 PM
In the span of 48 hours this week, President Trump has boomeranged among three roles: the commander in chief, the divider and the uniter.
Like a contestant on one of his reality TV shows, Trump has taken on contrasting personas, showcasing divergent traits with flourishes seemingly to survive another day of his beleaguered presidency. Or, as Trump the television producer might put it, to keep up the ratings.
On Monday night at Fort Myer in Virginia, before hundreds of uniformed military members, he announced a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan with sobriety and seriousness. Reading from a teleprompter script, he ruminated about the gravity of his office and vowed to win a deeply unpopular conflict that, at 16 years, is the United States’ longest war.
The next day, Trump jetted to Phoenix, where the immigration inferno he has helped ignite burns nearly as hot as the broiling sun. Tuesday night’s “Make America Great Again” rally amounted to a relief valve for the pent-up grievances of a president under siege.
For 75 minutes, Trump ranted and roared his way through a fact-challenged, disjointed performance that, even by his own standards, could be considered epic. Speaking from the heart, he served up one “us” vs. “them” riff after another.
By “us,” he meant himself and the shrinking minority of mostly white Americans who fervently support him. By “them,” he meant everybody else — the news media (“damned dishonest”), Democrats (“obstructionists”), Arizona’s two Republican U.S. senators (“weak”), illegal immigrants (“animals”) and people in favor of removing Confederate monuments (“They’re trying to take away our culture. They are trying to take away our history”).