Have you noticed how almost every other word out of Donald Trump’s mouth lately seems to be some variation on “dominate?”
“If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time,” he told America’s governors. “They’re going to run all over you. You’ll look like a bunch of jerks.”
This, of course, was in that telephone rant about protesters. There is something about crowds of people willing to take to the streets to denounce racism that seems to make the president feel, um, unmanly.
“I will not allow angry mobs to dominate,” he told the country during his visit to the space launch.
Minneapolis authorities, he contended, were “weak and pathetic” until events spiraled out of control and the National Guard moved in. (“Domination ... it’s a beautiful thing to watch.”)
Tweeting on the same subject, Trump reported: “Great job done by all. Overwhelming force. Domination. Likewise, Minneapolis was great. (thank you President Trump!)”
Which pretty much summed up his week. And, I guess, his id.
The president’s most famous response to the protests was that assault on demonstrators outside the White House, in which federal troops cleared the area so that Trump could accomplish his important mission of standing in front of a church and holding up a Bible. Critics felt that in the pictures Trump looked as if he had never touched a Bible before in his life. True cynics felt that it looked as if he had never touched a book, period.
Anyhow, everything has been going great, by Trump’s interpretation. “And we had no problem at all last night,” he told Fox Radio on Wednesday. “We had substantial dominant force and it – we have to have a dominant force. Maybe it doesn’t sound good to say it, but you have to have a dominant force.”
Dependency on the d-word seems to be catching.
“We need to dominate the battlespace,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper told the governors during that same rather lively presidential phone call. Despite their mutual affection for the concept of domination, Esper has been drifting away from the administration line. Lately, he’s been trying to reassure the nation that the president isn’t going to take it upon himself to send federal troops into cities uninvited, even as Trump himself seems to feel it’s a pretty cool idea.
Esper has been serving as defense secretary for almost a year, which makes him, in Trump terms, a long-running Cabinet veteran. Given the way the president treasures Cabinet members who aren’t afraid to speak their mind, insiders expressed confidence that he might well remain in the administration for quite a few more ... hours.
“As of right now, Secretary Esper is still Secretary Esper,” said the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, on Wednesday.
It’s certainly been a tough time for the Cabineteers. Attorney General William Barr is getting the blame for all the messiest aspects of that Trump trip to the church. And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been fighting off investigations into whether he gets government employees to run his personal errands.
We are only bringing that last matter up because it provides a chance to revisit Trump’s defense of Pompeo – that it’s better to have him use federal funds to buy a home helper than forcing him to “wash dishes because maybe his wife isn’t there.” After all, if Pompeo wasn’t in the kitchen he might otherwise be “on the phone with some world leader.”
Yeah, and one thing we do not have to worry about is Donald Trump doing housework when Melania and all the help are out of town. What could be more un-dominant?
The president’s super-favorite word came up in his speech to the nation this week, when he urged deployment of the national guard “in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets.” In passing, he also assured Americans that they had no need to worry about “your Second Amendment rights.” Have you noticed how often Trump throws the right to bear arms into these conversations? It’s as if he’s worried that any time he tells the country things are OK, he has to reassure them that won’t mean less armaments.
Just recently, while he was unveiling a program to help support agriculture during the coronavirus crisis, Trump assured visiting Virginia farmers: “We’re going after Virginia with your crazy governor. They want to take your Second Amendment away. You know that, right? You’ll have nobody guarding your potatoes.”
Signing a proclamation in honor of National Nurses Day, he bragged to his guests about “saving your Second Amendment, which is under siege, by the way.”
And on it goes. Trump has also fit the Second Amendment into Coronavirus Task Force news conferences, a signing ceremony for a bill on veterans’ education, the celebration of a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, and of course, the rallies back in the happy days when rallies were his way of life.
Now, some people believe that when men go overboard with weaponry issues it may be linked to insecurity about their sexuality. Certainly isn’t always true, but here you’ve got a guy who talks compulsively both about the Second Amendment and his need to dominate.
This could be a great protest theme. Fill the street with banners reading, “Mr. President, we’re not really questioning your masculinity.” Very positive message that’ll drive him completely nuts.
Gail Collins is a columnist for The New York Times.