Like or dislike President Donald Trump, no one can deny the president doesn’t take kindly to criticism. The self-described counter-puncher is going to fight back and often in very personal terms.
As much as his approach is called unbecoming of a president, Trump was not elected as a conventional chief executive. And any hope that he will become more “presidential” in the image of previous leaders is misplaced. Donald Trump is going to be Donald Trump – Twitter and all.
That said, the latest bout featuring Trump and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker is troubling. Corker, who was born in Orangeburg County, is a leading GOP senator, heading the powerful Foreign Relations Committee. And he previously was a Trump ally, having been considered for vice president and secretary of state.
Corker has been widely known as man of measured words, one of the least likely lawmakers to speak off the cuff. That seemingly has changed in the days since the Tennessean announced he would not seek re-election in 2018, with Corker using Twitter to make comments that were sure to rile Trump.
Trump and Corker went at it on Sunday, with the president saying the retiring Corker "didn't have the guts" to run for a third term. Corker responded by saying, "It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center."
The feud has been the subject of widespread reporting and non-stop chatter on national cable networks, with the debate focusing on how Corker vs. Trump could affect the president’s agenda, particularly on tax legislation. The experience with health care illustrates Trump needs all the GOP votes he can get.
But the president is not one to back away. On Tuesday, he dubbed the senator “Liddle’ Bob Corker,” taking to Twitter to say Corker was "set up" by "the failing" New York Times in a recorded interview Sunday. In that interview, Corker said Trump’s behavior "would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation."
And ominously, the man with in-depth knowledge of foreign affairs said Trump could set the United States "on the path to World War III" with threats toward other countries.
Trump responded Tuesday as he addressed reporters in the Oval Office while meeting with Henry Kissinger.
"We were on the wrong path before," Trump said. "All you have to do is take a look. If you look over the last 25 years, through numerous administrations, we were on a path to a very big problem, a problem like this world has never seen. We're on the right path right now, believe me."
We pray the president is right but are among those believing he should tone down the rhetoric across the board – and that Corker should quit feeding the fire. The senator has said enough to make his assessment a cause for real concern, but continuing the tit-for-tat is doing nothing more than producing more words of the type that Corker himself said are dangerous.
According to Associated Press reporting, Corker's comments about Trump echo what other Republicans say privately. “But Trump's enduring popularity with a segment of the GOP base serves as a political muzzle that keeps most elected Republicans from saying anything similar, even those who believe it to be true.”
The time has come to end the exchange – or as some GOP lawmakers have said, “cool it.”
In the words of Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of the Republican leadership: "I would encourage them both to stop what they're doing and get focused on what we need to be doing."