Is Nothing Funny, Mr. President?

By stepping up to the line without crossing it, a commander in chief tacitly acknowledges that a line exists.

.. President Trump does not possess the sense of nuance a well-told joke requires. He does not seem to know when he is pushing the envelope.

.. This refusal to recognize the unwritten rules that govern us, so evident during Mr. Trump’s failed attempts at humor, is a central feature of his presidential tenure thus far. If a leader does not understand the idea of benign violations, blatant violations inevitably occur.

.. Presidents can either laugh at the strangeness of their circumstances or be consumed by them.

.. Without the qualities that laughter both demonstrates and fosters —

  • a willingness to find common ground,
  • the respect for agreed-upon norms and
  • the awareness that we are all only human —

Mr. Trump’s attitude toward the presidency is defined by the one characteristic that remains: a lust for power.

.. Thanks to the power of the internet, there is proof that our president has indeed laughed at least once. This was during a campaign rally in January, when Mr. Trump’s speech was interrupted by a barking dog.

“It’s Hillary!” an audience member shouted. And the candidate tilted his head back, opened his mouth wide and laughed without reservation, quite possibly for the first time in his political life.

This documented incidence of Trump laughter is as illuminating as all the grim smiles that preceded it. For they reveal a president who is constantly, endlessly preoccupied with status.