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Why Trump’s tweeted sort-of half-concession is so annoying

It’s a bit late for Trump to pretend to be a good loser. But his tweet certainly doesn’t commit him to much vacating or handing over of power.

photo of donald trump
President Donald Trump
REUTERS/Leah Millis

A few days ago, as many of those on whom I rely for wisdom began writing as if the transition to a new and better presidency was assured, I expressed my worries that Mr. Trump might yet find a way to steal another term or create an even more colossal bowl of confusion as to who was president after January 20.

Everything since then, especially the commendable decision by various Republican election officials of various states to actually do their jobs and not cave in to Trumpian pressure to do otherwise, has been encouraging, and I am appropriately encouraged.

The decision yesterday by Emily Murphy, the Trump-appointed administrator of the General Services Administration to “ascertain” that Joe Biden was the apparent winner of the election and to therefore belatedly make funds and agency cooperation available to begin the process of the transition to a Biden presidency effective January 20 was a most welcome development that enabled my stomach to unclench a notch or two, as I hope it did yours.

Trump has still not conceded that he lost the election nor indicated that he is prepared to vacate the premises on January 20. We are told that Murphy made the ascertainment on her own. I have no idea if that’s true. If so, good for her. If not, if she actually got Trump’s wink or nod to go forward, that’s even better.

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My unclenching process will be much more advanced if and when Trump announces that he accepts the results of the election, or even makes a statement of concession.

Instead we have a waffling, confusing Trumpian two-part tweet, which annoyingly reads:

“I want to thank Emily Murphy at GSA for her steadfast dedication and loyalty to our Country. She has been harassed, threatened, and abused – and I do not want to see this happen to her, her family, or employees of GSA. Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good…

“…fight, and I believe we will prevail! Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

Among the most annoying aspects is that Trump, who is legally entitled to pursue his case in court, did not indicate with anything remotely resembling clarity that if January 20 rolls around, and he is still trying but without success to overturn the election results leading to said “ascertainment,” and “initial protocols,” that he is prepared to vacate the White House premises to make room for the Biden family and Biden Administration.

Others will tut-tut mightily if Trump declines to attend Biden’s swearing-in. I really don’t much care.  It’s a bit late for Trump to pretend to be a good loser. But his tweet certainly doesn’t commit him to much vacating or handing over of power while he continues to pursue his lawsuits in hopes of achieving a ruling that would enable him to un-ascertain and move back in, and pull our poor dear nation back out of the Paris Climate Accords, the World Health Organization and various other agreements and organization that Biden has pledged to rejoin with all deliberate speed. Proceeding with “initial protocols” doesn’t even commit Trump to leave the Oval Office.

A clarification along those lines would be most welcome and would help me greatly to unclench further my tired old stomach. But if “ascertainments” and “initial protocols” are as close as Trump bring himself to acknowledge today, I’ll call it somewhat more encouraging than nothing.