Forget the Muslim ban, the shredded trade deals, the nasty slurs of the judiciary, the insults to NATO allies. Here's what really got up Donald Trump's nose this week.
"My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom," he tweeted. "Terrible!"
Nordstrom dropped Ivanka's clothing line because it tanked. After the petulant presidential tweet, the stock went up. This is a cheering sign that the bully pulpit doesn't always work. Meanwhile, in other retail news, Melania filed a lawsuit against the Daily Mail for a now-retracted story claiming that she'd once worked for an escort service. She says the story spoiled a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity for her to profit from her high profile as first lady.
David Shribman: The United States of chaos and confusion
Elizabeth Renzetti: Go ahead, laugh: Humour is the weapon in the fight against Trump
Konrad Yakabuski: Steve Bannon: The man behind the mayhem
That's the trouble with trying to get your head around Mr. Trump. You don't know if the play we're in is a tragedy, a farce or theatre of the absurd.
The widespread fear is that Mr. Trump could unleash a tragedy of world-historic scope. He wants to undermine democracy at home and unravel the world order. This worst-case view is best articulated by the Canadian-born conservative David Frum, who is one of Mr. Trump's most articulate foes. His piece in The Atlantic, How to Build an Autocracy, will make you want to take to your bed with a box of tissues and a large cup of gin.
But maybe there's a bright side. This gang can't seem to organize a kaffeeklatsch. The Muslim ban (or whatever you want to call it) was botched from the beginning. Nobody was consulted. Everyone was taken by surprise. The lawyer who wrote up the executive order made a hash of it. The result was chaos and confusion on a global scale, complete with massive demonstrations. Now the whole thing is bogged down in the courts, over which, to his dismay, Mr. Trump has no control. Terrible!
Chaos is okay on the campaign trail. But in the White House, it's a serious inconvenience. And according to a devastating New York Times story, Mr. Trump and his extremely small band of aides are literally stumbling around in the dark. "Aides confer in the dark because they cannot figure out how to operate the light switches in the cabinet room," the story said. They don't know which door goes where. They don't know how the government works either. The story described Mr. Trump in the evening, alone, watching TV in his bathrobe.
Sean Spicer, the President's irascible press secretary, said the story was riddled with falsehoods. For one thing, the President doesn't own a bathrobe.
That's Trumpworld. One minute we're all fretting about NATO and Putin and China, and the next minute we're tweeting pictures of Mr. Trump in bathrobes. We're trapped in a permanent state of cognitive dissonance.
Happily, it seems that Mr. Trump is more talk than action. Right now, his new cabinet members are busy reassuring our allies that he doesn't mean what he said at all. So maybe NATO's safe, especially now that Theresa May has set him straight.
It's no secret that Mr. Trump's executive abilities are disastrous. But maybe that's a good thing. It means that some of his loonier schemes won't ever see the light of day. Others will die or be dramatically scaled back when they hit the wall of reality. Some will be thwarted by the courts or the bureaucracy or by the thousands of watchdogs, lawyers and advocacy groups that have been energized by his presidency and are monitoring his every move.
Meantime, those not-so-loyal aides are using their sworn enemies in the mainstream media to paint an extremely unflattering picture of the boss.
"The leaks coming out of the Trump White House cast the president as a clueless child," a headline in The Washington Post said this week. Maybe they're trying to send a message to a boss who doesn't listen. Maybe they're trying to stab each other in the back. Maybe they are pleading for somebody to come rescue them. Whatever the case, veteran White House reporters say they've never seen anything like it.
Remember, Mr. Trump's greatest goal in life is to be popular. He craves good ratings above all else. It's got to bother him like hell that his approval numbers are so low. Perhaps his compulsive need to be liked will curb his darker urges before he plunges us all into World War Three.
Mr. Trump's chief henchman Steve Bannon, who has compared himself to Darth Vader, once said: "Darkness is good."
But I'm not sure the torch of Lady Liberty has been extinguished just yet (as this week's New Yorker cover would like us to believe). The clueless child in the White House may not be able to do as much damage as we fear. And even Darth Vader sometimes needs a light switch.