President Trump seemed to be even more cranky than usual on Tuesday. First, he doubled down on a lie about President Obama ignoring the families of fallen soldiers. Then, on a phone call to the wife of a soldier killed two weeks weeks ago in Niger, he allegedly said 25-year-old Sergeant La David Johnson “knew what he signed up for.” If Trump is normally a cranky toddler, for the past 24 hours he’s been acting like he skipped his nap.
But early Wednesday, Trump proved that even a night of sleep couldn’t cheer him up. In a series of angry tweets, he lashed out at some of his favorite targets, including the NFL, James Comey, Hillary Clinton, and congressional Democrats.
You’d be forgiven if this tantrum, like so many of Trump’s outbursts, passed without notice. Trump is so volatile that it’s hard to get excited about anything short of spontaneous combustion. But Wednesday’s Twitter fit was more sustained and wide-ranging than most, and if you’re looking for a reason why, David Axelrod has an interesting suggestion.
The news of Trump’s tumble on the Forbes list of the richest Americans broke on Tuesday. A year after coming in at No. 156 on the list, Trump is now down to No. 248 after his fortune fell by $600 million to $3.1 billion. The reason for the dip? Forbes says it’s because of “a tough New York real estate market, particularly for retail locations; a costly lawsuit and an expensive presidential campaign.”
For a normal billionaire, if such a thing exists, this theory might sound far-fetched. What kind of maladjusted narcissist thinks being credited with a $3.1 billion fortune is unfair? But Trump isn’t a normal anything, and he’s shown over the years that he’s deeply invested in his ranking. In 2015, when he lied about his net worth being $9 billion, the magazine noted that Trump regularly lobbies to appear higher on the list.
Since 1982, Forbes has been tracking Trump’s net worth in great detail. That’s more than thirty years. Over those decades, we have worked both with him and outside experts who can help us come up with a fair market valuation of his assets. Every year, Trump shares a lot of information with us that helps us get to the figures we publish. But he also consistently pushes for a higher net worth—especially when it comes to the value of his personal brand.
Given the on-the-record complaints he’s made to the magazine in the past, it would be a surprise if Trump weren’t unhappy with his ranking. In 1996, when Forbes said he was worth $450 million, Trump complained, “You’re putting me on at $450 million? I’ve got that much in stock-market assets alone.” A year later, when it said he had $1.4 billion, Trump replied that the “real number is $3.7 billion.” And in 1998, when Forbes bumped Trump’s net worth by $100 million to $1.5 billion, he said “The number is closer to $5 billion.”
“Trump is one of the most glaring examples of someone who constantly calls about himself and says we’re not only low, but low by a multiple,” Peter Newcomb, a Forbes editor, told the Times in 2005. Maybe now that he’s president, Trump is just taking out his frustration in other ways.