During the Cold War, America spent much treasury on the ability to respond within minutes to a Soviet threat. How many months are needed to respond to our own homegrown threat from Donald J. Trump? Will lack of moral courage by Republican officials—since they are currently the only ones with power to act—allow damage to the United States and the world order in a way Soviet missiles did not? Do elected representatives in the Legislative Branch understand they are a separate branch of government? Apparently not. In the face of a presidency gone horribly awry, Republican officials have become Donald Trump’s bitches.
A Republican senator on TV this morning (I am writing this November 29), asked to comment on how Donald Trump is doing as president, fell back on the safe criticism that he tweets too much. Ridiculous. The problem is not that Trump tweets too much. The problem is what he tweets. After all, previous presidents have used direct, personal messaging to both domestic and foreign publics—FDR’s “fireside chats” are the oft-noted example. But unceasing, off-the-cuff tweets expose every unfiltered mental wanderings of the tweeter. And more than any American president in my lifetime, Donald Trump’s wanderings are beset with narcissism, trivia, and even precarious content.
I’ve written a number of posts using far too many, tiresomely repeated descriptions of Trump (see references to those essays below). He is an unfit and thoroughly despicable character, so obvious before the 2016 election to anyone not blinded by anger in search of a champion or the childish Lock Her Up mantra. (Juxtaposing Trump and character in the same sentence is a bit ludicrous.) Whatever the role of Russian chicanery in the election, the American electorate made an egregious error last November.
Election of this madman could have been (and was) predicted to jeopardize protections built into the Constitution. His immaturity and ignorance confounded political choices within the Constitutional system with the system itself. Fighting over our differences about, for example, a southern wall, health insurance, and consumer protections are arguments the system was designed to enable. Damaging that system is to dismantle the very framework that protects our unum while valuing our pluribus. Doing so exposes the U.S. to the enfeebling of our system, not just differences of partisan opinion. Risking the American system to appease this man-child’s pathetic psychological neediness has shown in practice what many Americans feared would come to pass. But so what? We trusted the Congress to play its protective role.
One doesn’t have to be a Democrat to marvel at the ineptitude of the Republican party in dealing with Trump. The party was not in the best of health even before becoming forced chums of Trump on November 6. Conservative Senator Lindsey Graham and Governor Bobby Jindal had lamented at least a year earlier that their party had become “the stupid party.” Conservative author Matt K. Lewis said that although conservatism used to have “big, thoughtful ideas,” it had “lost its intellectual bearings” (I agree in both cases). My post, “Batshit crazy, the stupid party,” appeared in this blog on March 15, 2016.
I fear, though, that our disease is more extensive than a malperforming president and malperforming Congress. As a country we can’t stop shouting that we hit a triple when, as the saying goes, we were simply born on third base. Stupid party, now stupid president; how close, then, is stupid country? Are so many of us still bloviating with our rhetoric of “best country on earth,” pronouncing our president the “leader of the free world,” and other blowings of our own horn that we think American greatness can forever rest on the work of the founders, that our Constitutional system is a birthright that fumbling and hyper-partisanship cannot damage? Are we akin to the child who breaks your Ming vase with absolutely no appreciation of the damage done?
Trump’s appearance on the scene at a time of his chosen party’s deterioration is a strong challenge for America. Not only intelligence and genuine patriotism (rather than the usual mouthings) are needed by citizens and officials alike, and a moral courage beyond partisan pursuits is needed in those elected to protect us. Although there is precious little encouragement to be found in the record of the past year, I fervently hope for America and for the world that we are up to the test.
Previous posts particularly relevant to Donald Trump: “America’s celebration of ignorance,” Sept. 26, 2016. “October relief…sort of, Trump’s still here,” Oct. 28, 2016. “You and I deserve Despot Donnie,” Mar. 20, 2017. “Prerequisites for the presidency,” May 30, 2017. “Our republic . . . if we can keep it,” July 3, 2017. “Fish rot from the head,” Aug. 18, 2017.
Let’s say we agree that time will tell that Mr. Trump is, in fact as well as opinion, “inferior to his office”. I know exactly how you feel, because I felt the same way about Mr. Obama – and Lyndon Johnson as well. But what, prior to the 2020 election cycle, is your proposed solution? And if it is Impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate, would you have the same problem with Mr. Pence as with Mr. Trump? No matter how much you(all) wish Ms. Clinton could be declared the 2016 winner if Mr. Trump is forced out, that’s not going to happen. She will have to wait until 2020.
Let me be clear about my criticism of Donald Trump: I am not arguing the normal political to and fro (e.g., Obamacare, DACA, tax rates, Pentagon budget), but higher plane issues of system protection/damage (e.g., integrity of vote counting, church/state separation, Constitutional checks and balances). At a level below those system issues, I do have political viewpoints like everybody else on federal debt, size of military, House candidate criteria, observing a “red line” in Syria, and so forth, but those are or should be decisions made within the Constitutional system rather than the system itself. I try, though not always successfully, to keep my opinions on non-system matters to myself in this blog, so they are rarely or never my topic. I argue that Trump endangers the system and Clinton would not have, in other words, at the system level of thought, there is no equivalence of Obama and Johnson (and Clinton) to Trump as you’ve implied. As to “[my] proposed solution:” I’ve written that the proximate rescuers are the Republican majority, but their incompetence and partisanship leave me in a depressive quandary. As to Pence, there may be system issues I’ll want to address in the future.
JC, this is a great post! Ron
Your comments about the President are both astute and appropriate. It’s sad that some citizens cling defensively to their beliefs about this deranged, dangerous man and his crass cohorts. Time will prove this irrational man inferior to his office. The world watches.
Indeed, the world is watching, and depending on the relationship countries have with us, they are dismayed, frightened, or taking schadenfreude to new levels. The longer this fool we’ve elected is allowed to remain in office, the more his destructive effects escalate beyond detrimental to devastating.
If it makes any of you Trump-haters feel any better, I happen to be just one of many I know of that did not vote for Trump in the Republican primary election. But like many of these, we had to choose between a crotch-grabbing buffoon and a dangerously inept and crooked alternative who should be in federal prison by now (and may yet be, though not likely). Unless you are one of those who keep regurgitating the tired “she won the popular vote” platitude, you realize the voters in the hinterlands (other than east and west coasts) probably had to hold their noses in the voting booths like the rest of us while casting their votes that allowed the buffoon to win an electoral college majority. It is a sad and dangerous state of affairs that our political system has deteriorated to the level it has in providing such poor alternatives to lead the most powerful (at least for now) nation on the planet. We should all be hoping and praying that someone, be it Melania or Mattison or Pence or Tillerson or whoever, will straighten Trump out before he leads the USA over the cliff.
Pretending Hillary Clinton’s flaws compare to Trump’s is like the false equivalence of a speeding violation and an armed robbery . . . and even then, the worst of her alleged sins were subjected to very expensive Republican witch hunts that said more about the accusers than the accused. My guess is that if Clinton had won, you’d be criticizing her heavily as is your right, but I doubt anyone would seriously be worried that she might lead “the USA over a cliff.” By the way, in an earlier comment and now again you’ve criticized liberals for repeatedly citing Clinton’s popular vote numbers in order, I suppose, to delegitimize Trump’s win. Not only have I never done that (and won’t, because it doesn’t), but more importantly I’m not aware of its being done by anyone I know or watch/read/listen to. The popular vote totals do have meaning, but have nothing to do with who wins the presidency. Aside from all that, however, I do agree with you that our national inability to raise the best and brightest to White House candidacy is distressing and ultimately dangerous. It brought us, in recent history, such luminaries as Dan Quayle, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and Donald Trump.
Another really good post, John!
I urge you to send hard copies of this to your representatives & senators.
I will hope that you do!