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.