President Trump plans a visit to Russia this summer to confer with Vladimir Putin. In normal times, this kind of top level meeting would be met with excitement and even hope that some benefit would result. But Americans have elected Donald Trump as president, a person known for serious character flaws that render this meeting more frightening than invigorating. Just a few considerations . . .
- Trump can never be relied on to tell the truth. Even if told the purpose for the trip, the topics planned, and afterward what agreements were reached, we cannot trust what he or anyone over whom he has control will say. He puts a lot of stock in face-to-face discussion with only translators present, thereby putting anything said in that one-to-one setting subject to grave doubt.
- Trump has shown his “big man” need to look very important. Of course, he actually is; he is president. But that only shows unnecessary bragging to be more pathological. His need to boast has already compromised classified information. I hope American officials with integrity and independence are included in the Moscow talks, so we will know whether or which American security matters are jeopardized.
- Trump assesses persons based not on objective criteria, but on whether they like and agree with him sufficiently. Putin is not Superman, but it’s a safe assumption that he’ll be skilled at playing to Trump’s ego, paranoia, and immaturity.
- Trump impulsively makes decisions and takes actions with no regard for their complexity, how many interests must be taken into account, and with little regard to—pardon the expression—facts. He could, perhaps, learn from his current heartless and mishandled immigration disaster, but don’t bet on it.
- Trump regularly blames others for his errors and sees himself as mistreated and victim of unfair press. Only his slavish base is tricked into awarding sympathy for his whining. He is therefore vulnerable to a feigned sympathetic shoulder from anyone, particularly from persons in an authoritative position. His ego is in constant need of being fed, continually affecting his judgment.
- Trump seems always to think he knows everything to be known about complicated and sensitive issues, even knowing about military matters—without preparation—”more than the generals.” Failure to attend to what he doesn’t know is an alarming weakness for a Commander-in-Chief.
We have had presidents with questionable competence, weak ethics, indecisiveness, dangerous impulsiveness, and deep character flaws. Still, the allegation—to the extent I claim—that an American president cannot be trusted to negotiate, share, or represent America with a foreign power has, to my knowledge, never been said of any president beginning with George Washington. In the case of Donald Trump, I do so soberly and with no reservation.
The Executive Branch and Legislative Branch have specific roles to play in the Founders’ carefully designed structure of government. Sadly, both Senate and House are now confused and feckless, more engaged in partisan conflict than in national needs. Consequently, we must rely on Donald Trump to be a person he is not—a careful, decent, thoughtful, respectful, knowledgeable patriot.