I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, but I think I understand why nearly 63 million Americans did so. They voted against “business as usual,” even if that meant breaking a lot of china. They voted for a government that they hoped would be more responsive to their needs. One can argue whether a vote for either of our November 2016 candidates was wise, but now we have a Trump Administration. What have we let ourselves in for? Each time I have started to post an entry, discussing some of the latest outlandish statements and outrageous acts, something new has come along. In just a few short weeks since the inauguration, all (naïve) hope that I had for a more presidential, wiser Donald Trump has been vaporized. Here is a short litany of recent outrages:
- Direct personal attacks on a “so-called judge” for ruling against one of the most hastily-put-together executive orders on a momentous issue (a judge who was nominated by the last Republican President and confirmed 99-0). That followed the assertion that another United States District Judge is “a hater” and biased against him in a private lawsuit because Trump is “strong on immigration and the judge is Hispanic-surnamed (a judge who had previously prosecuted Mexican cartel members and was confirmed by a voice vote).
- Equating Russia’s autocracy with our system since “we have killers, too. You think our country is so innocent?” Even Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, no fans of the Fourth Estate, never poisoned journalists. And they at least listened to their intelligence agencies before dissing them in public.
- Direct, wrongheaded attacks on the media. “It’s gotten to a point where it’s [terrorism] not even being reported, and in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.” And, most hypocritically, the accusation that they peddle “fake news.” The hydra-headed media has a lot to answer for, but these accusations are flat wrong, and the failure of the President and his courtiers to refute the media’s surgical dissection of his lies proves it. Nonetheless, just when one might have thought things could not get any worse, the President went further down the sewer and labeled a huge segment of the press the “enemy of the American people.”
- And the latest – the incredible charge tweeted out several days ago, on zero evidence, that Barack Obama, that “bad (or sick) guy” wiretapped Trump at Trump Tower.
We had hoped that some of the adults in the Cabinet could mitigate some of the damage. But apparently even the supposedly levelheaded members of the Cabinet have caught the Trump Disease. In keeping with Sean Spicer’s decision to ban certain news organizations from a February 24 press briefing, on March 7 Secretary of State Rex Tillerson allowed (or directed) the ejection of Andrea Mitchell from a photo-op with the Ukraine Foreign Minister for asking uncomfortable questions. That is not just shocking; it shows an unprecedented level of cowardice and arrogance by a public official. And equally shocking is that Bill O’Reilly, jackal-like, claimed that she was “unruly.” Andrea Mitchell—“unruly”? Every member of the press should have Andrea Mitchell’s back, but apparently some of them are so blinded by their own political slant, or the desire to curry favor, that they condone, even praise this behavior.
Maybe the last 16 years have been pretty bad – a divided country, an ill-thought-out war, a devastating recession, and the decline of American prestige overseas – but they pale in comparison to what is happening now. The above events demonstrate that our President is utterly devoid of personal dignity and consumed with self. Anyone can find a lot of uncomplimentary things to say about the policies of Bush 43 and Barack 44, but these men were, at bottom, decent human beings. We now are governed by someone of a different ilk entirely … someone whose policy nostrums are truly “stone cold crazy.” For example,
- Making Steve Bannon a regular at National Security Council briefings, in place of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence. For once I agree with Susan Rice on something — that really is “stone cold crazy.” We can apparently credit Bannon and another of his cohort for the wildly under-thought-out travel ban on citizens of seven countries – including persons who already held visas and were returning to family and homes already in the U.S., along with many persons who served alongside our military personnel in the Mideast, often at risk to their own lives and safety. Now we have a new, revised ban that may pass legal muster, but is completely ineffectual and wrongheaded.
- Completely dismissing the Trans-Pacific Pact on trade, which would be our best and simplest vehicle for isolating China and binding other Asian countries to our economy and our society. If you want to make America great again, you don’t abandon TPP and create a vacuum to be filled by a rising hegemonist. And it’s ridiculous to bash China for its alleged unfair currency devaluation when China has actually been propping up its currency, not devaluing it.
- Maintaining the fiction that Mexico should and will pay for an ineffective “wall” and demanding that NAFTA be “renegotiated.” It apparently has never occurred to this real estate mogul (who has employed undocumented workers) that the best way to minimize illegal immigration is to strengthen the economies of Latin American countries so their people do not experience the desperation that impels them to walk thousands of miles to enter the United States. As best one can tell from U.S. Government figures, Texas alone has an $8 billion trade surplus with Mexico. (Governor Abbott, are you listening?) Put another way, Mexico is not Rosie O’Donnell. It is our neighbor.
- And, if you want to counteract Russian savagery, you don’t cozy up to them by dissing your own country, whose sins are not even a teaspoon compared to the ocean of government-sponsored Russian criminality against its own citizens. Not to mention Russian support for Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s torturer-in chief. Trump’s inexplicable behavior towards Russia does just one thing: it persuades many of us that the Russians really do have something on him.
The list of Trump’s deliberate and dangerous wrongheadedness is already too long for my blog. Others who do this for a living have exposed it with far more eloquence than I can summon in a week or even a month. In an era of grave dangers, from overseas powers and groups who are utterly hostile to an open, democratic and free society, we need a President who understands and appreciates what we have. Unfortunately, we don’t, so we are in for a long, excruciating ride.
So, what can we do?
First, we can continue to stay engaged in public affairs. That doesn’t necessarily mean protests. It requires much more than marching on occasion, including – most important – voting at every opportunity, whether in primaries, general elections, school bond elections, referenda (and how many of today’s protestors did not even vote in the last election?). With turnout at a 20-year low (roughly 55% after three cycles of at least 60%), we all have to participate, and we have to encourage everyone around us to do the same.
Second, we can turn to our own communities. We can live the best lives we can, treat each other with decency, be passionate about our cities, our neighborhoods, and our families, but also show compassion and charity toward others. By providing these shining examples, sorely lacking in this Administration, we can hope that the American people decide to once again aspire to be a “city on a hill” and figure out by 2020 how to reverse the evil that has befallen us.