When Donald Trump won the Presidency, I was comforted by the fact that a President can only do so much – he is surrounded by a bureaucracy and numerous advisers. Surely they’d keep Trump reasonably controlled.
I was wrong.
Nearly 200 days in the Trump Presidency is not only an epic failure, but the rest of the world is treating the United States as an afterthought. Respected under Obama, resented under Bush, ridiculed and laughed at under Trump. What next?
There is no need to list the bizarre antics of the President and his gang that can’t shoot straight (unless they’re aiming at each other). If the President had been an engaged leader, Obamacare would be gone, replaced by some conservative alternative. Indeed, with a majority in both houses, a competent leader would be well on his way to making significant legislative changes. So far, Congress has accomplished nothing.
Instead, the one establishment Republican, Reince Priebus “resigned” shortly after Trump’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci said he was a “paranoid fuck” who spent the day “sucking his cock.” Steve Bannon also received a heap of similar profanity from Scaramucci during his interview with the New Yorker. The tabloids celebrate. (And the circus continues – as I am ready to post this, the latest news is that Anthony Scaramucci is now out as communications director. On and on it goes...)
And while Trump talks nice about Russian President Vladimir Putin, revelations of contacts between Trump campaign insiders and the Russian government continue unabated. Meanwhile the Russian government has given over 700 Americans in Moscow their walking papers in retaliation for Russian sanctions passed by Congress. In this major foreign policy crisis the President is AWOL.
The President is lazy. He doesn’t bother learning policy details, spends most of his time watching television, and seems more concerned about image than substance. As he continues to suffer the worst approval ratings of a newly elected President ever, his strange tweets get more press than any comment he makes on policy.
This means that the United States is adrift. Trump’s bullying style – he had the interior Secretary threaten Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) with cuts in spending for her state should she vote against the Obamacare repeal – backfires. Murkowski still voted no, and Trump’s vindictive pettiness is seen as weakness. He knows how to be a “boss,” he has no skill in political leadership. He blames everyone else for his failures, but refuses to look in the mirror to see the real cause.
Perhaps the strangest example is the way he is using tweets and insults to try to push Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign. Sessions was an early Trump ally back when most Republicans thought he had no chance. As Attorney General, he’s pursued Trump’s policy goals. But Trump blames him for his Russia scandal problems, believing that if Sessions hadn’t recused himself from the case, he could have brushed all that under the carpet. That shows both Trump’s pettiness and his disregard for rule of law.
Globally, the US is simply being ignored. Trump tweets that China is “no help” on North Korea. China shrugs, and works out trade deals with the EU. Trump demands the Paris climate accord be renegotiated to get the US on board. Instead the world moves forward, with allies France and Germany working with individual states and cities who want to follow the accord despite Trump’s rejection.
Indeed, the North Korean missile launched into Japanese territory would garner Presidential and media focus; instead, the President tweets a few threats and the media continue to focus on the myriad of scandals and outlandish stories from Trumpworld.
While it’s possible the Trump administration will get its act together, that would require Trump to change. He refuses. I suspect he’s too lazy.
For the country, the question is whether or not our system can handle an incompetent President without imploding or falling into crisis. During Watergate the system successfully dealt with a criminal albeit competent President. Can the system handle Trump?
This test could not come at a worse time for the US. The US needs to play a positive role in a world where globalization, terrorism, conflict, climate change, and economic turmoil threaten stability. Instead, the President rages, tweets, huffs and puffs, but appears impotent. The US drifts as the rest of the world grapples with profoundly important issues.
In a way it serves us right. Trump represents the infantalist consumer oriented glitzy all show and no substance twist our culture has taken in recent decades. He is like a child in the White House, lazily following his impulses, but avoiding real effort. There are signs that the country is waking up and actively resisting our boy President. Still, the question is not if his Presidency will damage the country, but how much damage will be done.