By George B. Kauffman
My head is literally spinning! I simply can’t keep up with the frantic pace of events. The news is filled hourly or even at more frequent intervals with the hysterical, ignorant, illogical rants of Donald J. Trump, who now refers to himself in the third person as “the President,” but who contradicts what he tweeted only a few minutes previously. Here are a few of the mind-boggling events.
Bad news: Universally acclaimed hero Sen. John McCain (R–Ariz.) was diagnosed with a virulent brain tumor. Trump has stated that McCain is “not a war hero—I like people that weren’t captured.”
On July 19, Trump said that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known that Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”
Trump again made a claim that has been unsubstantiated, that he, not Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election. He cited illegal voter fraud.
Trump suggested that FBI Director James Comey tried to use an explosive Russia dossier as leverage to keep his job.
Trump set a red line for Special Counsel Robert Mueller probing Trump business transactions, and Mueller has reportedly crossed it.
Longtime conservative Republican Joe Scarborough of “Morning Joe” became an independent: “I did not leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left its senses. The political movement that once stood athwart history resisting bloated government and military adventurism has been reduced to an amalgam of talk-radio resentments.
“President Trump’s Republicans have devolved into a party without a cause, dominated by a leader hopelessly ill-informed about the basics of conservatism, U.S. history and the Constitution.
America’s first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, reportedly said that “nearly all men can stand adversity. But if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” The current Republican president and the party he controls were granted monopoly power over Washington in November and already find themselves spectacularly failing Lincoln’s character exam.
On July 17, Pulitzer Prize– winning journalist Eugene Robinson, in an article titled “This Country Deserves Much Better Than Trump,” summarized the problem with Trump and his presidency: “It’s exhausting, I know, but don’t let outrage fatigue numb you to the moral bankruptcy and gross incompetence of the Trump administration. This ugly departure from American norms and values must be opposed with sustained passion—and with the knowledge that things will probably get worse before they get better.”
Heaven help us, look where we are. We have a president— commander-in-chief of the armed forces, ostensibly the leader of the free world—whose every word is suspect. President Trump is an inveterate liar. He dismisses provable facts as “fake news” and invents faux facts of his own that bear no relationship to the truth. He simply cannot be trusted.
We have a president whose North Star is naked self-interest, not the good of the country. Trump cares about his family, his company and little else. He dishonors the high office he holds, then reportedly spends hours each day railing against cable news coverage that he finds insufficiently respectful. His ego is a kind of psychic black hole that devours all who come into its orbit.
We have a president whose eldest son, son-in-law and campaign chairman met with emissaries purportedly sent by the Russian government to deliver dirt on Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump claimed on Twitter that “most politicians” would have gone to such a meeting, which is another lie. Try to find politicians who say they would have attended.
We have a president who fired the director of the FBI for continuing to investigate “this Russia thing”—a sophisticated effort by the Russian government, according to U.S. intelligence officials, to tip the election in Trump’s favor. Will he also try to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III? If he does, will Congress let him get away with it?
We have a president—was he made in Russia?—who has declared this to be “Made in America” week, despite the fact that so many of the retail products that bear his name or that of his daughter Ivanka are made in Mexico, China, Indonesia and Bangladesh. When asked about this irony by Politico, a White House spokesperson responded, “We’ll get back to you on that.” They won’t.
Trump has broken his promise to help the struggling middle class. After pledging health insurance “for everybody,” he supported legislation that would strip more than 20 million people of coverage. His approval rating, according to a new Post–ABC News poll, has fallen to 36%—a historic low for a president at this point in his tenure. Yet Trump continues to enjoy strong support from self-identified Republicans, whose resentment against liberal “elites” he plays like a violin.
His administration is in shambles. Members of his inner circle snipe at one another via anonymous quotes to reporters. They compete for the president’s favor not by doing their jobs well but by showing a willingness to defend anything he says and does, no matter how ridiculous. In the space of a week, his surrogates went from “the campaign had no meetings with Russians” to “there was a meeting but no collusion” to “collusion is not actually a crime.” One wonders how they sleep at night.
Trump presents the world with something new: In place of American leadership, there is a vacuum. In keeping with the pattern set at the Group of 20 Summit, adversaries will try to use Trump’s ignorance to their advantage while allies try to nudge him into doing the right thing. The “madman theory” of foreign relations can only be employed effectively by a leader who is actually steadfast and serious; Trump is neither.
There is no point in looking to Republicans for salvation. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R–Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) still hope to get Trump to sign into law massive cuts in taxes and entitlements. Many rank-and-file members fear Trump’s loyal support among the base. The former “party of Lincoln” has adopted the moral code of the Oakland Raiders’ late owner Al Davis: “Just win, baby.”
So that is what Democrats and independents must do—win. As long as there are pro-Trump majorities in the House and Senate, there will be no real Congressional oversight and no brake on an out-of-control president’s excesses. Incumbency and gerrymandered districts mean that winning anti-Trump majorities in 2018 will be difficult. But not impossible.
The Democratic Party needs a plan, a message and a sense of urgency. Trump hopes to bully critics into submission, but the country is bigger than this one president. And much better.
On July 29, 2015, Trump stated, “The American dream is dead. I alone can fix it.” Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin called Trump’s claim the antithesis of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s message that we are all in this together and we all need to work together.
When asked why they voted for Trump, his supporters said that they wanted something different. They—and unfortunately, we—got it. However, by no stretch of the imagination can his antics and policies be considered “normal.”
If Trump is impeached, (His lawyers have already asked whether he can pardon himself and his family members (Lawyers differ on whether this is possible), then what?
We wind up with Vice President Mike Pence, that’s what! He may be even worse than Trump because he knows exactly what he wants. He’s anti-government, anti-abortion, anti-healthcare for all, anti-LGBT, among others. He opposes everything that progressives cherish.
Finally, I (GBK) ask: Is anyone considering moving to Canada?
George B. Kauffman, Ph.D., chemistry professor emeritus at Fresno State and a Guggenheim Fellow, is a recipient of the American Chemical Society’s George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education, the Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach and the Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution, and numerous domestic and international honors. In 2002 and 2011, he was appointed a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society, respectively.