As published in the Immigration Daily on June 15, 2020
As we look at the president casting about like a flounder in the current crises, the question is what is wrong with the president? Where is his teflon suit that protected him through many previous bouts with a critical public? Why have his blustering and twittering not vanquished his foes? It may well be that a great majority of Americans have finally seen in crises the measure of the man and are tired of his pathological lying, very little humanity, and laziness of mind and thought that does not allow him to grasp all sides of the problem but to seek convenient solutions. Does he have a way out? The article will explore the three perceived weaknesses and suggest how he may rehabilitate himself.
The Washington Post calculated that through the beginning of June 2020, Mr. Trump had made 19,127 false or misleading claims since taking office; that only 35% of Americans said that he was honest and trustworthy and 62% said that he was not. If ever subjected to an impartial psychiatric evaluation, he would doubtless provide an endless funhouse of frights, strobe lights, revolving doors and mirrors. His immigration whoppers are already legend that Mexican immigrants are rapists; that they bring crime and drugs; that legal and undocumented immigrants contribute very little to the country and take far more in public benefits than they contribute; that they are a mass horde unfairly taking away desired jobs from Americans; and that they are an invasion of violent, disease ridden brown people infiltrated by Islamic terrorists, murderers, drug runners and rapists massing south of the Rio Grande. Non-immigration related lies include insinuating that the former congressman and current MSNBC anchor, Joe Scarborough, murdered a female aide; President Obama not being born in the United States; Ukraine and not Russia interfering in the 2016 elections; Article 2 of the Constitution giving him powers to do whatever he wants as president; mistakenly asserting that Hurricane Dorian would strike Alabama last year against all meteorological evidence and then doubling down with an altered forecast chart and pressuring the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to back up his false claim; and proclaiming that the Mueller report totally exonerated him.
The president is supposed to be the moral leader of a country regarded by most of the world as a bastion of morality and decency. Yet the image of this president as a moral leader is risible. Children across the nation lie more easily now than ever as they see that there are no consequences to the president for his untruths. Concocting mountains out of very few incidents and making molehills where there are mountains of incidents are almost his stock in trade.
Very little humanity
Viewing Mr. Trump in his addresses to the nation or in his briefings during the coronavirus (the Administration stopped giving pandemic briefings in April) captures an inability to speak compassionately as he has been robotic in describing how devastating the death count has been to the people of the country. He has only been animated in talking about the hurt to the economy, or promising a cure within a year when the record for vaccine development is four years, or in excoriating Democratic governors for not reopening their states fast enough. He refuses to take blame or appear contrite for continually calling the coronavirus a hoax and not being fast enough to take action to head off the 116,000+ deaths in America that make this country first by far in the world in that unenvied category. In the current protests over police killings of blacks, his lack of sympathy for the largely peaceful demonstrations and the threat of using US active military forces have given great comfort to China and Russia – countries universally condemned for their use of the same tactics on their peoples – even though in this country, rights to free speech and peaceful assembly are guaranteed by the Constitution. Facing another anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, Chinese officials were gleeful in pointing out that the Communist Party use of the army was thus justified by the president of the United States.
On the immigration front, his forced separation of families including children from parents recall the cruel practices of the most terrible authoritarian regimes. His MPP (stay in Mexico) policy reinforced by CDC directives forcing asylum seekers to remain in Mexico where they are preyed upon violates international asylum and refugee laws and accords. His refusal to allow noncriminal immigration detainees to be released from crowded facilities prone to Covid-19 while real criminals – both street type and white collar ones like Mr. Trump’s former associates Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen – are let out is a sickening spectacle. And his further handling of immigration detainees in allowing transfers between facilities without testing and even sending diseased detainees on flights back to their home countries when they were infected with the coronavirus in the US is miserable.
President Trump is lazy in mind and thought
It has not been an uncommon sight to see the president out on golf outings, vacations, parties and other social occasions. It is known that he comes to the West Wing office late– as late as noon, and that he spends up to 60% of his working days in blocks of “executive time” tweeting, watching TV, especially the Fox network with its pro-Trump commentators and other conservative shows, and taking other built-in breaks. With such an insular schedule, he is not well balanced in his thought processes. It is well-known that he does not read his briefing papers and that the intelligence chiefs must spoon-feed him the information. The degree to which he is reliant upon the briefer who summarizes the presidential briefing papers for him was never better illustrated than when he blamed the briefer for telling him that he had nothing to worry about concerning the coronavirus in January. (He has thus far blamed China when the source of most of the infections and deaths in the US came not from China but Europe, the CDC, WHO, Obama and the briefer – but not himself). Yet had he taken the time to actually read the briefing papers, the nation would be better off in having a more informed president. His self-appointed coronavirus role of being the nation’s cheerleader is misplaced when the country needs a leader to coordinate efforts against the pandemic rather than one saying happy days are around the corner while at the same time that the states are on their own, not offering further federal assistance to the states, and then second-guessing and backbiting governors when they have struggled to solve their own states’ problems.
Had he read his briefing papers or even listened to the more urgent warnings of his advisors in February, one study showed that at least 36,000 American lives would have been spared as of May 3 when the fatalities were 65,307 if he had urged social distancing one week earlier than he finally did on March 16.
In other situations not related to the coronavirus, he would have realized that some of his top-of-his-head decisions were absolutely the most dangerous and detrimental to the country – the killing of General Suleimani of Iran could very well have precipitated a huge escalation in attacks and at the very least signaled to the world that assassination of high governmental officials is an accepted tool of statecraft; his selling out the Kurds in Syria who had been instrumental and worked closely with US troops in destroying ISIS with belittling words that the Kurds did not help us in World War II and not in Normandy prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. That move was further incomprehensible in ceding the Middle East to Russia and forcing nations to reconsider whether the US was now a reliable partner and would live up to its treaties if they were attacked and to seek other alliances; and his cozying up to dictators and strongmen like Russia’s Putin, North Korea’s Kim, Hungary’s Orban, Egypt’s el-Sisi, Turkey’s Erdogan, and China’s Xi (before the trade disputes) while shunning traditional allies has left this country in a weakened state of not knowing whom the United States can truly count on in times of crisis as allied leaders even speak disparagingly of him behind his back.
How Donald Trump can Rehabilitate Himself
More than at any other time in his presidency, Mr. Trump has shown himself to be an inadequate president. The coronavirus has exposed the emperor as having no clothes not only to his critics, but to his Republican audience. His apparent willingness to sacrifice the older generation for a faster reopening of the economy will cost him dearly in the November elections. His latest polling numbers are bad across the board falling 13.2 percentage points among registered or likely voters with much loss of support among women and even white voters without degrees. He is down seven points among Republicans and independents and nine points among Democrats. The downward spiral is set as a good portion of his supporters now understand that he has not been the man for the job. His current attempt to gin up his base by planning large rallies while the pandemic rages on and having supporters sign waivers of liability is extremely dangerous and his less zealous fans should give him the old Southern idiom, “That old dog won’t hunt.” He should now resign himself to the fact that he will be a one term president. Jim Mattis said it best on June 3 that “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people – does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us.”
To rehabilitate himself in the eyes of most of the American people, Mr. Trump should try to use his remaining time in office to be a unifier of all the people in the States, including immigrants who make a net contribution to the nation culturally, economically, and socially. He should shut down or limit his twitter account as his stream of consciousness tweeting has ended up in many very ill considered remarks, e.g. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” In addresses and speeches, he should limit himself to the script instead of wandering off into uncharted waters. Such could also limit the self damage caused by remarks like suggesting Americans could be injected with bleach. He should exhibit humility and sympathy for people regardless of how hard it is for him to do that and stop saying that his performance is “perfect” or that he has everything under “perfect control.” He should read his presidential briefing papers and reflect instead of just react to situations. Finally he should actually think of the long-term consequences and ramifications of his actions to this country. In this way, perhaps, his legacy will not ultimately be that of the worst president of these United States.
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