Editorial: Trump flails, America falls
Donald Trump is a failed president. Americans are facing the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, the worst pandemic since the Spanish Flu of 1918, and the worst civil unrest and protests since the riots of the late 1960s. It is no coincidence that these three calamities have occurred under Trump’s caustic leadership, abysmal ignorance and deeply flawed character.
And rather than even try to unite the nation, Trump’s reaction is to lead Americans in a war against each other. The question of the day is whether Republicans would follow Trump if he called out the troops against our own, or would they defend America’s democracy?
Dramatic? Yes. But shockingly it’s not clear whether Republican leaders in the Senate would defy a president who has so consumed their party they have nothing left to defend—and much to lose if Americans turn them out of power in November. And one would have to be blind not to see the capitulation to Trump’s every whim from the majority of Republican leaders at the state and national level.
What we have learned over the past four years is that Trump is a crass, amoral, seriously dysfunctional person who is mean-spirited at his core. His narcissism is boundless and his intolerance of criticism dangerous.
In the face of a national insurrection over police brutality, he encourages police, mayors and governors throughout the country to get tougher on protesters and threatens to send in the U.S. military in battle against American citizens. In actions that defy logic, each day he seems to compound his troubles by making yet another egregious error in judgment. The news cycle of each day’s horrendous events is exhausting, unbelievable, and yet, frightfully true.
Like the stunned silence that left Canada’s President Justin Trudeau speechless for 21 seconds when a reporter asked him to respond to Trump’s use of brutal police force against American citizens peacefully protesting en route to his now infamous photo op in front of St. John’s Church, the nation and world are shocked at Trump’s dictatorial impulses and, perhaps more to the point, saddened to see a great nation and ally fall so far, so quickly.
While Republican leaders dodged reporters and hid from cameras to avoid having to defend Trump’s actions, others told of Trump’s threat to America in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and these past 9 days of national turmoil:
• Novelist Salman Rushdie penned a column Wednesday in the Washington Post in which he describes the several dictators he has seen rise and fall in his sometimes-harrowing life. He describes a few and then writes: “Extreme narcissism, detachment from reality, a fondness for sycophants and a distrust of truth-tellers, an obsession with how one is publicly portrayed, a hatred of journalists and the temperament of an out-of-control bulldozer: These are some of the characteristics. President Trump is, temperamentally, a tinpot despot of this type… So far, with the collusion of the Republican Party, he has ruled more or less unchecked. Now an election looms, and he is unpopular, and flails about looking for a winning strategy. And if that means trampling over American freedoms, then so be it.” Rushdie emphasizes that the First Amendment states in part that: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” These are the very things protesters around the country are doing.
Rushdie goes on to warn: “If he (Trump) is allowed to use the actions of a tiny minority of criminals and white extremist infiltrators to invalidate the honorable protest of the vast majority against the murder of Floyd, the violence of the police toward the black community and the entrenched power of American racism, he will be on his way to despotism. He has threatened to use the Army against American citizens, a threat one might have expected from a leader of the former Soviet Union, but not of the United States.”
• When former undersecretary of defense James Miller resigned Wednesday from his current post in the Trump administration, because of the president’s needless assault of American citizens en route to St. John’s Church, he challenged Sec. of Defense Mark Esper to check his convictions. “President Trump’s actions Monday night violated his oath to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed,’ as well as the First Amendment ‘right of the people peaceably to assemble.’… Anyone who takes the oath of office must decide where he or she will draw the line: What are the things that they will refuse to do... You have made life-and-death decisions in combat overseas; soon you may be asked to make life-and-death decisions about using the military on American streets and against Americans. Where will you draw the line, and when will you draw it?”
• Former President George W. Bush condemned Trump’s actions, noting that “Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America—or how it becomes a better place.”
• Retired Admiral Michael Mullen, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under both Bush and President Barack Obama, wrote a piece for The Atlantic titled “I Cannot Remain Silent.” In it he wrote: “It sickened me yesterday to see security personnel—including members of the National Guard—forcibly and violently clear a path through Lafayette Square to accommodate the president's visit outside St. John’s Church. I have to date been reticent to speak out on issues surrounding President Trump's leadership, but we are at an inflection point, and the events of the past few weeks have made it impossible to remain silent…. Whatever Trump’s goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.”
There were countless others, and the ire was directed not only at Trump but at those “spineless Republican invertebrates,” as conservative columnist George Will (no friend of Democrats) called Republicans leaders in the Senate, who have enabled Trump to tear apart the country. “This unraveling presidency began with the Crybaby-in-Chief banging his spoon on his highchair tray to protest a photograph—a photograph—showing that his inauguration crowd the day before had been smaller than the one four years previous,” Will wrote. “Since then, this weak person’s idea of a strong person, this chest-pounding advertisement of his own gnawing insecurities, this low-rent Lear raging on his Twitter-heath has proven that the phrase malignant buffoon is not an oxymoron… In 2016, the Republican Party gave its principal nomination to a vulgarian and then toiled to elect him. And to stock Congress with invertebrates whose unswerving abjectness has enabled his institutional vandalism, who have voiced no serious objections to his Niagara of lies…”
The message is clear. America’s democracy is threatened by an unhinged leader and a Republican Senate that has been unwilling to check the executive’s power. Will’s solution is direct and unapologetic: “Senate Republicans must be routed, as condign punishment for their Vichyite collaboration…”