The Trump Watch (beginning of August 2018)

This time around The Curmudgeon dispenses with his usual review of the most recent Trumpian nonsense and focuses instead on just a few things that together portend a bleak future.

First we have his continued, inappropriate responses to anything in the press that he doesn’t like.  Last week a CNN reporter asked him a few questions he didn’t like.  Her punishment: the Trump press office barred her from attending a press event later that day.

This is unacceptable on every level: the White House Correspondents Association said so, members of Congress said so, even the president of Fox News, of all people, issued a public statement declaring that “We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press.”  A free press constitutes the very heart of our democracy, as Thomas Jefferson explained when he wrote that

The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

She’d better watch out: this Caitlyn Jenner lookalike could find herself deported

Next we have the TV incident:  Trump reportedly threw a fit aboard Air Force One last week when he discovered Melania watching CNN and not Fox News.  His anger (allegedly) was directed not at Melania but at whomever permitted someone to change the channel.  To make sure that never happens again, the folks responsible for managing Air Force One circulated a memo later that day reminding everyone that all televisions aboard Air Force One must be tuned to Fox News and only Fox News.

Sure, they shook hands in public, but who knows what they did in private?

Third, we have what he told his audience in Kansas City last week:

Just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.

Which is frighteningly reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984.

Fourth, while under fire over his Neville Chamberlain imitation during his Helsinki date with his man-crush, Vladimir Putin, Trump tried to distract everyone from his dismal failure at deal-making by taking a page out of the movie Wag the Dog and turning his wrath not on Russia but on Iran, tweeting, in a statement of massive overkill,

To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!

Finally, Trump continues to talk – constantly, and especially in inappropriate settings – about what he perceives to be his political enemies and how he vanquished them.  He continues to talk about how he defeated Hillary Clinton – strangely, lying about aspects of his successful campaign even though that’s hardly necessary anymore – continues to talk about how he overcame a Democratic effort to “rig” that election, and, more important, continues to question why Mrs. Clinton, who no longer poses any kind of threat to him, hasn’t been investigated, tried, convicted, and imprisoned.

The salute all dictators crave

Add it all up and it’s hard to reach any conclusion other than that we have a man who has become unhinged and who doesn’t want to be president of the United States:  he wants to be dictator of the United States.  His irrationality, his rages, his lies, his disdain and disregard for the rule of law and the rules of human decency, his labeling of everyone who disagrees with him as an enemy not just of his presidency but of his country, is alienating his friends, his supporters, the American people, and the international community.  He knows nothing but thinks he knows everything, and when the facts don’t fit with the story he is trying to tell he just fabricates lies that by now number in the hundreds, if not more.  He doesn’t understand that repeating lies over and over again doesn’t make them true:  it just marks him as an even bigger liar.  He creates artificial enemies so he can vilify them, invents false achievements so he can celebrate them, and tacitly urges his misguided followers to engage in violence to silence his opponents.

He doesn’t understand the American form of government and how it works, doesn’t understand the limits of presidential authority, and doesn’t care about any of those shortcomings:  he’s perfectly comfortable embracing, for example, the second amendment of the constitution while actively working to undermine the first.  Learn something new?  He’s not interested:  he’s proud of his willingness to reject advice, reject briefings, reject information that might help him do his job better because ultimately, he rejects the premise that anyone knows more than he does about, well, about pretty much anything.  What others view as sheer folly he, in his ignorance, considers bold and decisive, which leads to preposterous actions like slapping arbitrary tariffs on foreign goods and then almost immediately turning around and demanding that American taxpayers fork over billions of dollars to subsidize U.S. businesses that his punitive tariffs hurt.  Should he have known this would happen?  Of course he should have.  But you have to consult experts before you do such things and he repeatedly refuses to do so, insisting that only he possesses such expertise.

The people around him – those who remain, that is – have mostly given up even trying to tell this would-be emperor that he stands before us butt naked and instead simply nod their heads in agreement and offer weak defenses that no longer reflect even a hint of conviction.  They are just marking time on the public payroll while they await the reward to which they believe they are entitled:  the book contract, television gig, lobbying job, think-tank appointment, or corporate position that will enable them to milk their brief period of public service for all it’s worth, just as their employer now does, because it has become increasingly clear that using public office to do good has taken a back seat to the Trump family using public office to make money.

Doing his best to put the dick in the dictator

He is a foolish person, a bad person, even an evil person who is clinically unable to discern right from wrong, good from evil, true from false.  Many of those who embraced his candidacy did so holding their noses, hoping against hope that once in office, the reasons he gave them to vote for him would somehow, miraculously, rise above his greed, his moral bankruptcy, his vanity, his mendacity, and his venality. Alas, he hasn’t:  he is all about glorifying himself, making enemies purely for the sake of making enemies, demanding the spotlight and doing everything he can to monopolize it, and yes, making even more money than the billions he already has.  He is horribly, horribly flawed, his public life built upon a foundation so hopelessly warped that he now sees doing good and doing right as secondary to winning: no matter how trivial the prize, it’s the winning that matters most to him.  He is a self-proclaimed deal-maker who, now attempting to make deals in the harsh light of day, is proving to be no deal-maker at all.

He is, ultimately, a demagogue and a bully, more comfortable with the dictators and strongmen he admires and so desperately aspires to emulate than with elected world leaders, yet he has proven to be a shrinking violet when dealing with any of those people one on one, as his recent date with Putin in Finland so painfully demonstrated.

And he’s our president for at least 30 more months.

Is it possible that the blessing of stability that has marked the American experiment has finally come to an end?

We probably should spend these next 30 months with our fingers crossed.

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