Trump is no Nixon (and that’s not a compliment)

Well, the proverbial poo has hit the fan now, hasn’t it? Our president’s mounting problems are starting to feel increasingly reminiscent of both Watergate and the Clinton impeachment (sex, lies, and thankfully no videotape). I was only eleven when Nixon resigned, but I remember where I was. I watched it on TV feeling very sorry for the man who was, up until that time, the only president I knew. I looked up to him. He said in that speech, his voice breaking, “I have always tried to do what was best for the nation,” and that “the interests of the nation must always come before any personal considerations.”

To this day I feel sorry for Nixon. I have a picture of him on my bookcase, and a signed copy of his memoirs. I’ve read numerous biographies on the man, a fellow introvert, and sympathize (and even relate to) some of his early life struggles that ultimately led to his downfall. I think Nixon always had the good of the country at heart, flawed as he was. Trump, on the other hand, seems to care only for what brings him more personal adulation, and the country be damned. If it fires up the crowd he’ll go with it, no matter how vile. I don’t think I’ll ever feel sorry for him, no matter what becomes of the mess he created. After Watergate, Nixon redeemed himself as an elder statesman and died with dignity and honor. He understood that he must “put the interests of America first.” I doubt Trump has enough selflessness to do the same.


And what of Congress’s obligation to keep the president in line? I didn’t like Congressional Republicans much to begin with, but I will never forget how they have put their own selfish interests – winning elections, Supreme Court picks, and advancing the conservative agenda – above the overall good of the country. They have stood by as our president attacks our top law enforcement institutions, scapegoats the free press for his own indiscretions, and lies so often that truth-telling has become the exception, not the rule. During Watergate, the president’s own party turned against him because they knew when enough was enough (or, you could more cynically argue, they knew when it started to affect their own hides). We haven’t seemed to reach this point yet with the current crisis of leadership, but I pray that it’s coming.

Trump can still pull some tricks out of his hat – and he surely will try – but his options are dwindling and he’s getting increasingly desperate. The bigger problem is his rabidly loyal fan base – they are the ones who put him in office in the first place, whose continued support has kept him there, and who will still be around with their paranoid delusions even after he’s gone. The fact that they worship Trump and think just like him means that we’re still left with a “Trump problem” even after he’s out of office. Their Dear Leader encourages them endlessly, so they will lose some steam without his rallies and tweets and diatribes to keep them offended and angry. But if they weren’t able to see through him before he was elected (as many of us were), I don’t trust them to make good choices in the future, and their votes count just as much as mine. They will just continue to vote for Trump-like candidates, at both national and state levels, at least for a while, especially because they’ll be angry that their hero was brought down (yeah, our fault!)

So, post-Trump, there will be healing to accomplish. We will need a leader who is up to the task, one who is more moderate and doesn’t give in to the fringe elements of either party. Clearly, the country cannot handle being yanked in one extreme or the other. It puts us at each others’ throats. Change needs to be more gradual. I imagine anyone who runs will seem bland and normal compared to Trump, and maybe that’s just what we need – a Gerald Ford. Sure, he didn’t do much, but that was a good thing.

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All surviving presidents at Nixon’s funeral, 1994

 

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Trump Fatigue Syndrome

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On a recent Facebook post of mine decrying an especially annoying Trump apologist (you know, those weaselly blowhards with no morals or compunctions who twist, spin and defend absolutely everything the man does, no matter how outrageous), a friend of mine commented that she doesn’t know why she even watches cable news any more. I completely understand her sentiment, but it got me thinking . . . this is exactly what Trump wants: for us, the fifty-plus percent of the country that sees the man behind the curtain for exactly who he is – a dictator at heart who’s trying to run the country as if it’s his own private enterprise, all about him – to just give up.

Trump excels at being a media whore, at creating chaos, at throwing a wrench into anything and everything just to get attention and endless press coverage. I don’t think for a minute that he’s smart enough to premeditate and orchestrate all of these shenanigans in his favor – for they often are not – but it is of no consequence. He knows his hypnotized followers (maybe we should call them fans?) will support him no matter what he does – in fact the more unconventional and outrageous, the more many of them like it – so he bulldozes forward, unchecked, shooting from the hip and to hell with the consequences.

And really, what has he got to lose? He’s a septuagenarian billionaire who holds the most powerful job on Earth. He controls a Congress that has abdicated its duty to serve as a vital check on that power. He is therefore free to do as he pleases. Break the law? Who’s going to stop him? And would we really throw a (former) president in jail? Never happen. Nixon was pardoned for the good of the country, and the same courtesy would be extended to Trump (for our benefit, not his – besides, do we really want him all over the media even after he’s out of office?). Even if he ever were charged with a crime, he has the money to litigate and obfuscate the truth until he dies. So if Republicans in Congress won’t put their collective feet down, Democrats must be given the chance to. Someone has to stand up to this man in a way that has real consequence and isn’t just outraged rhetoric.

I’ve said before that we should not take the hard-won freedoms we enjoy in this country for granted. Just because they’ve always been there does not mean they always will. The people who support Trump, whom I still struggle to fully understand, seem to me reckless and extremely short-sighted. Many seem to be the instant-gratification types (witness their rabid reactions at his dictator-style “rallies”), with seemingly limited ability to see, consider or understand the long-term consequences of Trump’s endless need for bucking every tradition, institution and precedent he encounters. There is a reason why commanders-in-chief typically behave with caution, circumspection and decorum – it has kept our democracy relatively stable for over two centuries. And yes, I’m sorry, stability can be boring, but it’s much better than the alternative.

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Did you ever stop to wonder how dictators come to power? Does it happen suddenly, or is it more insidious? How did Hitler get so many otherwise rational people to become so blind, rabid and fanatically loyal? To follow him no matter how outrageous his ideas? To throng to large rallies to listen to him spew patriotism, hate and venom? Remind you of anyone? Why does North Korea worship Kim Jong-un like a god, a man who can do no wrong and whose culture of personality pervades every newspaper, TV channel and political discussion? Sound familiar? The pep rallies, the attacks on the press, the punishing of anyone who criticizes him, the propaganda, the distorting of truth and reality, the abuses of power, the scapegoating of those who are different, the pardoning of supporters and chants to lock up detractors, the total control over an emasculated Congressional majority that is too afraid to speak out against a man that they know to be very dangerous for the country – all dictatorial behaviors with dire long-term consequences. Even a Trump News – I mean Fox News – host erroneously referred to Trump as a dictator. Oops.


Change on a national scale typically happens slowly, but Trump has accelerated all that. Childish and insatiable ego aside, it’s as if he is intentionally disrupting everything that many (including his unwitting supporters) hold dear in this country. Does he do this just for attention, like a two-year old who’s learned a cuss word or who pulls his pants down in front of company? Does he do it for the adulation of his primary base of supporters, the Jerry Springer-NASCAR crash-reality show types who thrive on conflict, spectacle and mayhem? Does he do it to enrich himself and his family? Is he being controlled by a foreign power bent on destroying this country? Is he paranoid? Deranged? Bored? Desperate to be loved? Yes. All of these, and more.

Like my Facebook friend, I sometimes tire of the endless Trump coverage we’ve all been subjected to for eighteen long months now. He’s like an annoying child (in oh so many ways) begging for attention while you’re trying to conduct your life. It’s easy, and tempting, to bury our heads in the sand, to switch from cable news to sitcoms, from the New York Times to an escapist novel. We’re tired of the circus, as entertaining as the clowns may be. We want to just throw our hands up and write off the 45th president of the United States as an anomaly,  a narcissistic buffoon who will never change his ways. Just ignore him. He wants our attention, so let’s not give it to him.


And that’s when he’s won. To get us to become so weary of his outrageous behavior that we start normalizing it as “just who he is,” to write off his antics as just another day of bizarre and head-spinning headlines that we’ve seen so many times before. Once we do that, he will be even more emboldened and dangerous than he is now, hard as that may be to imagine. For us to give up and become so disgusted with politics as too rigged, too complex or too corrupt to be effectual is to pave the way for an authoritarian figure like Trump to fill the void, to pull off a coup when everyone is so weary from the battle that no one is paying much attention any more.

My spirits were lifted this week when dozens of former military and intelligence officials spoke out publicly and forcefully to denounce Trump’s vindictive and authoritarian revocation of the security clearance of a man who dared speak out against him. Trump then lied, of course, about why he did it. Par for the course. Yawn. Seen it before. What did you expect from this man, whom the wiser among us could see right through even before he was elected? But unless the Trump-enablers in Congress step up and put what is necessary and right for this country above their own petty concerns, until they speak out like these usually apolitical directors and generals from both parties, then there is no hope for a solution.

Current Republican leaders have shown time and again that they have no stomach for calling Trump out for what he so clearly is, and, even worse, they make excuses for him so that Trump-loving voters don’t turn against them. Maybe it’s something like the fear that leaders in Nazi Germany had of speaking out against Hitler, allowing him to eventually become too powerful to stop. Yes, our leaders bear the responsibility for whatever becomes of our current authoritarian leader even more than Trump does. Since they won’t accept that responsibility, the only solution is at the polls in November – for us to elect farsighted leaders who will finally put a stop to this power-hungry despot. I pray that the more rational and clear-headed among us will prevail, and save the less savvy from themselves. Speak out against Trump while you still can, and look forward to the day when our 46th president declares that “our long national nightmare is over.”

The Shock-Jock Candidate

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No matter how much they may dislike “Crooked Hillary” and the establishment in Washington, voters in good conscience can not choose Donald Trump to lead the United States of America. The man has, time after jaw-dropping time, consistently proven himself to be reckless, prejudiced, reactive, selfish, unstable and juvenile. Trump supporters who deny this are just living in fantasy land. Yes, he says what he thinks and is refreshingly unscripted. I won’t argue with you there. Yes, he is tough and fearless and no-nonsense. He even has a  few good ideas (along with a whole host of very bad ones). But as one commentator put it, you don’t let the drunk guy drive the bus, no matter how popular he is with the crowd. You have to take a serious look at the whole package, not just focus on the parts of it you really like. It’s like deciding to stay with an abusive lover. He may hit you and treat you badly, but he’s a good provider and besides, you probably deserved it (and I have to admit, sometimes I think a large portion of the electorate does deserve Donald Trump since many are as ignorant and juvenile as he is).

I understand that people are fed up and want change. That’s great, and I don’t fault them for that. I want that, too. But change is not always good, and the kind of change we’d get with Trump as our leader is very likely not the kind many are craving. He would behave no differently as president than he has for the past year, flitting from one shocking behavior to another. If there’s one thing we can count on, he is consistent in his outrageousness and offensiveness. Is this the kind of behavior we want in a president – someone who acts out of impulse, who can’t control his mouth or his temper, who, basically wouldn’t even pass a job interview at the local WalMart? If he can’t control himself in an interview or a debate, how is he going to deal effectively with Congress or other world leaders? His supporters seem to think he can just bulldoze his way through with his bluster and bravado. He may get away with this in his private company where he is king, but we are not choosing a king. Political leadership in a democracy requires thoughtfulness and compromise. It requires an adult who has learned to control their baser instincts and impulses.

What scares me almost as much as Donald Trump is his sizable base of rabid supporters. Trump has steadily stirred up hatred, prejudice, violence and blind devotion in his followers, which is what makes him so dangerous. This is how dictators behave. Whether he wins the presidency or not, he has already done great damage by dividing the country rather than trying to unite it. If he loses, he will stir up more dissent with his claims of conspiracy and a rigged election. If he wins, we will have four potentially frightening years of the torch-and-pitchfork crowd pitting neighbor against neighbor, with Donald fanning the flames and stoking the ratings.

Hillary is far from perfect, and has many questionable things in her background. Whether this is a factor of her truly being dishonest or of her being a target under a microscope for decades I can’t say with any certainty. Surely some of the alleged scandals have been exaggerated by her enemies, but there are no doubt elements of truth in many of them. I don’t think she’s a girl scout by any means. She has made mistakes and admitted to some, which Donald cannot seem to do. Her more high-profile scandals have been investigated thoroughly by sometimes bloodthirsty opponents (the same ones who impeached her husband), with no proof of nefarious intent. Is she dishonest? Probably at times, to save face, like most every politician. She has faults to be sure, but in the big picture who has the maturity, the poise, the clear grasp of the issues, and the patience to lead this country?  No one who is being honest with themselves can answer that question with “Trump.”

Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote Trump

I don’t understand how anyone can support Donald Trump for President of the United States of America.

There. I said it. I have resisted saying it, even though I’ve been thinking it for a long time, because people I know and respect support him. But I have a hard time reconciling this in my head. These are reasonably intelligent people, I tell myself. I like them. So what’s going on in their heads? I respect everyone’s right to vote for the person they think would be best for the job, and the country, and encourage them to do so. I support Clinton, and following are some reasons why. It’s important to point out in this volatile climate that I do not think people who support Trump are necessarily misguided, and I hope they allow me the same respect. If you’d like to try to sway me to your candidate, feel free.

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I suspect that many Trump supporters hate Hilary Clinton, especially more than they love Donald Trump. Does this mean they’d support anyone who was running against her, no matter how outrageous? I have to believe the answer to this is often “yes.” There is no other way for me to explain their support for an arrogant, juvenile, racist, misogynistic, boastful, hyperbolic, narcissistic buffoon who has little understanding of anything but (arguably) real estate and who constantly flip-flops (an unforgivable sin for most politicians) and denies things that he is indeed on record as actually having done or said. It is as if he has license to create his own reality, say any outrageous thing he wants to, and consistently act like an immature, prepubescent bully and that is just fine with his enablers. Do they have that much hate for Hillary (and Obama), that much disregard for the safety and future of our country? I watch educated, grown pundits and apologists steadfastly stand by Trump and his shenanigans nightly on political talk shows and marvel at their inventive yet ridiculous explanations (spin) in his favor. When pressed, you can sense that even they don’t believe the nonsense they’re spewing.

Trump has some admirable qualities. Like most anyone (including Hillary, I remind you), he’s not all bad. He can be charming. He’s made a lot of money. He projects strength and confidence. He is refreshingly unfiltered and non-scripted, and is therefore authentic (I believe this is the trait he is perhaps most admired for by his supporters – authenticity is good, unless you’re an authentic ass****). He will stand up to people who have been abusing this country and won’t take any bull from anyone. I grant you all these things. But look at the negatives. Look at them! Do you want an anti-Hillary so badly that you’ll accept an endless litany of lies, gross and baseless exaggerations, puerile insults, seat-of-the-pants judgments and decisions, incendiary comments and shameless stoking of racism and xenophobia? Has this ever been acceptable in any modern presidential candidate? Are you really comfortable with an emotionally unstable man, a man who is so insecure that he can’t take any criticism without exacting revenge, being in charge of our military, our nuclear arsenal and our relations with foreign countries? Do you realize that the president is criticized on a daily basis? Trump would spend half of his time firing off angry retorts on Twitter to everyone who dissed him, including foreign leaders whom he would quickly alienate.

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I truly believe that many people who are Trump supporters now would soon regret that support once (God forbid) Trump were in the White House. Call it voter’s remorse. I think his presidency would be a disaster (a word he likes to throw around freely when talking about Hillary or President Obama), and I don’t even think he’d like the job. He’d quickly realize that he doesn’t get to call all the shots like he’s been accustomed to his whole life, and he would throw temper tantrums when faced with having to back down or compromise, as any president must. He demonstrates this combative, retaliatory behavior on a daily basis – he can’t let anything go. Rosie O’Donnell. Megyn Kelly. The Khans. Alicia Machado. How long did he drag all of these fights on? Why does anyone think he’d be any different in the White House? What you’ve been seeing for the past year is exactly what you’d get for the next four, but with much more serious consequences. Kim Jong-un has nuclear weapons. Rosie doesn’t.

Could any other candidate for president get away with Trump’s reckless behavior? Hillary called his supporters “deplorables” – once – and was practically burned at the stake, but Trump insults large swaths of the electorate all the time (women, Mexicans, Muslims) and is brushed off because we’re so used to him doing it. I don’t think this willingness to accept reprehensible behavior is particular to Trump. Rather, I think he’s a product of several things that have created a “perfect storm” for his candidacy: the extremely polarized electorate, making anyone who isn’t Hillary automatically acceptable to the legions who don’t like her (which, by the way, is largely the result of decades of Republican smear tactics); the dumbing down of political discourse in this country, thanks largely to political spin that is so out of  control that anything a candidate does can be justified; the increasingly fuzzy line between fact and fiction, helped along by “reality” shows that are anything but – we don’t know what truth is anymore; rabid partisans on television (thanks largely to that bastion of false reality, Fox News) who only show people one side of an issue and make them believe it is ture; and a general lack of interest among much of the electorate to do their own thinking and research because, well, there are just so many other distractions in modern life that are more fun. Many of us have become lazy, pliable and politically stupid, just repeating the blather we hear on biased talk shows that have an agenda of doing our thinking for us. They’ve become hour-long campaign ads.

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I also believe that Trump is palatable precisely because we’ve just had our first black president, and are on the cusp of having our first female one. These are huge barriers that have been broken in relatively quick succession, and many people (especially in the South) weren’t ready for them. There is still a lot of racism and sexism in America, and it is no coincidence that Trump embodies both of these. Anti-Obama sentiment is largely rooted in his race, not his policies. After all, he is a highly intelligent, caring, thoughtful, non-judgmental, decent man of considerable integrity, the likes of which we haven’t seen in the modern presidency since Jimmy Carter. If he were a Republican, they’d be naming an airport after him. But our black and white thinking (pun somewhat intended) demonizes people whole-hog and leaves no room for more moderate assessments.

As for Hillary, she’s no saint, I readily admit. She has done things I wish she hadn’t. But on the whole, she strikes me as smart, capable and rational, three qualities that I highly value in a president. I also believe that very few who have inhabited the White House have been free of scandal – but most of them were not pilloried for it unless their name was Clinton (remember Reagan and Iran-Contra?). Anyone who has been under an electron microscope for as many years as Hillary Clinton has and has still come out relatively unscathed is probably not nearly as unscrupulous as she is accused of being. The fact that she has been able to weather this kind of scrutiny proves she is infinitely qualified to withstand the rigors of the presidency, and has the temperament and stamina to do the job, and do it well. Most experts on the presidency agree that Donald Trump would be one of the least qualified persons to occupy the office in modern times. It’s a serious job, and so is your vote.

The ultimate example of Trump’s attempt to throw anything at the wall to see if it sticks was when he accused Hillary during the debate of having a poor temperament. Are you serious? This from the man who spent half the debate shouting and interrupting? Does this man think he can make up anything he wants to and people will believe him? That if you say something often enough it becomes the truth? Ah, Trump knows people all too well. He can indeed say anything and create reality, and his followers will embrace it. They already have. Obama not born in America? Check. All Muslims are threats to national security? Check. All immigrants (which we all are, by the way) are freeloaders? Check. Giving someone this much license with prejudice and conjecture, voters, is very, very dangerous, ten times more dangerous than the worst thing you think Hillary is guilty of. It’s how Hitler got started, stirring up the masses with fear, scapegoating and xenophobia. It is the behavior of a demagogue and a dictator, and it is not impossible for it to happen here. We’ve already taken the first steps by creating a welcoming environment.


Turned off by Hillary? Think she’s a bit dishonest? Probably, but Trump is even more so. Think the private email server decision was dangerous and stupid? I agree, but she has apologized for it, something Trump isn’t man enough to do. Am I advocating a choice between the lesser of two evils? No, because I don’t believe Hillary is evil. I believe she has been very effectively painted that way because she is a strong woman, and we don’t like that in America (can you name a strong American woman who is widely admired? Didn’t think so). If she were a man, she’d be far ahead right now. Thinking of not voting? Then you better not utter one peep of criticism once the election is over. Voting for a third-party candidate? That is your right. Just understand that it has its own consequences, and you may not like them. So vote for Hillary, for the country’s sake. Even though you may not like her, she’s the best choice you’ve got. She just may surprise you. And even if she’s as terrible as you think, she’ll be blocked at every turn by Congress and get voted out of office in four  years. The nation will then do a redirect and most certainly elect a (normal) Republican, and the country will be no worse for the wear. I can’t be confident of the same scenario after a Trump presidency. The damage a loose-lipped, reactive, vengeful President Trump could do after four years on the world stage is far worse than anything we would see from our former secretary of state.

The Greatest, Most Amazing Blowhard Ever, Believe Me

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Donald Trump scares me. I watch his shameless bragging and cringe-worthy self-promotion in fascination, but what amazes me even more is how many people are willing to vote for him in spite of his outrageous statements and ideas, his off-the-chart arrogance and narcissism, and his tendency to shoot off his mouth without thinking of the consequences. None of these are desirable traits in a leader, especially one of the free world.

Granted, he sometimes says things that make sense and that I agree with (some of the best being his bold and accurate criticisms of George W). And yes, his confidence can be admirable, as well as his conviction, his show of strength, and his willingness to say what he thinks. But all of these things are also negatives because he does them to great excess, without any filter or brake pedal. In fact, almost everything is a superlative with him: “everyone” loves him, his programs will be the “best” and the “greatest,” everything else is “fantastic” or “the worst ever” or whatever other extreme fits the situation. He’s a walking thesaurus of overstatement, but most of his grandstanding blather has no substance. It’s vague and empty. Just listen to him talk. Sure, he can be very persuasive. You can see that he believes his own boasts (narcissists usually do), and this extreme confidence is seductive and invites trust, misplaced as it may be. We tend to like confident people. This seems to be the hypnotic secret behind his appeal. People desperate for leadership want someone cocky and self-assured whom they can believe in, no matter what they say or propose (this is how Hitler was able to rise to power, by the way). We’re so tired of phony, scripted politicians that we welcome one who is refreshingly off-the-cuff and who has unbridled (though neurotic) self-confidence. With Trump, it seems to be all about his attitude with no concern for his lack of political experience, his unwillingness to compromise or his frequent lack of decorum. The fact that he has little to back up his statements (i.e. that Mexico will pay for a border wall, that you’ll have the best health care you’ve ever had under his proposal and you’ll be “so happy,” that he’s somehow going to be able to keep every terrorist crackpot out of the country by banning Muslim immigrants, etc.) doesn’t seem to concern many voters. They just like his boldness. Please, separate the boldness from the buffoon. Boldness is good in a competent leader (think Teddy Roosevelt), but dangerous in a buffoon (think Kim Jong-un, another crackpot with wacky hair). Besides, we’ve already had a buffoon Republican president, and look how that turned out. Could we pick someone smart, reasonable and competent for a change? Maybe if we did, we’d see less polarization in the country.

A president needs to be able to compromise. This has been difficult for most modern presidents, but would be especially so for Trump. He admitted as much recently when asked about it, saying that he “likes a compromise where I win.” With him, it’s his way or the highway, and this would not set well with Congress. You think there’s stubbornness and obstructionism now? Congress would come to a screeching halt under a President Trump if his party wasn’t in control, and still might even if Republicans did control Congress since most establishment Republicans don’t like him. This isn’t reality television, and you can’t run the government with sound bites and empty platitudes. He would be a bully not only with Congress but with world leaders as well, which at best would make us isolationist in an increasingly interdependent world, and at worst start a war. Trump is used to getting his way and having everyone obey him. Politics doesn’t work like that. And even if it did, who usually benefits from his gusto and deal making? He does. It’s always about him. His whole campaign is about feeding his ego and promoting his greatness (“did you see the latest poll? Everyone loves me!”). Everything he does is to glorify himself, and he only cares about the consequences of his actions to the degree that they boomerang on him. He has already backed off of some of his more outrageous comments (often by denying that he said something that there is audio and video proof of him saying), so perhaps he is learning. But we don’t have the time for, or luxury of, him learning to behave like an adult. Granted, there is an endless array of immature and extremist candidates seeking the nomination this year, but letting Trump loose in the White House would be, to use his words, a “total disaster.”