We are now a month into the Trump presidency, and I think it is time to acknowledge that he is incapable of learning the art of administering a democratic country. He has had his chance to prove that he can learn to govern, and he has blown it.
Trump is an authoritarian at heart, but fortunately, he is an incompetent authoritarian. To give him his due, he does appear to have jawboned a few large companies into retaining or creating jobs in the United States, but those decisions were made before Donald Trump assumed office, and he has nothing else to show for his month in White House. He has blustered and issued orders right and left, and nothing has happened.
The biggest failure of this presidency is Donald Trump’s inability to recognize the need to work with others to get things done. He seems to be under the impression that all he has to do is to issue orders, and things will happen. Things are not happening. He requires the advice of smart and informed people, but as Donald Trump never tires of insisting, he believes he is smarter than all of the experts. He refuses to listen to others’ ideas.
Yes, President Trump did manage to create chaos for about a week with his poorly-thought-out travel ban, but even that attempt at creating continuing pandemonium has been overturned by the courts. His other promises—tax reform, building a wall on the Mexican border, replacing Obamacare, imposing tariffs on imports, renegotiating NAFTA, renegotiating the Iran nuclear deal, taking the oil from ISIS, etc.—are not even be in the preliminary planning stages. He has no idea how to do any of those things, and he refuses to listen to anyone who might have some knowledge about those subjects.
There is a reason why nothing is happening in the White House. Donald Trump believes that he can do everything by himself, and he cannot. Complex problems require the work of a large number of people, people with brains and expertise. Take replacing Obamacare as an example. Designing a replacement program will require a large team of lawyers, healthcare experts, politicians, pollsters, managers, etc. Donald Trump has no idea how to put such a team together, and if he could put together such a team, he wouldn’t listen to it. As imperfect as it is, look for Obamacare to still be in existence when Donald Trump is eventually kicked out of office.
Donald Trump has no plan to fulfill any of his promises and very few people on whom he could rely to help him do so. Hundreds of support jobs in the administration remain unfilled for two reasons: Trump refuses to hire people who do not unquestionably recognize his genius, and Donald Trump has implemented a 90-day hiring freeze for government jobs. Tax cheats are celebrating, because the Internal Revenue Service is unable to hire people to enforce tax laws.
Rather than accept the blame for the chaos and inaction in his administration, Donald Trump insists that the White House is “running like a well-oiled machine.” It is running like a well-oiled machine with a maniac at the controls. Not true, Donald Trump insists. The lying press refuses to report the wonderful things that his administration has accomplished, things such as….well, Donald Trump seems unable to come up with a list of those wonderful things at the moment, but Donald Trump insists that there are such accomplishments, even if he cannot name them.
Donald Trump’s attacks on the press are reminiscent of similar attacks on the fourth estate by authoritarian rulers in Venezuela, Russia, Turkey, and Poland. All presidents have disagreed with the press, but until now, all presidents have conceded that the press has a right to criticize and to disagree with the administration. Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime to label the press an enemy of the people. Even Harry Truman, who was in a constant battle with the press, never questioned the press’s right to disagree with him.
Yesterday at a rally in Melbourne, Florida Trump said, “You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden … Sweden … who would believe this? Sweden, they took in large numbers, they are having problems like they never thought possible.”
Sweden? Did the lying media refuse to report a terrorist attack in Sweden? Nope! Trump’s claim of a major problem in Sweden the night before was pure malarkey. Donald Trump not only mangled the grammar of the English language, he mangled the facts. As Sweden’s prime minister Carl Bildt tweeted, “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound.” Indeed! What has Donald Trump been smoking?”
In an interview broadcast on “Meet the Press” this morning, Arizona senior senator John McCain stated, “…if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.” He went on to add that he was not accusing Donald Trump of being a dictator, but he was certainly accusing Trump of using typical dictatorial tactics.
The presidential election taught many of us to distrust polls. Polls are obviously inexact, but they can give a estimate of public sentiment. Depending on which poll numbers one wants to cite, somewhere between thirty and forty percent of Americans approve of the job that Donald Trump is doing. How can that be? Are we so poorly educated and so poorly informed that we do not recognize that the head of our government is a nut job whose administration is careening out of control? Apparently that is the case.
The fact that the Trump presidency exists at all is a melancholy commentary on United States democracy. The fact that almost forty percent of Americans do not recognize that the administration is dysfunctional portends an even more gloomy future for our country. As Donald Trump might tweet: SAD!