Trump Does Not Care About America

Representative Adam Schiff, California Democrat, presenting the House impeachment case before the Senate

The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its citizens. Any government that fails to do so is a government unworthy to lead. — Donald Trump, speech in Cleveland, Ohio, July 21, 2016, accepting the Republican nomination for president.

You know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. — Representative Adam Schiff, California Democrat, January 23, 2020, the House impeachment manager, laying out the case in the Senate for the conviction of Donald Trump.

Everyone agrees that the most basic function of government is to keep its citizens safe. Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals may not see eye-to-eye on much in modern American politics, but there is universal acceptance of the principle articulated by presidential candidate Donald Trump: Government’s primary function is to protect its citizens.

President Donald Trump appearing at the coronavirus task force briefing, April 17, 2020

Unfortunately, Trump as president has failed to accept the dictum of candidate Trump and is proving Representative Adam Schiff right. Time and again, Trump has put his interests first and shown his disdain for the safety of his constituents, the American people. He dawdled when coronavirus first appeared. Then, he downplayed its severity, promising it would go away when the weather warmed up or magically disappear. He refused to consistently use his bully pulpit to model appropriate behavior — mask wearing, social distancing, no large gatherings — that experts say would limit the contagion. His government’s one success — facilitating the rapid development of vaccines — has been undermined by a failure to devise a comprehensive plan for getting the vaccines into the arms of Americans. Apparently, Trump would rather leave this problem (among many others) for the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden. 

An intensive care unit in a Houston hospital this past November

Never much interested in doing the hard work to stem the pandemic — or doing much hard work, period, or any work, for that matter — the president appears to have given up fighting the virus. “I think he’s just done with COVID,” The Washington Post quotes one of Trump’s advisers. Unfortunately, COVID is not done with us, as the current surge in the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths indicates. Trump is so divorced from the every day workings of government that his administration has not even prepared Public Service Announcements touting the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. As a result, the nation faces the risk that a large percentage of people will not get the requisite shots, thereby jeopardizing the efficacy of the vaccines.

The pandemic is not the only danger facing the country in the waning days of the Trump administration. A massive hack has affected many critical departments of the federal government and thousands of businesses. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency — part of the Department of Homeland Security — labels the attack a “grave threat.” Full knowledge of the scale of the invasion is not yet available, but clearly it is serious, and all the experts agree Russia is the perpetrator. Even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “Russians engaged in this activity.” But, Trump, demonstrating his subservience to Russian President Vladimir Putin, tweeted, “The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality. I have been fully briefed and everything is well under control. Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens….” Instead, Trump blamed China, though there is no evidence to support his contention. 

Presidents Trump and Putin in Helsinki

Trump has never shown any inclination to protect America from Russian aggression. He refused to acknowledge Russian interference in the 2016 election for fear it would diminish and delegitimize the significance of his victory. In Helsinki in 2018, Trump said he believed Putin’s denials of that interference while rejecting the intelligence gathered by American security agencies. Trump remained silent when credible reports surfaced that the Russian military was offering bounties for the killing of American soldiers in Afghanistan. And, now, he downplays the significance of the Russian hack. 

Trump apparently does not have time to combat the pandemic or defend the nation from Russian cyber aggression. Nor, evidently, has he had the time to push Congress to pass a stimulus bill to jumpstart an economy ravaged by the coronavirus, leaving it entirely to Congress to pass, finally, a measure at the end of his administration. Instead, Trump is far too busy doing really important business: Attempting to overthrow American democracy in a vain endeavor to cling to power. Trump could genuinely celebrate the first good news the nation has had in almost a year: The development of the vaccines. Trump could leave office on a high note, touting his role in the speedy development of vaccines and insuring their rapid distribution. Most presidents would do that, but not Trump. He would rather stew in the White House, nurse his grievances, tweet insults at Republicans who are not helping him overturn the election results, and plot his next steps.

Sidney Powell and Mike Flynn

It gets worse. Not only is Trump not protecting the nation, he now is engaged actively in attempting to subvert the Constitution and undermine American democracy. The New York Times reports Trump is considering appointing the crackpot conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell as special counsel, which he does not have the authority to do, to investigate voter fraud that exists only in his mind (and hers, and a few other minds). Then, as if that were not scary enough, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a convicted felon pardoned by Trump, has floated the notion that President Trump should impose martial law and deploy the military to “rerun” the election in several closely contested states that voted against Trump. (The president denied any intent to impose martial law.) Apparently, Flynn wants to turn figurative battleground states into literal battleground states.

Flynn’s martial law will not happen. The top civilian and military heads of the Army issued a statement late last week saying there “is no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of an American election.” Their disavowal of a military role in politics is in keeping with the long-standing tradition of the U.S. armed forces, but it is truly alarming that they felt the need to even state the obvious. As Jonathan Swan of Axios tweeted, “I’ve been covering Donald Trump for a while. I can’t recall hearing more intense concern from senior officials who are actually Trump people. The Sidney Powell/Michael Flynn ideas are finding an enthusiastic audience at the top.”

As Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney said Sunday, “The president could right now be writing the last chapter of this administration with a victory lap with regards to the vaccine.” Instead, Romney said, “He’s leaving Washington with a whole series of conspiracy theories and things that are so nutty and loopy that people are shaking their head [sic] wondering what in the world has gotten into this man.”

Romney is mostly right, but too kind. Trump has always demonstrated a penchant for conspiracies and has never shown a commitment to the preservation of American democracy. In the twilight of his presidency, facing a return to private life, Trump is yielding to his basest instincts and plotting the overthrow of our constitutional system of government. Not only is he failing at the basic function of government, protecting the American people, now Trump is engaged in actively threatening out traditions and practices.

As Adam Schiff said, “You can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump.”  For that reason, we cannot be rid of him soon enough.

Posted December 22, 2020

 

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