The past year has brought many surprises to what I anticipated would be the Trump “Administration”, or lack thereof, and how it is viewed by others. I was struck by how quickly the media was to break with the traditional expectations of a President of the United States (POTUS) and begin to believe Trump to be who he campaigned to be, as well as, the person about whom many articles have been written over the years.
Traditionally, a person running for elective office will express a particular, false, “plain-spoken” rhetoric and, if elected, will settle down to a certain level of diplomatic statesmanship in which the rules and expectations of political decorum will be followed. The media seemed to expect this from Trump despite all the clear signs of his campaign that he was neither interested in or capable of doing so.
For the first few months, the media characterized the content of Trump’s Twitter feeds (“tweets”) and spoken comments as “untruths”. But, faster than I thought would happen, “untruths” became “lies” (along with the obligatory debate about, “When does an ‘untruth’ become a ‘lie’?”).
At about the same time, people quickly became aware that Trump wasn’t aware…of much of anything. He had no clue what it meant to be POTUS (he still doesn’t). Nor did he have any awareness of any of the details of policy or procedures of the U.S. Government (he still doesn’t). While Trump was running for POTUS he probably thought a POTUS is an Autocrat (someone who has or endeavors to gain absolute power and/or insists on complete obedience and loyalty from others). And, in Trump’s mind, being an autocrat is an admirable and proper thing. He sincerely didn’t (doesn’t) know a POTUS isn’t an Autocrat, such is his ignorance of U.S. civics.
And the third thing that surprised me was how quickly Trump’s mental state became a topic of discussion. While there’s a general consensus that Trump has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), there are indications that Trump has some other learning or attention deficit disorder. The discussion of these issues came to an end when there was no where else for it to go without a clinical assessment….which will not be forthcoming.
A year ago, I thought there would be an irrational insistence, by the media and politicians, to frame Trump as a “non-establishment politician” rather than a lying, ignorant, autocrat. Events and quickly changing perceptions preempted a half-dozen posts I expected to write to define Trump’s true nature. The decline and fall of Richard Nixon was a long, slow process and I thought the same would be true of Trump. Given the Republican response to Barack Obama and the concomitant partisanship hostility of U.S. politics, I didn’t think the “Trump Train” (a collection of diverse interests absent the ability to do anything but follow a predetermined path) would be so quickly recognized, by most people, as the slow-motion train wreck it is.
Why is the “Trump Train” a slow-motion “train wreck”? It is, thankfully, ineffective in achieving the basic goals for which Trump campaigned.
Primary among these ‘basic goals’ is to co-opt, render irrelevant, or dismantle the democratic institutions which would, Constitutionally, resist Trumps efforts to be an autocratic leader. At the 2016 Republican National Convention (Cleveland, OH; July 18-21) Trump depicted the U.S. as a nation beset by so many problems, of such tragic consequence, that one could only assume he was saying, “Democracy has failed”. He offered the only possible solution by saying, “I, alone, can fix it”.
In 2012, former Supreme Court Justice David Souter, speaking at an education conference in New Hampshire, warned:
“I don’t worry about our losing republican government in the United States because I’m afraid of a foreign invasion. I don’t worry about it because I think there is going to be a coup by the military as has happened in some of other places.”
“What I worry about is that when problems are not addressed, people will not know who is responsible. And when the problems get bad enough, as they might do, for example, with another serious terrorist attack, as they might do with another financial meltdown, some one person will come forward and say, ‘Give me total power and I will solve this problem.’
“That is how the Roman republic fell. Augustus became emperor, not because he arrested the Roman Senate. He became emperor because he promised that he would solve problems that were not being solved.
“If we know who is responsible, I have enough faith in the American people to demand performance from those responsible. If we don’t know, we will stay away from the polls. We will not demand it. And the day will come when somebody will come forward and we and the government will in effect say, ‘Take the ball and run with it. Do what you have to do.’
“That is the way democracy dies. And if something is not done to improve the level of civic knowledge, that is what you should worry about at night.”
Note: Quote double-checked against: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow
Another reason why the “Trump Train” is a “train wreck” is that Trump became the leader of the Republican (Grand Old) Party (GOP) when, as it’s nominee for POTUS, he won the election. As the leader of the GOP, he, along with the Republican majority in both the House of Representatives and Senate, was in an enviable position to dictate, to the Democratics, reversal of all the policies of Barack Obama; chief among them: repeal of the Affordable Care Act (“Obama Care”). Trump and the Republicans failed to do so.
The chaotic nature of the Trump Administration indicates a lack of administration. Part of this chaotic nature is indicative by the number of vacancies and the 34% turnover rate [per NPR ] of key positions within the Executive Branch and White House staff. According to ourpublicservice.org , of the 640 key, Senate-confirmed positions, only 275 have been confirmed. Altogether, there are over 1,200 Senate-confirmable positions.
One reason for these vacancies and high turnover rate can be explained by Trump’s comments to Fox News’ Laura Ingraham in November 2017:
“Let me tell you, the one that matters is me. I’m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that’s what the policy is going to be.”
The problem with this is Trump doesn’t have his own policy. He doesn’t know the details of any particular issue and doesn’t know how to properly address the issues that catch his attention at any given moment. White House Press Secretaries (there have been a couple) have confirmed, “Trump’s Tweets are White House policy” and “they speak for themselves”. If you don’t already know about Trump’s Tweets, see Trump Twitter Archives .