Tomorrow's newspaper column:
Last week, Trump’s toxicity flared like that exploded Russian missile. And here’s the thing: any Republican president would have given them what Trump did. Tax cuts, deregulation (perhaps not all would have re-allowed carcinogens, made global warming worse, or set about killing Bristol Bay); maybe even reneged on the Iran and Paris agreements. For sure, lying that Democrats want socialism.
Some reasonable people might support Trump because of those actions, even as it requires disowning former outrage at budget deficits, abandoning arguments for free markets, and acquiescing to poisonous levels of xeno-, homo-, and Islamophobia.
But there’s a mammoth difference between Trump and any theoretical Republican president, not to mention most human beings: his adamantine indecency and inhumanity. Some called it “presidential” when he stood against murder in his “unity” speech. Anyone paying attention, though, knew he’d revert to type in less than a day. He did.
Even if he weren’t a racist (he is); even if his divisive, hate-promoting language weren’t intentionally divisive and hate-promoting (it is), the peril of Trump is obvious. Doesn’t matter how great the economy is, even if it’s because he hasn’t ended what President Obama began (it is, and he’s about to, and it’ll be on him); doesn’t matter that unemployment is low, even if it’s because he hasn’t ended what President Obama began (it is, and he will). Trump’s pathological need for adulation, for which he’ll do and say anything and which we witnessed in high relief last week, threatens all Americans; even those thanking Jesus for purging voter rolls and hiring Vladimir Putin to put him in office.
After those murders, Trump’s psychopathy was writ large, showcasing his doleful inability to act as normal people behave toward one another. Because he can’t help it, he made his trips to El Paso and Dayton entirely about himself. Inappropriate crowd-size brags. Preferring to attack opponents instead of consoling a grieving nation. Calling a discharged patient back to pose with him because other victims refused. Demanding aides say he was received like a “rock star.”
Which is the key to understanding Trump: his overarching need to be treated like a rock star. In a “president,” for its exploitability, it’s ominous. Kim, Putin, MBS, and Xi are using it to their advantage.
Then, that grotesque photo-op: Melania, smiling like a bridesmaid, holding a baby orphaned by a mass murderer who’d manifestoed all the hateful words Trump disgorges at every rally. Trump giving a bizarre thumbs-up, s-e grin plastered on his face like a fresco in the Ninth Circle.
Hours after his perfunctory visitations came the ICE raid in Mississippi. Nearly seven-hundred people, herded into buses, many of whom were there legally. Children and parents traumatized, some still separated days later. To whose benefit? Contrary to Trump’s anti-immigrant demagoguery, these people, legal or not, were working, paying taxes. Illegal is illegal, but is this the best use of ICE’s resources?
And what of the owners (who just happened to owe those workers millions); like Trumpco, off the hook if they didn’t “knowingly,” wink, wink, hire the undocumented. Let’s see how the factory does without them. Let’s see how many “real” Americans apply for those jobs.
Accomplishing little else for America, such raids are intended to please the most rabid Trumpists. Another key to understanding Trump: appeal to the worst in the most misguided, for it’s they who give him the fawning blandishment he craves. No policy homework required.
Topping it off, the “president” of the United States, role model, retweeted a claim that the Clintons were behind Trump party-pal Jeffery Epstein’s death. If Trump can do that, which some might consider legerdemain, let the rest of us consider whose DOJ took him off suicide watch and mysteriously removed his cellmate. And whose AG will investigate.
Trump’s divisiveness is what renders unto him the veneration he requires, no matter the damage it causes. A third of the country loves it. Like Trump, they see the dysfunction and fracturing it has engendered as affirmatory. But for Republicans who care – surely they exist -- demanding better of themselves and their party is overdue. Including selecting a more worthy standard-bearer.
World problems are gathering faster than glaciers are melting: Hong Kong, Kashmir, Syria, Iran, tariff-ruined farmers, looming recession, the accelerating climate crisis. Trump’s toolbox contains only false promises, ignorant narcissism, lying, tweeting, and caving to dictators. In a role once considered leadership of the free world, that’s not enough.
Conservatives used to be better than this. We all did.