Even for those not paying close attention during the Presidential election, Donald Trump’s fundamental characteristics have become vividly clear in his first 100 days.
Trump is certainly a narcissist. He lies constantly, often for no apparent reason. He has incredibly thin skin and lashes out at any comment he views as critical of him, even if the remark is clearly accurate.
Trump may well be the least well-read person ever to occupy the White House. He has no knowledge of basic historical facts.
The President relies almost exclusively on his instincts and often doubles down on them if faced with evidence that he has made a mistake. Trump fosters chaos around him but doesn’t use it for strategic purpose.
Moreover, despite his bluster, Trump is clearly an insecure person. His dependence on family members who lack qualifications for the high level positions they have been given in the White House is unprecedented. His constant monitoring of cable tv shows, particularly on Fox News, reveals a person with no core beliefs or values.
If you were paying attention during the campaign, none of these observations comes as a surprise to you. All of Trump’s warts were in plain sight. What we are now coming to grips with is the impact of Trump’s deficiencies on his approach to governing.
Trump asserts that his unpredictability is a virtue. The implication is that he makes deliberate calculations to confuse possible adversaries. One byproduct is that he leaves allies and friends scratching their heads as well. Moreover, the “mad man” theory of foreign relations requires you to have strategic objectives that you are pursuing. Trump shows no evidence that he understands the complexities of the rest of the world. More significantly, it is unclear what he hopes to accomplish.
After seeing pictures of children who were victims of chemical weapons attacks in Syria, he ordered retaliatory bombing. According to some sources, Ivanka Trump played a key role in convincing him to take that step. But pictures of dying refugee children have evoked no similar sympathies so it’s hard to know what his true motivation was.
Even more importantly, however, there’s no indication of what he hoped to achieved with the bombing or of what steps 2 and 3 might be. You half expect him to observe that “no one knew the Middle East would be so complicated.”
The world, which he promised us he was uniquely qualified to get under control, is getting more dangerous by the day. Trump just announced that the relationship between the U.S. and Russia is at an all time low despite his campaign rhetoric that it would reach new levels of friendship. The comment also demonstrates his lack of historical context–the Cold War, in which nuclear war was a real threat, was much more dangerous.
Trump’s blustering about taking care of the threats from North Korea is similarly unhinged. What leverage does he think he has if he, the master deal maker, can’t convince the Chinese to rein in their neighbors?
Trump’s lack of qualification for the presidency is showing up in the sputtering start to his administration. His sole success has been getting Neil Gorsuch confirmed by the Senate for a seat on the Supreme Court. The President’s lack of engagement and understanding of the complexities involved contributed substantially to the failure to pass the Republican health care plan. Trump seems no more ready to move forward on tax reform, which will be equally difficult politically.
The fiasco that has played out over the Administration’s attempts to impose a Muslim travel ban shows a similar failure to comprehend Constitutional and political reality. As in so many other areas, Trump seems content with a flashy photo-op and fiery political rhetoric to stir up his base.
A growing number of promises that Trump made in his campaign are rapidly being exposed as just plans lies or figurative rather than literal intentions or hyperbole that he wasn’t serious about. Did anyone really believe he could bring back manufacturing and coal jobs? What a fun joke he told about reducing the budget deficit. Or even better, his claim that Bureau of Labor Statistics reports are now credible where once they were phony.
Trump governs by lies, distraction, chaos and ignorance. While early evidence suggests that many of his supporters are just fine with that approach, the consequences for the country are not so sanguine. We have a foreign policy that is without direction, without any grounding in national interest, without an appreciation of the complex interrelationship among different foreign entanglements. The President seems oblivious to the risk of stumbling into a war or a foreign commitment for which neither the goals nor the means of achieving success exist.
In domestic affairs, Trump has so far been willing to leave decision-making to the most extreme ideologues in his administration–Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, Mick Mulvaney, Scott Pruitt and, of course, Steve Bannon. His lack of interest as well as of understanding of the policies they are instituting has ushered in an era of great damage that will take years to recover from. Attacks on women’s health, on basic civil rights, on government help for the poor and disadvantaged, on protection of the environment and on the very idea of a “United” States are already creating a legacy on which history will not look favorably .
Americans on a daily basis are astonished at the inept performance of Sean Spicer, at the latest wild conspiracies that the President asserts, at the sense that we are watching a reality television show rather than our government at work. Meanwhile, there are grave consequences to having as president a man who is temperamentally, intellectually and by lack of experience unfit for the job.
If you think we’ve seen the worst from this president, you’re sadly mistaken. Just when you think he’s hit the bottom and can’t sink any lower, he outdoes himself. There is no bottom with this presidency.