Monday, May 1, 2017

The Problem With Donald Trump

Okay, I have been doing some thinking.

Donald Trump has now reached that 100 days in office milestone, and perhaps predictably, there is a huge divide in interpretations as to how successful he has been. Of course, if you ask him, or his members of the administration, they will give a glossy report, probably giving themselves straight A's. Trump himself suggested that his presidency has been running like a well-oiled machine. Perhaps if you look at all of the corrupt money greasing the interests and making things happen, then this is true. Still, it is estimated that roughly 96 percent of his supporters feel that he is doing exactly what he promised he would do, so most of them feel satisfied.

However, the poll numbers reveal something far different. He has, far and away, the lowest approval rating of any president this early on into his presidency. Most of the major news outlets, and all of his detractors, have looked on in horror at what had transpired thus far in his first 100 days in office. It seems like a bunch of amateurs are running the show, and frankly, I am not entirely sure that this diagnosis is far off from the truth.

Trump seems problematic in large part because he is so hard to define, right? After all, he seems to change his opinions all of the time. Not all that long ago, he saw a universal, single-payer healthcare system as the only option for the country. Now as president, of course, he has changed his opinion, although still as a candidate around a year ago, he promised that every American would be covered. Then, he latched onto Paul Ryan's pathetic excuse of a healthcare bill, which would drop 14 millions of Americans by 2018, and 24 million overall within a decade, as well as forcing senior citizens to be responsible for up to $14,000 in deductibles when they only make $26,000 per year. That bill failed, and so he tried to rush through a bill to meet the self-imposed deadline of "Making America Great Again" within his first 100 days in office, which he reached very recently, on April 30th.

It feels like it's been a lot longer then that, right? God, it feels already like Trump has been in office for a long time, simply because of the sheer relentlessness of the news  - almost always bad news - coming from the White House. 

And so, naturally, he is trying to fit everything in so that it looks like he did a lot in his first 100 days, so that it looks like he has been hugely energetic in doing exactly what he promised he would do.

Here's the thing, though. I recently heard someone claim, quite accurately, that all of this feels like a kid trying to cram as much studying in the final night before a major, major exam, or perhaps some kind of major school project. In other words, it just feels like he is trying to put a rush job on it to make himself look good, while in reality, he has not been doing such a great job at fulfilling what he said he was going to do. This reminds me of something else I heard or read recently, which was a suggestion that this was an entry level president.

That feels about right.

Now, of course, his staunch supporters - and let's not kid ourselves, there's quite a few of them about - feel that he is doing what he said he would do. They feel satisfied.

Of course, since the facts do not seem to matter to Trump or his supporters, you cannot argue with them on this. However, those of us with an ounce of objectivity look at the chaos of the last 100 days, and we think about how much of a disaster this has been, and how he really has not done anything that he promised he would. 

Shall we take a look at what he promised he would do once he got to the White House? He promised he would drain the swamp, but instead, he loaded up his administration with billionaires who have been bilking the American people for decades now. Very hard for such elitists to be able to relate to the real life struggles of working class Americans, wouldn't you say? So much for draining the swamp. He promised that Hillary Clinton would be investigated and locked up, but that did not happen. In fact, within weeks of winning the election, he mocked these two promises that he made, of draining the swamp and locking Hillary up, just to make sure that his supporters did not seriously think that he would do it. Of course, he also famously promised that Mexico would pay for his damn wall. But Mexico is not going to pay for it, Americans are. What did his supporters expect would happen, anyway? He claimed that he would repeal and replace Obamacare from his first day in office, but all he has to show for this, at least thus far, is a failed attempt at repealing it by replacing it with a truly God awful healthcare bill that was far more divisive than even pundits could have guessed, and it failed to secure enough votes. Trump also said he was tired of war, yet he launched an attack on Syria, threatened action on North Korea and moved American ships into the region, and it was under his watch that the largest bomb since the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II was dropped on Afghanistan. This had the nickname of "the mother of all bombs," and people many, many miles away swore that it had been dropped on their own backyard. Even people in Pakistan heard it loudly!

Trump promised that, under him, America would start winning again. In fact, he said that the country would get so used to winning under him, that we would get tired of it. Remember that? If you are like me, you are still waiting for any real signs for the winning to begin. The only winning that I have seen have been by the Trump family, who seems to clearly be using the power and prestige of the White House in order to personally enrich themselves, as well as the same old winners as before - the military industrial complex, and corporate America. The military got a huge spike in it's budget, and Trump has been keeping them busy. Also, Trump is trying to force his tax plan through, and claiming that this would be the largest tax cut in history. Yes, at a time when we are still clearly fighting wars (plural) while heavily in debt, we once again have a president who believes that the magic wand answer is a massive tax cut that will especially benefit the very wealthiest Americans, and major corporations. And let us not forget that he has weakened legislation aimed at protecting the environment, allowing waters to be dumped into without penalties any longer. He has weakened the Environmental Protection Agency, slashing their budget, and he is trying to silence any mention of climate change, because in Trump's America, science is the enemy. Apparently, American exceptionalists like him believe that this country will be exempt from the climate crisis that the United States itself played such a heavy hand in, historically. Trump even wants to pull the country out of the Paris Climate Accord, if he gets his way.

All of this spells near disaster for the United States. North Korea could easily turn into a very deadly war, the healthcare situation might get even worse, and might even regress to the system that we had before Obamacare, the walls of racial division and hatred seem to be going up everywhere across the country, while financially, the familiar theme of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and many more of us falling dangerously close to that line of poverty, keeps getting accelerated by Trump and his band of billionaires. Our supposed leadership and good name around the world has never been called into question as much as since Trump was elected president, and his climate change denial and embarrassingly regressive environmental policies are not only doing serious harm to the planet, but adding still more fuel to the fire for those who increasingly view the United States with serious suspicion. The recent incidents on passenger airplanes has reinforced that hatred and the risk of beatings by uniformed officials is a very real threat, and China specifically seemed to feel that there were racial overtones with that one passenger of Asian extraction being physically manhandled and carried off the United Airways flight. India has already warned citizens against travel into the United States, given recent hate crimes and attacks against Indians.

Yes, all of this adds up to a dramatic lowering of the bar in terms of our political and social standards. And the man most responsible for it seems to be an almost clown-like figure. Frankly, I suspect that this is what appealed to some of his supporters, this sense that this guy thinks kind of like them. Certainly, they envy his ability to say whatever is on his mind, and to hell with the consequences. He does not care if what he says is patently wrong or a lie. Some people feel that this is refreshing. And many like the fact that most of the political establishment in Washington hold the man with some measure of skepticism at best, and at worst, with outright contempt. This reinforces to many of his supporters that he is kind of thumbing his nose at the powers that be, shaking up their power structure.

Of course, Trump is himself representative of an elitist power structure, and his vested interests were quite transparent. At least they are, again, if you are paying attention, and have any semblance of objectivity. He has claimed at different times that he thought the job of being president would be easier than it was, most famously perhaps asking who would have believed that taking care of healthcare would prove to be so tough. Really, Mr. President? You thought that this job would be easier, and that wrapping up a good healthcare bill to the satisfaction of everyone, or almost everyone, would be done easily and quickly?

Such an absurd figure this man is! He does not value allies, or at least makes the nation's traditional allies suspicious. He claimed he would be the president for all Americans, but has done absolutely nothing to actually try to bring Americans together as a people. Instead, his approach seems to be that it is his way or the highway.

Really, that is the problem with Donald Trump. He knows only one way to do things, and that is his way. If something does not fit the way that he thinks, then it is not ever taken into consideration. If he cannot personally profit from something, somehow, then it is never given a moment's thought and, frankly, becomes a target for his contempt and his infamous smears and mockery. He is like an overgrown child who refuses to listen to anything that contradicts his worldview, and who visibly acts bored, almost to tears, whenever the subject matter gets even a little tough, and beyond his comprehension. That is how we get a climate denier taking such sweeping actions to undermine a healthy environment and future for the country, because all he sees is that such things cost some money, and that cuts into his profit. And all he does, and all that he is, is about profits. That might be good for running a business, but it is revealing itself to be a disaster when running the country, although many of his biggest supporters truly believe not only that the country could be run like a business, but should be run like a business.

This is a narrow man, trying to lead the country back closer to the days when things seemed to make the most sense. When he talks about making America great again, he clearly implies that there was a former age, when things used to be more ideal, and which he wants to take the country back to. Indeed, the increased racism and hatred that he has been accused by many of ushering in seems to reinforce this impression, as it was not all that long ago that the United States still not only had racist laws on the books, but enforced those laws and other customs. Those were days when a much wider majority of Americans were whites, and especially WASP's. The country is obviously much different now, and most Americans seem to feel that a leader of the country should represent that diversity and, failing that, at least embrace it ideologically.

Trump quite clearly does not. Like President Bush before him, he clearly does not do nuance. Not only does he make no attempt at understanding complex issues, but he actively mocks them, and mocks those who make the effort. To the rest of the world, this is viewed, rightly, for the most part, as the voluntary dumbing down of America.

A majority of Americans believe that a leader needs to understand these subtleties, and to work together with others to come to solid solutions. Trump, with his limited and limiting approach, offers none of this. Most of his supporters signed up for his approach and his way on the idea that he was the master of making deals, literally being the author of "The Art of the Deal." But politics is a different beast than business, and his approach seems downright totalitarian to many of his detractors, including yours truly.

That has everything to do with his thinking, and his whole approach, which is a complete and total, as well as transparent, lack of interest to anything and everything that he feels he cannot profit from. And apparently, he feels that he cannot profit from a majority of Americans, and so he seems to disregard anything that they may have to say or think or do.

And that is why the country feels more polarized right now than ever before. 

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