It is the Fourth of July and Donald Trump is president of the United States. Think of it. Now, if you dare, think a little harder.
He was president on the third and will be president, sadly, on the fifth, but those are just days on the calendar. On the Fourth, as we fire up the grill, we generally consent to brief history lessons, so long as they’re not too taxing. It’s sort of a national tradition, like barbecue and beer, baseball and fireworks.
And so, the lesson for today is that history tells us that there has never been anyone remotely like Donald Trump as president. Now, between bites, discuss.
No president as unfit for the job. No president less informed on, or less interested in, policy. No president who operates so openly as a xenophobic demagogue. No president whose assaults on a free press are as sophomoric as they are dangerously ill-considered. No president who, if he had chopped down a cherry tree and was caught with the hatchet in hand, would shamelessly lie about it and then tweet about #fakenews.
The fact that Trump is unique is, of course, both a good thing and a bad thing — good that there never was anyone like him, bad that there is one now. In fact, in the run-up to the Fourth, Trump has been making the case against himself as well as anyone could, basically distributing lessons on his inadequacy as if they were made-in-China miniature American flags.
Let’s see. There was his embarrassing inability to defend the details of Trumpcare because he doesn’t, uh, know what they are. And presiding over the first-ever viral cabinet meeting in which he demanded fealty from his “blessed” minions. Of course, his misogynistic Mika Brzezinski tweets. The Morning Joe allegations that Trump uses David Pecker, who owns the National Enquirer, as an enforcer. His absurd tweeting of the wrestlemania video in which Trump is seen body-slamming a figure with a CNN logo for a head.
Look, I don’t buy the violence-incitement argument about the video. Anyone who would be incited to violence watching logo-wrestling must already have some very deep issues. But the video is evidence, as if more were needed, that we are in a very bad place. It is evidence, as if more were needed, of how Trump’s casual cruelty is matched only by his raging insecurity. It is evidence, as David Frum recently tweeted the other day, of where we are today: “Trump has brilliantly changed the subject from ‘Is he a Russian intelligence asset’ to ‘Is he a dangerously violent lunatic?'”
And the fact is, we’re nearly six months into the Trump presidency, and we still have no idea how to deal with that fact. Think of that if you dare, although it’s guaranteed to make your logo-free head hurt.
We’re nearly six months in, and much of the nation is already suffering from some form of PTSD. I have a friend who tells me he wakes up each morning convinced anew that we can’t continue to go on like this and then falls asleep each night convinced it will never end.
Both things can’t be true, and yet I can’t shake the idea that they are. It can’t go on like this. There’s no way to stop it. Resistance is good. Mockery is good. Pressuring your local Republican senator is good. Watching a thin-skinned president go into full meltdown may not be good, but it’s a ratings bonanza.
The tweets get more outrageous. The world (North Korea just launched a missile, which seems to have been an ICBM) gets more dangerous. The travel ban — remember that? — is back in place. EPA regulations are being reversed. Trump tells the Russians James Comey is a nut job and he privately threatens to fire Robert Mueller. Trumpcare is polling around 20 percent — what I like to call Chris Christie/Jersey Shore territory — and the CBO says that 22 million people will lose their healthcare, but the Senate is still struggling to find a way to pass it.
On Monday, CNN was reporting that Trump would not discuss Russian interference in the 2016 campaign in his upcoming meeting with Vladimir Putin. That’s outrageous, but hardly surprising. And even less surprising, I’d guess, will be the reaction from Trump’s Republican enablers in Congress. Some will rouse themselves to mumble half-hearted admonitions. Mitch McConnell will refuse to answer the question. Paul Ryan’s long face will grow longer. Lindsey Graham will say something funny. Everyone will fall back in line.
It wasn’t always that way, of course. When the Declaration of Independence was being signed, Ben Franklin said (or maybe didn’t, but it’s too good a story not to believe) that we must all hang together or we’d all hang separately. That was a lesson in courage and unity. But there’s a more modern lesson that might be more relevant to our case. Remember it took more than two years from the Watergate break-in until we got to Nixon’s last ride on the helicopter. Most Republican senators stuck with Nixon until the end. I certainly don’t see any senators ready to dump Trump today, even those who might be willing to dump Trumpcare.
As a prime example, we have our own Cory Gardner, who is so reluctant to criticize Trumpcare — the bill he either did or didn’t help write — that he wouldn’t meet with the disabled-rights activists who were camped in his office. They would be carted off to jail because, we were told, of the pressure that the building’s management had applied to a U.S. senator. OK, the pressure argument strains credulity. But if Gardner can’t take the heat from a building manager, it’s no wonder he doesn’t have the nerve to hold a town hall.
In honor of Independence Day, we can call it pyrotechnophobia — fear of fireworks. But as one kind of fireworks ends for the year, we’re left with yet another kind. Call it Trumpophobia, meaning the fear that, as one explosion inevitably follows another, that they are only going to get worse.
Photo by Epic Fireworks, via Flickr: Creative Commons