The Trump law

Pres­i­dent, six months in, is de­stroy­ing hope for his term

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - Greg Har­ton Greg Har­ton is ed­i­to­rial page ed­i­tor for the North­west Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette. Con­tact him by email at ghar­ton@nwadg.com or on Twit­ter @NWAGreg.

Don­ald Trump is liv­ing down to the worst fears of even peo­ple who cast bal­lots for him in Novem­ber. I’m not re­fer­ring to mat­ters of pol­icy. I pre­fer a pres­i­dent and rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Congress who lean con­ser­va­tive. I’m con­vinced many Arkansans and many Amer­i­cans voted for Trump more as a vote against Hil­lary Clin­ton and the ad­vance­ment of poli­cies she would have pur­sued.

They sup­port Repub­li­can poli­cies more than Demo­cratic ones. But un­like in the 1980s and there­after when Repub­li­cans loved to call them­selves “Rea­gan Repub­li­cans,” I don’t hear that many of them declar­ing them­selves “Trump Repub­li­cans” th­ese days.

Cer­tainly, Trump has his fans, but since he’s hardly a ide­o­log­i­cal Repub­li­can, a lot of those fans are peo­ple who just get a kick out of his un­con­ven­tional tac­tics. If Trump were to op­er­ate on the ba­sis of any oath, it might re­sem­ble the op­po­site of the 12 points of the Boy Scout Law: He’s cringe-wor­thy, only tem­po­rar­ily loyal, un­help­ful, un­friendly, dis­cour­te­ous, un­kind, ob­sti­nate, cheer­less, risky, brash, un­clean and ir­rev­er­ent.

Some will say I’m be­ing dis­re­spect­ful, and I dis­like us­ing such de­scrip­tions for a man who rose to the of­fice of the pres­i­dency once filled by Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton, Abra­ham Lin­coln, Thomas Jef­fer­son, Ron­ald Rea­gan and oth­ers who brought great­ness to the of­fice. Trump just tells us of his great­ness, but con­tin­ues a daily as­sault on any hope that his achieve­ments will con­trib­ute to such a de­scrip­tion of his pres­i­dency.

U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions told The As­so­ci­ated Press Wed­nes­day that he and Pres­i­dent Trump have “a har­mony of val­ues and be­liefs.” That state­ment may be hard for some to com­pre­hend af­ter watch­ing Trump be­rate Ses­sions for much of the pre­ced­ing week. For many Trump sup­port­ers, their hopes for a Trump pres­i­dency don’t rely on him be­ing a like­able guy, but stem from their de­sire to see the na­tion go a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion than the Democrats would take it.

Don­ald Trump’s sup­port­ers were never a “bas­ket of de­plorables,” but their can­di­date in six months has built a pretty strong case that he can com­pete for the ti­tle.

Trump ar­ro­gantly be­lieved gov­ern­ing would be easy, that all he had to do to whip the fed­eral gov­ern­ment into shape was to be­come pres­i­dent. He achieved that on Jan. 20. But there’s a world of dif­fer­ence be­tween be­com­ing pres­i­dent and be­ing pres­i­dent, just as there’s a mas­sive dif­fer­ence be­tween talk­ing about lead­er­ship and ac­tu­ally know­ing how to pro­vide it.

It’s a no-brainer, as it was in Novem­ber, that Hil­lary Clin­ton would have car­ried her­self with more pres­i­den­tial deco­rum than Trump can man­age. It’s also a no-brainer to­day that she would have been far more ca­pa­ble of draft­ing a com­pre­hen­si­ble ap­proach to in­flu­enc­ing Congress. In that re­gard, Trump con­sid­ers lead­er­ship to be a daily col­lec­tion of rants via Twit­ter in which he will pum­mel as an en­emy some­one who last week he con­sid­ered a “fan­tas­tic” friend.

What he’s do­ing to Jeff Ses­sions is de­plorable. He nom­i­nated this man just months ago as his best se­lec­tion to lead the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice. Ses­sions has been a con­sis­tent de­fender of Trump from the cam­paign through to the Oval Of­fice. He was will­ing to put him­self through the grinder of Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion be­cause the pres­i­dent asked him to serve the na­tion.

Oh, who am I kid­ding? Don­ald Trump doesn’t ask peo­ple to serve their na­tion. He asks them to serve Don­ald Trump.

He gives speeches con­structed like a ver­bal pin­ball ma­chine. His speech to the Boys Scouts of Amer­ica at their Na­tional Jam­boree, an event to which every sit­ting pres­i­dent is in­vited, was an em­bar­rass­ment. It had a few el­e­ments that re­sem­bled en­cour­age­ment of young peo­ple, but Trump is in­ca­pable of stay­ing on point. He ap­pears un­able to re­sist stroking his own ego and try­ing to make him­self ap­pear greater by di­min­ish­ing oth­ers. Every Scout in that au­di­ence has been taught bet­ter man­ners than their pres­i­dent demon­strates. If Trump had been a Scout, he would be a bet­ter per­son to­day.

Six months into his pres­i­dency, he’s fir­ing peo­ple and oth­ers are re­sign­ing. Any hope he was go­ing to be an ef­fec­tive ne­go­tia­tor with Congress and other na­tions has dis­ap­peared. Ap­par­ently, he’s just a great ne­go­tia­tor when he’s the only bil­lion­aire in the room full of hired hands.

I want bet­ter from our pres­i­dent. The na­tion de­serves com­pe­tency. It doesn’t get it when the chief ex­ec­u­tive’s strat­egy for deal­ing with health care is to hope ev­ery­thing falls apart so he’ll be begged to fix it.

His sup­port­ers will say “What about” then name some past pres­i­dent’s ob­jec­tion­able pol­icy or be­hav­ior. That should tell them how bad things have got­ten. They’re jus­ti­fy­ing aw­ful be­hav­ior by try­ing to find some­thing they con­sider worse in the past.

That’s what they some­times call a race to the bot­tom. Amer­ica can’t be great again with that ap­proach.

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