Trump’s bad char­ac­ter drags down na­tion

The Day - - OPINION - By ROBERT WEISS­MAN Robert Weiss­man is pres­i­dent of Pub­lic Ci­ti­zen (­ti­, which has as its stated mis­sion en­sur­ing that all cit­i­zens are rep­re­sented in the halls of power. He wrote this for In­sid­

‘Char­ac­ter is des­tiny,” the Greek philoso­pher Her­a­cli­tus fa­mously said.

Two and a half mil­len­nia af­ter Her­a­cli­tus lived, Don­ald Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion are prov­ing the point.

With­out un­der­tak­ing a psy­cho­log­i­cal in­quiry into his emo­tional well-be­ing, we know much about Pres­i­dent Trump’s char­ac­ter, based on what he says and writes about him­self, not to men­tion what we’ve seen from him over four decades as a pub­lic fig­ure. He is boast­ful. He’s trans­ac­tional. He’s hyper-ma­te­ri­al­is­tic, and he cares a great deal about ap­pear­ance.

Trump’s re­la­tion­ship to the truth is, at best, shaky. He likes con­flict and un­pre­dictabil­ity. He be­lieves that ad­mit­ting er­ror is a sign of weak­ness and that he should hit back 10 times as hard at his crit­ics. He doesn’t like to read, doesn’t care much about pol­icy de­tails, and makes de­ci­sions from the gut.

But these char­ac­ter traits are ill serv­ing Trump as pres­i­dent, and in­deed threat­en­ing the coun­try. Con­sider:

As the orig­i­nal sin of his ad­min­is­tra­tion, Trump re­fused to di­vest his ex­pan­sive busi­ness hold­ings. There is no such prece­dent for a pres­i­dent main­tain­ing such all-en­com­pass­ing con­flicts of in­ter­est, which vi­o­late the spirit and ar­guably the let­ter of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion’s anti-bribery (“emol­u­ments”) clause. The di­rect re­sult has been a pro­found cor­rup­tion of gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy­mak­ing — on ev­ery­thing from taxes to clean wa­ter pol­icy — as the ad­min­is­tra­tion makes de­ci­sions that di­rectly af­fect Trump’s busi­ness em­pire.

Trump con­tin­ues to re­peat the lie that voter fraud is a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem and ex­plains why he lost the pop­u­lar vote. His grandios­ity does not en­able him to ac­knowl­edge that Hil­lary Clin­ton re­ceived more votes. As a re­sult, he looks silly for em­brac­ing trans­par­ently un­true claims; and, more se­ri­ously, he per­pet­u­ates a myth de­signed to sup­press the vote of mi­nor­ity vot­ers.

Trump can­not stom­ach the fact that Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller is in­ves­ti­gat­ing his cam­paign for pos­si­ble col­lu­sion with Rus­sia in the 2016 elec­tion. Trump be­lieves him­self above the law and dis­dains the con­sti­tu­tional checks and bal­ances that are the bedrock of our work­ing democ­racy.

The pres­i­dent can­not be per­mit­ted to fire an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tor sim­ply be­cause the in­ves­ti­ga­tor is look­ing into al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct by the pres­i­dent, or those close to him. That’s the path­way to au­thor­i­tar­ian rule.

All of these prob­lems — and many oth­ers — are of Trump’s own mak­ing. Largely, they don’t re­flect any par­tic­u­lar ide­ol­ogy or pro­gram. Rather, they are a di­rect out­growth of his per­son­al­ity and char­ac­ter.

Most elected of­fi­cials run for of­fice out of a sense of pub­lic ser­vice — but they also tend to have very healthy egos. That’s al­most part of the job de­scrip­tion. Still, as he him­self says, Pres­i­dent Trump is not like other politi­cians. He is a char­ac­ter un­like oth­ers, and his char­ac­ter is un­like oth­ers. As a re­sult, we’re des­tined to lurch from cri­sis to cri­sis, peril to peril, as long as he is pres­i­dent.

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