At heart, Trump is a bully

The Tribune (SLO) - - Opinion - BY EU­GENE ROBIN­SON

As the sham­bolic Trump pres­i­dency car­oms and lurches into Year Three, a shame­ful gov­ern­ing phi­los­o­phy has emerged: cru­elty for cru­elty’s sake.

Let us take stock: Roughly one-quar­ter of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has been closed for a month, in the long­est shut­down in U.S. his­tory. An es­ti­mated 800,000 em­ploy­ees are ei­ther fur­loughed or be­ing forced to work with­out pay, not to men­tion un­told con­tract work­ers who are also idled. Prospects for a near-term so­lu­tion to the im­passe be­tween Pres­i­dent Trump and Con­gress range all the way from dim to dim­mer.

Imag­ine go­ing a month with­out a pay­check. Imag­ine lin­ing up the bills and de­cid­ing which get paid and which don’t – mort­gage, elec­tric­ity, heat­ing. Imag­ine hav­ing to com­mute to work at an “es­sen­tial” gov­ern­ment job and try­ing to scrape to­gether enough money for gas.

All of these hard­ships, and many more, are be­ing in­flicted on hard-work­ing pub­lic ser­vants for no

earthly rea­son. From the be­gin­ning, Democrats have taken a rea­son­able po­si­tion: Keep the gov­ern­ment open, and let’s have a de­bate and a ne­go­ti­a­tion about border se­cu­rity. Trump agreed – un­til far-right pun­dits ac­cused him of aban­don­ing his border wall, which ev­ery­one knows will never be built.

So Trump made fed­eral work­ers – and other cit­i­zens who de­pend on gov­ern­ment ser­vices – into sac­ri­fi­cial lambs whose blood is an of­fer­ing to the Trump­ist base. Ne­go­ti­a­tions about a so­lu­tion are at a stand­still be­cause Trump’s self-pro­claimed ne­go­ti­a­tion prow­ess comes down to taunts and tweets.

Mean­while, we learned last week that the sadis­tic pol­icy of sep­a­rat­ing would-be im­mi­grants from their chil­dren has been far more ex­ten­sive, and more shock­ing, than any­one sus­pected.

There was bi­par­ti­san up­roar ear­lier last year when it was dis­closed that more than 2,000 chil­dren had been ef­fec­tively kid­napped by our gov­ern­ment, in a mean and cyn­i­cal at­tempt to de­ter un­doc­u­mented mi­grants and asy­lum-seek­ers. Now, the in­spec­tor gen­eral of the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices reports that the fam­ily sep­a­ra­tions ac­tu­ally be­gan in 2017 and that “thou­sands” more chil­dren were taken from their par­ents.

So hap­haz­ard and un­car­ing was this out­ra­geous pol­icy that there ex­ists no full ac­count­ing of who these chil­dren are, where they are or whether they were ever re­united with their fam­i­lies.

Trump claims his imag­i­nary wall is needed to ad­dress a “hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis” at the border. The cri­sis is real, but it is of Trump’s own de­lib­er­ate creation. Given the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s com­bi­na­tion of mal­ice and in­com­pe­tence, it is safe to as­sume that some of the chil­dren who we snatched away will never see their par­ents again. They are mere props that let Trump demon­strate how far he will go to pun­ish Lati­nos for dar­ing to seek a safer, bet­ter life.

Such gra­tu­itous cru­elty is re­ally this ad­min­is­tra­tion’s only con­sis­tent pol­icy. Trump tried his best, for ex­am­ple, to de­stroy the Af­ford­able Care Act, not be­cause he had a bet­ter idea about how to pro­vide health care but ap­par­ently be­cause he can’t abide any­thing with Pres­i­dent Obama’s name on it. He failed, but in the process weak­ened Oba­macare enough to make it less ef­fec­tive and more ex­pen­sive.

Why would Trump in­jure in­no­cent con­sumers? Why seek to deny des­per­ately needed help to Puerto Rico, where some politi­cians have been crit­i­cal of Trump? Why? Be­cause he can. Above all else, Trump is a bully. Like all schoolyard tyrants, he tries to project great strength in or­der to mask in­ter­nal weak­ness. But re­mem­ber the one universal truth about bul­lies: The big­ger they are, the harder they fall.

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