His recklessness is beginning — barely — to trouble some of his supporters, but President Donald Trump mostly just gets to skip along in Mar-a-Lago as his party whistles a happy tune.
President Donald Trump’s craven lies that President Barack Obama had his “wires tapped” are viscerally repugnant and maddening for anyone but the most rabid, delusional Obama-haters.
First, it is destabilizing to realize that a sitting president of the United States has the moral capacity to slander his predecessor egregiously, without regret, guilt or apology after his lies are shown to be just that — lies. And let’s remember, such a man has his finger on the button.
Second, Trump is getting away with his sins. He seems immune from karma. He has defamed his way to fortunes — and now power. Imagine if in his first month in office, Barack Obama tweeted, “Just learned W. bugged me! Worse than Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” The House would have voted on articles of impeachment within a week. But Trump just skips along in Mar-a-Lago as his party whistles a happy tune.
It has taken a while, however, to realize that there are even more worrisome truths revealed by the lies of Trump as president.
Our president puts about as much study, honesty, knowledge and sobriety into his policies as he does his tweets about Obama’s wire “tapp” (sic).
Trump relentlessly uses facts, statistics and stories well after they have been authoritatively disproven. It doesn’t bother his followers one bit. He repeats the kookiest of conspiracy theories even as president.
Trump even brags that he really doesn’t need to do homework or use tutors. “I like bullets or I like as little as possible,” he said in an interview. “I don’t need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page. That I can tell you.”
During transition, Trump said he wouldn’t need daily intelligence briefings. “Trust me, I’m like a smart person,” he said in a speech to the CIA after the election.
Is there anyone who would take a bet that the president could make five factually accurate and logical statements to support his assertion that Obamacare is a “disaster”?
This recklessness is beginning — barely — to trouble some of his supporters. The editorial page of The Wall Street Journal has outdone the contortions of Harry Houdini to defend Donald Trump. Their muscles are shredded now as the president “clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle,” as an editorial put it this week.
“Two months into his Presidency, Gallup has Mr. Trump’s approval rating at 39 percent,” according to the editorial. “No doubt Mr. Trump considers that fake news, but if he doesn’t show more respect for the truth most Americans may conclude he’s a fake President.”
A scarier thought: What if the leaders of the rest of the world, allies and enemies alike, conclude Trump is a “fake president” or an “alternative head of state” — or just a raging liar?
It is this question that led Tom Friedman to write a column calling on the “few good men” in Trump’s Cabinet to “stand up and reverse the moral rot that has infected the Trump administration from the top.” Friedman says the few good men are all on the national security side: Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
This probably is the right list of seriously tested public leaders in the administration, and it would surely be a good thing if they staged a foreign policy intervention for the president who needs no briefings.
But what about the rest of the government — domestic policy, economics, health and law enforcement? Who are the adult public servants, the wise and sober people who can stand up to Trump?
• Perhaps his daughter, Ivanka, who has not one entry for public service on her résumé, no training, no experience and no day in her entire life outside the billionaire’s bubble.
• Or maybe her husband, Jared Kushner, born to a real estate mogul and a felon, who married well and dabbled in buying buildings and media properties.
• Maybe it is Trump’s latest crush, Steve Bannon, the zealous proponent of 1930s America First Nationalism with a big, sophomoric vocabulary and a life story and face that would send chills down the spine of any potential mother-in-law.
“The last time our country faced such a cancer on the presidency, the Republican Party’s leadership stood up and put country before party to get to the truth,” Friedman wrote, referring to the Watergate scandal. “But today’s G.O.P. is a pale imitation of that party. With a few exceptions, it has declared moral bankruptcy and abdicated its responsibility to draw any red lines for President Trump.”
The problem this time is not a cancer on the presidency. It is that the president is malignant.