President Trump May Go Down in History as the Savior of America–2/2

The Lowest Low Point

1. Implementing child separation — and lying about it

From April to June 2018, the Trump administration implemented a “zero tolerance” policy at the southern border that deliberately separated children and babies — some as young as 4 months old — from their parents. In the span of six weeks, 1,995 kids were torn away from their parents. Some will likely never be reunited. On June 16, 2018, Trump lied about the policy, saying it was “forced” by Democrats. Once his lie was exposed, on Oct. 13, 2018, Trump explicitly advocated his barbaric policy as a deterrent. Those low points sparked international outrage.

These incidents enumerated by Klaas include exclusively those that occurred during the Trump presidency, not the run-up. So they omit such egregious cases as the Colin Kaeperninck disrespect-for-the-flag tweet,  the “Access Hollywood” tape, mocking a disabled reporter, attacking a Gold Star family, calling to ban all Muslims from entering the country or labeling Mexican immigrants as rapists.

How to Scuttle the Ship of State

In order for President Trump to sink the United States government–and the country–irretrievably he only has to continue along his same path. As we have seen in his daily tweets and even mainstream news coverage, he’s done an admirable job of sabotaging the government during his fist term in office, from defunding and dismantling vital agencies to deregulating business and finance, but he still has a way to go. A Democratic-Party-controlled House of Representatives is a hurdle he would have to surmount but there’s a possiblity he could turn the House around in the upcoming elections.  He has won against the odds before–producing apoplexia in the Democratic machine–and the American electorate has been known to deliver other remarkable surprises.

The Immediate Result of a Possible Trump Defeat

But what if he were to lose? How would President Trump’s partisans take the loss? Would they just step aside for the new President elect? Can anyone really foresee President Trump leaving office without kicking and screaming? What is more likely is some sort of coordinated civil unrest, the maximum expression of which is civil war. Is that eventuality being prepared in the White House basement as we speak? Should it come to armed civil disobedience, which side would the nation’s police and armed forces come down on? Is anybody thinking about that? Or are they all just betting the farm on that comforting old saw: “It can’t happen here”

Suppose it were to happen, along with all the other horrific contingencies that President Trump’s administration has made possible. A full-blown American Civil War II would be a giant step towards ground zero.  And we haven’t even considered the role of the Chinese and the Russians. Would they stand idly by? Or would they consider picking up a bargain out of the wreckage? Isn’t the Chinese’s own pictograph for “crisis” composed of two characters, one meaning “danger,” and the other “opportunity.”

Back to the Premise

How could a person like Donald J. Trump become the savior of the United States? It’s time to look at the historical precedents in other countries. In our time, since World War II, there have been two nations that have risen from the ignominy of defeat and total destruction, humiliation and starvation poverty, and worldwide condemnation. And they have achieved it in less than three generations. They have both rebuilt their countries and their economies, but more importantly they have recuperated their moral decency. Both have recognized, abandoned, repented, and apologized repeatedly for their agressive acts of warfare and crimes against humanity, their racism and historic rapaciousness. And their populations have assimilated a whole new set of humanitarian values based on democratic principles, respect and decency at home and abroad,

Those two countries are Germany and Japan. Located on opposite sides of the globe and with widely disparate cultural and social traditions, what did they have in common that permitted them to renew themselves in every conceivable respect? Their cities were systematically razed, their ideologies discredited. Their allies evaporated, along with their credit internationally. The only resources they could count on were humility, intelligence and determination. Granted, the $15 billion Marshall Plan was an important factor in European recovery but it wasn’t enacted until 1948. The first three years of Germany’s lone battle back from the gates of hell started from zero. Today Germany and Japan are two of the most advanced–and more importantly–most civilized countries in the world.

The Road to Rock Bottom

Is it possible that these are the very conditions that the United States requires in order to become great again? Could the current COVID-19 pandemic and President Trump’s characteristically inept handling of it be the detonator? From “We’ve got it under control…” to 55,000 deaths and counting is a long stretch, Mr. President. Will the coronavirus do for the Americans what the Second World War did for the Germans and the Japanese. Will it take them to rock bottom? If so, would the American public be able to muster the intelligence and determination–and most difficult of all–the humility to rebuild their entire world from zero?

It’s important to keep in mind, I think, that it couldn’t be achieved with traditional American values. No amount of self-reliance, dog-eat-dog competition and quick-buck capitalism would get the job done. It would require tremendous levels of selfless collaboration on the part of its citizens, something unknown in today’s highly-polarized United States. It’s not a given that Americans are capable of such a sea change in their hearts and minds. If they were, they might bring it off, just as the Germans and the Japanese did. That would make President Donald J. Trump, the principal agent for taking his country to rock bottom, in effect the savior of America, albeit by an ironically indirect route. If it should turn out that the Americans are not capable of working together intensely and disinterestedly, there are other nations with high levels of preparation waiting in the wings.

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President Donald Trump May Go Down in History as the Savior of America–1/2

Nato_meeting_2018

Trump May Make America Great Again but not in the Way He Had in Mind

There are precedents for the return to prominence of formerly great countries and a thoughtful look at their cases could illuminate the future of Donald Trump’s United States. The country may be recoverable and he might be the man to lead the way. He might require re-election to achieve it, but everything is possible. Before we consider the historical precedents, let’s take a summary look at President Trump’s record since he launched his presidential campaign.

The best–and most amenable–source I have found for pre-campaign Trump is the prologue to Michael Lewis’s 2018 book, The Fifth Risk, which is riveting from the first page. Lewis had access to Chris Cristie, the former New Jersey governor and short-lived candidate in the 2016 presidential pre-campaign, who alerted Donald Trump to the fact that he was legally obliged to appoint a staff to search and select candidates for the 500 federal posts that would have to be filled by presidential appointment, in the case that he were to be elected. Christie, who was at the first orientation meeting with the Obama transition team, found Trump’s delegate “comically underqualified” and he immediately phoned the Trump campaign manager, Cory Lewandowski, and asked him why such a critical job had been left in the hands of an incompetent. Lewandowski replied, “Because whe don’t have anyone.” So Christie got the job himself.

When Trump won the Republican candidacy he received from the federal government a suite of fully equipped offices in downtown Washington, DC, for his transition selection team. This group, in turn, reported weekly to Trump’s “executive committee,” made up of his real-estate-operator son-in-law, Jared Kushner; his daughter, Ivanka, his sons Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump; as well as Paul Manafort, Steve Mnuchin and Jeff Sessions. All candidate Trump had to do was to pay the employees, either from his own pocket or his campaign funds. This detail gave rise to a brouhaha when Christie informed Trump that he was legally obliged to pay the staff. According to Christie, Trump’s reply was characteristically brief and clear: “Fuck the law. I don’t give a fuck about the law. I want my fucking money. Shut it down. Shut down the transition.” In the end Christie’s transition team efforts were all in vain. He was fired the day after Trump won the election at the insistence of Jared Kushner, who had not forgiven Christie for prosecuting his father, Charles Kushner in a 2005 corruption case. Today Jared Kushner is a White House magnate and atypical diplomat.

Cross Purposes

The transition team’s problem is that they were working at cross purposes with the candidate. They were looking for clean, trustworthy, and above all qualified people to run the federal government. That was a gross mistake. Cleanliness, trustworthiness and competence were irrelevant as long as they could pass a  confirmation hearing in a Republican-controlled Senate.

The candidate, soon to be the new President, didn’t want his appointees to run the government. He wanted them to wreck it. That’s how he got that colorful Cabinet and White House staff and how all-important federal agencies came to be run by know-nothings. His choices were based not on logic nor even common sense, rather on pure ideology. If you’re hard-core anti government, you’re in.

The rest of Lewis’s book discusses the most glaring examples, from nuclear security and waste disposal to the massively important Department of Energy. The new President, with no knowledge of the critical role the federal government played in myriad questions in the country, set about gaily to destroy it.

A Brief Summary of the Worst of Donald Trump

President  Trump’s tenure has been characterized by an unprecedented mix of incompetence and arrogance. The less he knows on any given subject the more he thinks he knows (a classic case of the Dunning-Kruger effect) and the more he trumpets his supreme knowledge. The essence of the Trump presidency is this imaginary “supreme knowledge” of everything and his utter lack of concern for the country and its people. His first priority is always Donald Trump. Let’s take a look at some of the high points of his low points. Brian Klaas, a Washington Post contributor, listed his top five in a July 16, 2019 opinion article entitled The five lowest points of Trump’s presidency (so far):

5. “Go back” to where you came from

Trump told minority congresswomen to go back to where they came from. Where they came from, with one exception, was America: Cincinnati, the Bronx and Detroit. But Trump revived one of the most well-worn racist statements in American history. It was indefensible racism.

4. Trump “fell in love” with Kim Jong Un

Trump’s absurd, over-the-top praise for dictators lurched into self-parody when he claimed that he “fell in love” with North Korea’s totalitarian dictator, Kim Jong Un, in September 2018. Kim’s regime runs a vast network of concentration camps, conducts campaigns of mass rape and reportedly executes people with antiaircraft guns for sport. The juxtaposition with Trump’s consistent ally-bashing behavior left no room for misinterpretation about Trump’s values, and how at odds they are with America’s founding principles.

3. Implying that Puerto Ricans were lazy as an estimated 2,975 Americans died

In the week after Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, leaving millions without electricity or tap water, Trump tweeted 95 times. Fifteen tweets attacked black National Football League players. Just one was about Puerto Rico, in which Trump chastised the island for its “massive debt.” Then, on Sept. 30, while Puerto Ricans were dying and pleading for additional federal help, Trump responded by implying that they were lazy and wanted “everything to be done for them.” A later study showed that a significant number of the deaths were avoidable and came not from the storm but from an inadequate government response.

2. The “very fine people” in Charlottesville

On Aug. 12, 2017, a man murdered Heather Heyer with his car. He was a neo-Nazi. She was protesting neo-Nazis. Three days later, Trump drew a false equivalence between the groups, insisting that there were “very fine people on both sides.” One of those sides was marching alongside Ku Klux Klan members, neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The other was protesting those hate groups. Trump tried to conflate the two, and in so doing, stained his presidency forever.

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