We are leaderless. America doesn’t have a president. America has a man in the White House holding the spot, and wreaking havoc as he waits for the day when a real president arrives to replace him.
Donald Trump is many things – most of them despicable – but the leader of a nation he is not. He is not a great man. Hell, he isn’t even a good man.
Donald Trump is a man of flawed character and a moral cavity. He cannot offer moral guidance because he has no moral compass. He is too small to see over his inflated ego.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
Trump has personalized the presidency in unprecedented ways – making every battle and every war about his personal feelings. Did the person across the street or around the world say good or bad things about him? Does the media treat him fairly? Is someone in his coterie of corruption outshining him or casting negative light on him?
His interests center on the self; country be damned.
What some have always known about Trump, others are slowly coming to realize, and with great shock and horror. The presidency is revealing the essence of the man and that essence is dark.
What America saw clearly in Trump’s disastrous handling of the violence in Charlottesville was a Nazi/white nationalist apologist if not sympathizer, a reactionary rage-aholic, a liar, and a person who has absolutely no sense or understanding of history.
By claiming that there were some “very fine people” among the extremists marching in Charlottesville, the president made a profound declaration: The accommodation of racists is his creed.
As Susan Bro, whose daughter, Heather Heyer, was killed in Charlottesville, said last week, “You can’t wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying, ‘I’m sorry.’” Heather Heyer was killed when James Alex Fields Jr. used a speeding car to mow down a crowd of protesters who had gathered to rebuke the Nazis and white nationalists.
According to The Chicago Tribune, one of Fields’s high school teachers said he once “wrote a three-page homework paper that extolled Nazi ideology and the prowess of the Führer’s armed forces,” and that even before then, the teacher said, “he had been well aware of Fields’s racist and anti-Semitic beliefs from private discussions he had with Fields during his junior year.”
And even worse, The Tribune reported:
“At least four times when the boy was in the eighth and ninth grades, Florence police were summoned to his home, mostly by his frantic mother, Samantha Bloom, an I.T. specialist. It was just the two of them living together, and young James, among other incidents, was reported to have spat in her face, smacked her head with a phone and frightened her with a foot-long knife, according to records of the 911 calls. Neighbors, in interviews, similarly described a troubled youth who treated his mother cruelly.”
This was no fine person, and no person who walked shoulder-to-shoulder with him is a fine person. There are no good Nazis. There are no good white nationalist accommodators. There are no good people who see racists and don’t want to retch.
But somehow, the person we now call “president” saw what happened in Charlottesville, saw that a car had been used to kill Heyer, and still found it appropriate to say that there were bad people on “both sides.”
He cleaned that up in a teleprompter speech, but the next day returned to the defense of the indefensible, this time with even more verve and venom.
He apparently felt that the media had unfairly condemned him for his original remarks and he was going to be the counterpuncher and strike back at the media. Again, it was all about him, not us. But when he lashed out at the media, the cameras were rolling. There were no prepared remarks. There was no teleprompter. Trump stood exposed and in the raw, the deepest, truest thoughts of his soul erupting from his face, and what came out were bitterness and bile.
He was not there to heal the nation or to uplift it. He was there for personal exoneration and redemption. He wasn’t there to plead the case that America could rise on the wings of its better angels. He was there to defend the demons.
But, when one attempts to do a thing that can’t be done – that shouldn’t be done – one must employ the tools of deception: obfuscation, revisionism and flat-out lying.
Trump said that he had not initially condemned both sides because he wanted to wait to get all the facts, because that’s what he likes to do.
On Saturday, when tens of thousands of protesters turned out to counter a small group of radical racists, Trump’s first response was to tweet: “Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart! Thank you.”
This man doesn’t wait for facts. This man doesn’t care about facts, or much else for that matter. He only cares about himself, his image and his positioning.
America is functioning, barely, without a functioning president. Trump is failing every test of the office. How frightening is that?