WATERTOWN — There is no longer any question about Donald Trump’s character — or, more specifically, his lack thereof.
Charting his activities over the past few weeks reveals an individual who cannot separate what he wants at any particular moment from what the country needs. He’s incapable of adequately responding to the challenges we confront. Rather than show that he’s able to lead Americans through a disturbing incident, he cowers in his man cave with a smartphone in one hand and a TV remote in the other.
There have been some well-known instances during Trump’s time in the White House of his utter cluelessness about how to manage a difficult situation. The violence between white supremacists and civil rights activists more than three years ago in Charlottesville, Va., is a prime example. He simply couldn’t resist the temptation to backpedal and soften his criticism of the racists who showed up that weekend.
How hard of a choice could that possibly be? Neo-Nazis, Klan members and white nationalists chanted “Jews will not replace us” while marching around a statue of Robert E. Lee. They wanted the community to maintain a symbol of the Confederacy, which took up arms against the United States to preserve the atrocious practice of slavery.
There’s much that could be said about Trump’s tone-deaf response to the novel coronavirus pandemic for the past 10 months. He often downplayed its severity, ridiculed people who wore masks, spread false information, dismissed infection experts and expressed his annoyance of how the crisis made him look bad. He actually admitted publicly that he recommended conducting fewer tests so that the number of infections wouldn’t be so high!
At times, he approached discussions with state authorities who desperately needed medical supplies like he was engaged in a real estate deal. The only question he should have asked them was, “What do you need me to do to help out?” But he came at it like, “Come on, guys, what’s in this for me?”
Trump’s behavior since the Nov. 3 general election has been, to say the least, alarming. First of all, he’s wallowed in delusions about how the election was “rigged” and that it was “stolen” from him. His repeated insistence that Joe Biden’s victory wasn’t legitimate and prolonged refusal to cooperate with the incoming administration have been both unprecedented and perilously counterproductive.
The United States experienced a major cyber-attack last year; security authorities within the government believe Russia was responsible. Trump has said very little about this, essentially dismissing it (I’m sure Vladimir Putin was pleased with his tepid response).
On Christmas Day, an act of domestic terrorism occurred in Nashville. Once again, Trump’s attention was elsewhere. He seemed more concerned over his golf game than with comforting Americans during this catastrophe.
The sharp rise in coronavirus infection cases has accompanied a tragic number of deaths. Many days, more than 3,000 people lose their lives.
This is of little concern to Trump. He recently groused that the death totals were likely inflated. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s primary expert on infectious diseases, advised that they were not.
It’s hard imagining any other president being allowed to largely ignore such national emergencies. About the only thing Trump has seen fit to comment on is his “landslide” win in the general election and all the “evidence” his team was uncovering about the massive voter problems.
Of course, both contentions are utter nonsense. Lawsuits filed across the country challenging election results in states won by Biden have routinely been dismissed because of a lack of evidence. Members of the Trump administration along with election officials in numerous states have confirmed there was no widespread fraud.
As repulsive as these acts on Trump’s part have been, they pale in comparison to how he behaved Wednesday following the attack on the U.S. Capitol by his beloved gang of violent insurrectionists. He spent the preceding two months enflaming an already volatile situation by telling them they got screwed by the Democrats who “stole” the presidential election. He also urged them to join in his “fight” to remain in office.
Following a rally where Trump egged on his supporters further, angry thugs overwhelmed officers with the U.S. Capitol Police and stormed the building. According to a tweet by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, White House staffers reported that Trump seemed “pleased by what he was seeing on TV at the Capitol, as he repeatedly refused requests to get him to say something clearly rejecting the violence.”
Sometime later Wednesday, he released a video on his Twitter account politely asking the rioters to “go home.” While he began it by (once again!) whining about the “stolen” election and how he won it in a “landslide,” he told the vandals (some possessing firearms and pipe bombs): “We love you. You’re very special.”
The last time I checked, the proper term for people who took up arms against their own government was “traitor.” And yet here’s the president of the United States telling the people trying to carry out a coup d’état that he “loved” them.
The attack resulted in five deaths including Brian D. Sicknick, an officer with the Capitol Police. Numerous injuries also were reported.
People around the globe watched this appalling spectacle with utter shock. The seat of authority of the most powerful nation on the planet was under siege, and federal legislators were scrambling for safety.
And where was Trump? Certainly not in front of a TV camera declaring his outrage at this seditious act and assuring the American people that the criminals will be apprehended and prosecuted.
No. He and his No. 1 toady, Rudy Giuliani, spent that evening calling U.S. senators, urging them to continue objecting to the slate of electors from various states.
So as our country’s reputation is being torn to shreds on the world stage, Trump can only think of himself. He persists on pushing the egregiously false claim that the election results are bogus, the very lie that set the stage for the attack on the Capitol.
Trump released another video using harsher language against the violence and finally acknowledging that “a new administration” will take over (he never referred to Biden). But this message came on Thursday.
It took the president a full day to decide to publicly denounce the attack against his own government. Wow! Let that sink in for a minute.
Proving to be the spinless weasel we know he is, he later regretted delivering this message. As with his white supremacist buddies in Charlottesville, he didn’t want to alientate the violent insurrectionist among his supporters.
Clearly, Trump does not have the intellectual rigor or emotional stability to serve in this position. How did we ever get to the point where he was allowed to ascend to this level of power? I figured that a Dumpster fire of a presidency would end with a train wreck, but I never imagined this.
Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to email@example.com. They also may follow him on Twitter: @WDT_OpEd.