There’s no shortage of evidence of Trump’s unfitness to be President of the United States. Nonetheless, some pieces of evidence give more obvious proof than others. And this government shutdown is one of those.
Recognizing how clearly indefensible Trump’s conduct is here has implications for how the Democrats and the media should deal with Trump over this shutdown.
One could readily expose how the character Trump displays here demonstrates his unfitness. One could begin with the question of what circumstances justify taking the position, “Yield to me on this or I’ll hurt America.” And the answer would certainly not include a question like the building of this border wall.
(My own interpretation of Trump’s actions: There’s nothing that disturbs Trump more than being perceived as weak. Yet he’s being visibly weakened by the Blue Wave election, and by the Mueller investigation closing in on him. This public weakening drives him to do anything to prove his “strength.” So he closes down the government (and produces more chaos in the Middle East), wielding the powers of his office — even if only to break things — to demonstrate what a formidable man he is. This willingness to damage and destroy for the purpose of proving his power is further evidence of the dangers that America will face over the stretch of time until Trump no longer wields the powers of the world’s most powerful office.)
But more readily shown in this shutdown showdown than the unfitness of his character are Trump’s defects of intellect.
Consider the position Trump is taking: “I insist that everyone yield to me on the border wall issue.” While such a posture of bullying and blackmailing would be inappropriate even if Trump were right on the issue, that position is completely indefensible in view of the fact that there’s every reason to believe that Trump’s position on the wall is wrong.
- The people who know most about the issues of borders, undocumented immigrants, and walls say it’s a bad idea– that it doesn’t represent any good solution to any problem the nation needs to address.
- A clear and consistent majority of the American people oppose the idea.
- The people who live near the border don’t want the wall.
- A majority of the people’s elected representatives in Congress are against building this wall.
Trump may have persuaded many in his base that it’s a good thing, but not only are they a minority, but they are also a minority evidently characterized by a willingness to go along, uncritically, with whatever their Leader says.
All of which adds up to this: We have a President — who is only one of the legitimate representatives of the “will of the people” — who
- advocates a policy that is almost surely wrong-headed, given the near universal opinion of others, and given the lack of any reason whatsoever to believe that this President has any special insight into the matter;
- insists that his position on the issue prevail over everyone else’s’
- and is willing to hurt the nation as a way of gaining the dominance on the issue he wants.
No one who operates like that, who wields his power like that, is fit to be President.
There’s a possibility that Trump doesn’t really believe the wall is a good idea, but doesn’t care about that. In that case, we’re back to defects of character rendering him unfit.
The other possibility is that he actually believes his understanding is superior to everyone else’s, including experts, despite his own ignorance. In that case, he’s showing dangerous defects of intellect.
We’ve seen these defects before, when Trump has made important decisions against pretty much all expert opinion, including the people he himself has handpicked. Like withdrawing from the Iran agreement against the counsel of his major national security advisors; and like withdrawing American troops from Syria in a way opposed by his national security team.
(Just last week, we saw Trump declare that the Fed is the economy’s only problem, because the Fed doesn’t understand markets well like he does; and then the response from the markets — its plunge when Trump threatened the Fed, its bounce when he relented — made it as clear as could be that it is Trump and not the Fed that doesn’t understand what the markets need.)
Whether Trump acts like he “knows more than the Generals” because he really believes it, or because he doesn’t care what’s true or care about consequences when he throws his weight around, either way: Trump displays an intellectual approach not just unacceptable, but downright dangerous, in a President.
The implication of this picture for those engaged in protecting the nation — the Democrats, the media — is that Trump should be pressed to justify his high-handed approach on the wall issue. More particularly, he should be compelled to explain why what he thinks on the issue should prevail over what everyone else thinks– including those who know the most on the issue.
Pressing Trump to justify himself seems a badly neglected part of the overall American effort to deal with this dangerous presidency.
This recommendation is, basically, the same one I presented several weeks ago on the issue of climate change (“An Opportune Moment to Hit Trump on Climate Change“).
After Trump’s own government released a report on climate change that showed how costly and painful will be the consequences of climate change if the challenge we face is not adequately met, Trump dismissed it with the line, “I don’t believe that.”
I recommended that politicians, climate activists, and the media, go after him relentlessly to demand that he explain on what basis he could disbelieve what the experts had told all of us.
This President should not be allowed to take indefensible positions without being pressed to defend them.
Pressing Trump to defend his indefensible declarations and positions would not likely evoke any serious response, but it would at least help expose to the people the utter intellectual bankruptcy that underlies his leadership.
And that, in turn, can help gather ever more Americans to the essential, and undeniable conclusion: this man is unfit to be President of the United States, and the protection of the nation requires that he be stripped of the powers of that office.