In less than a month, President Trump has proven many of his critics right when they warned that his erratic temperament would be a poor fit for his White House responsibilities, notes Lawrence Davidson.
By Lawrence Davidson
There is something both horrifying and fascinating about the behavior of President Trump, as we watch him fail to cope with – or perhaps even recognize – the differences between the no-holds-barred world he created for his campaign and the much more polite and temperate world expected of leaders of a constitutional government.
As a result, the present White House appears to be a dysfunctional place. Apparently neither President Trump nor most of his staff have considered that there are real differences, different rules of behavior, between private and public life. Maintaining the model of the abusive boss, the know-it-all CEO (Trump’s preferred modus operandi), has, in quick order, proved both inappropriate and self-defeating. Here then are some of the consequences:
—The President has refused to stop being the avaricious businessman and relinquish control of his assets. As a result he will soon be facing an increasing number of lawsuits brought by various ethics organizations charging that his refusal to place his holdings in a blind trust violates the “emoluments clause” of the Constitution. The contention is that this can only lead to “scandal, corruption and illegitimacy.”
—The rush to impose a ban on immigration into the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries – imposed by executive order within ten days of inauguration – proved a sloppy piece of work. Trump simply assumed public opinion to be on his side and that this opinion could stand in for legal legitimacy. It didn’t work. The ban caused chaos and hardship, and quickly the courts temporarily set it aside as unconstitutional. The Justice Department lawyers, who had largely been kept out of the loop by the White House, did not have evidence that there was any real danger, historically or immediate, from immigrants of the countries cited in the ban. Pending a “total rewrite” or an appeal to the Supreme Court, Trump’s immigration ban is at a dead end.
—In the meantime, Trump has, in a manner that has become typical for him, attempted to delegitimize judicial opposition – opposition that anyone who is constitutionally savvy knows is solidly lawful. Thus, his “so-called judge” statement. It may be an indication of the President’s enduring immaturity that he believes that anyone who stands in his way is a target for bullying and slander. And, indeed, in the private sphere where Donald Trump has been able to use his money to make his own rules, this tactic apparently did sometimes work.
So, as if by habit, he has carried it over to the public sphere, where it is completely out of place and only makes him look childish. Except to those adoring fans who were so visible on the campaign trail, his loose verbiage also makes Trump look like a “loser.” Trump’s own nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, has described the President’s bad-mouthing the federal judge who suspended the immigration ban as “disheartening” and “discouraging.”
There is one other point that is to be made about this “so-called judge” episode. It has turned the judge, James Robart (who is a “mainstream” Republican), into a potential target for violence. Having used abusive language throughout his campaign and seen the emotions it aroused, Trump is very likely to be aware that he is risking incitement to violence.
—There are many other moments of Trumpian bluster, such as his yelling at the Australian prime minister during an official phone call, or his threatening to send troops across the Mexican border during a call to the president of Mexico. All of this might reinforce his image as a tough guy, but in the political and diplomatic world that now holds him in a spotlight, he starts to remind people of other past cases of bullies in power, most of whom happen to be fascists of the 1920s and 1930s.
A Shift in Protest Personnel
As a result of Trump’s bravado, there has been a rapid shift in public activism from the Right to what in the U.S. passes for the Left. Just as is the case with the populist Republicans, there is a segment of the Democratic Party base that feels disenfranchised. Some of them tried to do something about this by backing Bernie Sanders. But that was unsuccessful. However, with Trump’s victory, rightwing populism abated, and almost immediately, it was replaced by the inchoate mass of “Left” populists you see hitting the streets today.
It is the Sanders folks plus a whole array of special interest groups who feel very threatened by an empowered Right. There is no reason to believe that the anti-Trump array is going to be intimidated and give up. Indeed, the Left activists’ challenge is to coalesce into a real united front.
That should be made easier if Trump stays true to form, lurching from one outrageous move to another. And all the signs point down that road. The “so-called president” has ratcheted up his deportation efforts, allowing individual immigration officials discretion to go after any immigrant without proper documentation no matter of what age or the length of time they have been here. This is the equivalent of giving an army open-ended marching orders, and it is bound to result in abuses of power. He has begun his wall project for the southern border – an effort modeled after Israel’s infamous and illegal “separation (aka apartheid) wall.”
He has begun the gutting of environmental and consumer safety regulations, a move which will poison the air and water for the sake of greater corporate profit. He has started to deregulate the banks – a strategy that, historically, has always eventually led to economic crisis. And, of course, attacking abortion and LGBT rights is also on his agenda. There is enough here to keep millions agitated for at least the next four years.
Opportunities and Risks
Thus, even though we are still early in his administration, there is no sign that anyone can control the President’s addiction to gaffes. He is an immature, thin-skinned egotist, and in the end, this may well cost the Republicans dearly.
However, one does have to give President Trump his due. He has a really exceptional ability to stir up the American political scene. For progressives such agitation creates opportunities and risks. There is now an opportunity for a truly united front of progressives that can reform the Democratic Party and give us, in the near term, a viable alternative to the manic CEO and rightwing radicals now occupying the White House.
On the other hand, there is the risk that the apparatchiks who now control the Democratic Party will misread their situation. They might well fail to understand the meaning of the Tea Party movement’s capture of the Republican Party, and resist meaningful reform of their own party. If they can get away with this, it will leave the progressives without a political home. That will make reclaiming a progressive future much harder and the reign of the Right much longer. We will have to wait and see.
Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism. He blogs at www.tothepointanalyses.com.
It puzzles me that the federal judges, including those in the Supreme Court, have yet to realize that Trump has disrespected and demeaned all of them with his reference to one of their members as a “so-called” judge.
There is now an opportunity for a truly united front of progressives that can reform the Democratic Party and give us, in the near term, a viable alternative to the manic CEO and rightwing radicals now occupying the White House.
Lotsaluck on that one. Through a relative I was involved with Alcoholics Anonymous for a time during which I learned one of the essentials for recovery is an admission to being an addict. I don’t see anyone in the Democratic Party, especially in the oligarchy, anywhere near admitting they are addicted to a lust for power that has the party completely corrupt.
Trump is very likely to be aware that he is risking incitement to violence.
This statement is probably giving credit for intelligence he may not deserve.
To ADL, this government has been dysfunctional for a long time, and Trump is providing a catalyst for cracking it open with his chaotic persona and personnel. How wide open it cracks, remains to be seen. Obama provided a veneer of respectability while continuing policies of brutality. Ask the Pakistanis whose family members have been killed by drones what they think of the US. And the Iraqis, Syrians, Hondurans, and how many others? We are now living in a security and police state as never before, and it isn’t all on Trump. We have all been the frog in the slowly heating-up pot of water.
Well said. A little rationality goes a long way.
You are talking about US Government and policies in totality. And I agree – especially with our constant warmongering. I am a Vietnam era person lucky enough by student deferment to avoid fighting in that slaughter, and abhor what we do to other countries and people throughout the world.
But to somehow someway equate Trump as just another politician, as a rational wise reasonable person, who I may or may not agree with on some issues is not reality – certainly not based on his words or actions. I would submit that it is only based on people’s hope, or pre conceived beliefs that we couldn’t actually vote in a incompetent fool as Prez. Yes we did.
The ‘cracking open’ you speak of – again I agree. This is not a good thing. It can and will lead to disaster, unless that cracking actually has a thoughtful reason to do it, and a well rationed plan to fix. What we have now is pure destruction plain and simple.
Tear down, trash people and institutions, and personally profit. ALWAYS personally profit.
Sure the bureaucracies in the Fed Govt will function for awhile, or not. No we will not have a total wipeout of institutions running the Fed and States – like we perpetrated in Iraq. So I guess there is the illusion that all is well – give him a chance, right?
For those on the right who somehow believe Trump is just a different version of their ideology – hardly. He is not Nixon, Bush, Reagan, etc who had knowledge and experience in governing, who had thought out how to proceed or change Domestic or FP. Who had a long and ready list of capable experienced advisors, and Cabinet level officials. Who knew what they were doing!
Trump himself, and most of his advisors/cabinet are completely totally unqualified. No knowledge or experience. Just soundbites and attacks. Since there is no substance he hides behind the attacks like the Wiz of Oz. We could not do worse grabbing the 1st person off the street.
This is a Monty Python skit come to life as our government. And no one should be surprised because his ‘governing’ is and will be just like his campaign. Lies, braggadocio, bullying, cliches, and constant fearmongering.
Good grief how can anyone listen to his fearmongering, demonizing everyone, and not understand the consequences of such?
This is the road and vison and values of America?
How many other Presidents have made a ‘name’ for themselves by lying for 5 years about the birthplace of our previous prez?
This is not a ‘cracking open’, this is demagoguery. Or as my sister in law says – Make America white again.
This is not business as usual with just a quirky guy in charge.
Don’t put this on neocons, or liberals, or media, or deep state. It is Trump. All Trump.
How is his behavior “erratic”? He’s been consistent with all he’s been saying as well as doing. Let’s face it, it’s not a typical presidency. I don’t think you’re putting yourself in his shoes.
Zachary – Trump has also said he wants to bring the Glass-Steagall law back, a separation between commercial and investment banking. That way the banks can do all the deals they want on the “investment” side of things, but the losses will be THEIR losses. Let’s give him some time. IF he is thinking of reinstating this law, do you think we’d ever hear about it in the MSM? No.
Are you serious? He is just about to gut Dodd-Frank!
Thank you Druid because when Trump says those kind of contradictory things that’s when I scratch my head too. Although I have heard him say he would consider bringing back Glass-Steagal which would be a good thing, I hope that when he says Todd-Frank must be repealed that he means to replace it with something better…but I have my doubts, BTW I’m putting my money on doubts winning out.
Trump’s quest for detente with Russia is a no brainier good thing, but his mean fist shaking at Iran is totally bothersome, as is his threatening stance on China is equally a worry. Trump is a hard nut to crack when it comes to our trying to see where his intentions lay, but Trump’s task may prove to big and immovable for him to deal with….everything’s a deal with him, and what’s most important to him is how he comes out looking in the deal. Kind of like sales representatives using high gross numbers, while hiding losing low net numbers…I have seen careers in the corporate world be made of such obscurantist….funny how those overseers seem to often miss this quick of the hand….is it incompetence on their part, or conclusion, in any case it’s inadequate.
“Figures never lie, but liars always figure”!
I meant to put this link here…
Same as above.
Yes as you say Trump literally says one thing and contradicts it next day. I will bet my last $ on Trump never ever doing Glass-Steagal or anything close.
Again people – Trump has no vision, or policies, or ideas, EXCEPT enriching himself and fellow white rich males.
The only reason he is easy on Russia is for $$$$ for him. There is no deep thinking/realpolitiks/world vision going on.
Whenever T is asked to explain, or elaborate, about anything he is lost. A simpleton. This is not a knowledgeable man about anything concerning how to run a government, or economy, or foreign affairs. It is all sound bites and superficial nonsense.
It might be he is removing this (non)regulation in order to leave the door wide open for calls to reinstate Glass-Steagall, which he said he would reinstate. This would force bankruptcy re-organization, thus wiping out all false claims, assets, fraudulent banksters, and possibly cancelling out any indebtedness Trump has to these criminal banksters (I would rank self-interest pretty high up on the list of what makes Trump tick; plus some of the 1%ers can see that the peasants are getting in an ugly mood, which dictates another New Deal, just to save their own hides).
At some point we need to stop acting like the opposition to Trump is causing his problems. That it is the Dems, media, IC, elitists,etc, who are to blame and not giving him a chance. Stop it. It is all on Trump.
Anybody, anybody at all who thinks this will change, turnaround, or somehow get better is living in a fantasy world. We elected a totally incompetent buffoon and grifter, let along a racist and misogynist. It will ONLY get worse. And he has the power now as Prez to really really make things worse. Irreparably worse. Horribly worse. Great recession worse.
Anything he might actually do that turns out for the good of America will be by pure luck, or most probably just a side bar from some scheme to enrich himself in money or ego. Good god – he is what he is, Let’s dispense with this pseudo rationalizing that he might help relations with Russia or any country, or help the economy, or jobs or anything.
He knows nothing of Domestic, Economic, or Foreign Policy. But even worse is his total inability to even care – it is completely a reality show for the largest egomaniac in the world. Every Cabinet Appointee either has no experience, and/or no education, and/or actually has worked against and believes in the opposite of their agencies directives.
To paraphrase Rummy – Trump doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know.
And we are 1 month – ONE MONTH – into this insanity.
But let Judge Painter say it better:
“The leader of the band of Mad Hatters occupying the White House has already insulted allied world leaders, issued illegal and badly written orders, impugned a “so-called” judge appointed by his own party, and appointed the least-qualified cabinet ever. The first secretary of state was Thomas Jefferson. Trump appointed a big-oil executive with close ties to Russia. The first treasury secretary was Alexander Hamilton. Trump appointed a former Goldman Sachs exec who got rich foreclosing on homeowners. The national security advisor lasted 24 days.
And all that’s just at the time I write this. Who knows what happens next. Each new day is a new nightmare. We are still trying to digest one breathtaking assault on America when another is signed, issued, or tweeted. All this amid constant lies. Constant. Lies.”
Yes I celebrate when a crazy man like Flynn is gone, and I will celebrate other most certain resignations, firings, or Trump made disasters. But it will not taste good. For Trump, and us by association as citizens, are destroying this country. And probably endangering this world. Imagine 4 years of full-on deregulation in the energy world, and how hard it is to fix something so badly broken. We are being broken and it scares that crap out of me.
But we do need to call a spade a spade. It is Trump – all Trump.
You appear to have nailed it. Still, Trump hasn’t yet started a war, and so far as I know hasn’t reneged on his campaign promise to stop the TPP in its tracks.
I knew going in he wasn’t worth a pewter **** regarding Global Warming, but then neither was Queen Hillary.
We were forced into a choice between two horrible candidates, and time will tell if we erred.
You’re plain wrong and belligerent to continue to blame our president, Mr. Trump, who is only trying to “Make America Great Again”.
And what, ME, are you smoking?
“For Trump, and us by association as citizens, are destroying this country.” That destruction was done a long time ago.
ADL be patient the media is working as hard and fast as they can to get Trump out of office.
ADL I hear you. I hear you in my whole family, except for Uncle Jack. America is losing it’s mine waking up every morning to hear our media give us Breaking News updates on the Donald’s latest tweet. Tweets about loser judges, and how unfair Nordstroms is. Then we the people are beat down with Russian interference into our election process. How much did AIPAC donate doesn’t matter, but Russians not wanting a candidate who refers to their president as being a Hitler to win is just plain over the line….seriously have we all gone nuts?
We can do better than Trump. What we need is to form somekind of movement to bring down the corporate inverted fascism that has overtaken our country. Here is where I can only offer lofty words for inspiration since I have no tactical plan to put in action….Don Quixote chasing at windmills kind of. But onward we must go and instill in the younger generation a sense of direction for them to get involved and change this system which drags mankind down to such depths of despair….or something like that.
Hope you found the humor in there somewhere….Joe
I wish people would relax a little. It has only been a month, so far, almost everything is business as usual.
Did we all wake up a month ago to find that our ship is suddenly sinking? It has been sinking for a long time now, and frankly it doesnt matter who is at the wheel, this thing is going down regardless.
All of the hysteria from both sides is driving me nuts! I think everyone has lost their mind.
Fascinating essay with a real mix of thought-provoking ideas I’m going to watch that bank deregulation business as carefully as I can, for after reading the new book “The Unbanking of America” I’m to the point of wondering if a bank is something I trust at all.
That could be correct, but I’ve got a nagging notion that the judge-baiting is due more to cluelessness than malice.
Based on his personality and history involving some of his court cases, I’m going with malice.
I’m with you Zachary. With deregulation we may be in for a variation of what was behind “The Big Short.” Banks need regulations or they can drive us into another world recession. Lucky for Canada the Conservative Prime Minister at the time didn’t get the chance to deregulate Canadian banks unlike the American ones, and when the cheap mortgage balloon burst, was better able to cushion the global consequences there.
Trump’s vocalizations on the Middle East have been pathetic, especially his called to slow down the settlements. Exactly how is one to interpret and understand that?!
As for the judge, I’ll go with MP, malice. Revenge comes easy to Trump.
John P – “Lucky for Canada the Conservative Prime Minister at the time didn’t get the chance to deregulate Canadian banks unlike the American ones, and when the cheap mortgage balloon burst, was better able to cushion the global consequences there.”
Canada had no doc, no money down, cash backs just like the U.S. They increased their amortization from 25 years to 30 years, then to 35 years, then to 40 years. The difference is that in Canada, they rushed in and bailed the banks out before they started to twist (they saw what was happening in the U.S.) A bailout is a bailout.
As Canada has about 1/10th the population of the U.S., its bailout was proportional to the U.S. bailout.
Should we be concerned watching them all at the top line up for the exits? Seriously with a National Debt so high what other way out is there? Even the Fed printing press had to finally slow down watching countries like China dump their bonds. You could put your money into a credit union, but I would suspect that somehow under some patriotic sounding bill and with just the right circumstances of dire consequences that even those safe places could be brought down with the rest of us….think Dickens. Cheer up though, because we will all have each other….read this; Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression by Studs Terkel.
As much as I find fault with Donald Trump’s style of presidency I am bothered to if what we are watching is a military junta being presented to us in our living rooms by a bought and paid for military industrial complex media careerist establishment that will eagerly say whatever it’s told to say and if this is so then what’s that mean? God who to root for, the bad guys on the left, or the bad guys on the right…if I were teaching fifth grade social studies I would advice the students to get a vocational job, and stay low.
What always bothers me is the price of bomb, and then a bridge collapse or a dam break. Add to that fixed incomes held hostage by a weapons industry to stubborn to consider any alternative. A weapons industry who just by its tooling design could easily overnight turn weapons into ploughshares, and won’t because it can’t see beyond the war market. Squeezing profit out of an outdated system of colonialism is a deadman walking. I hope that the new generation coming up, yes my beloved snowflake grandchildren will answer the call, and they will save poor Mother Earth while saving themselves from financial and nuclear disaster.
Joe – you probably realize this, but when you put your money in a savings account in a bank, that money is no longer your’s. You just lent it to the banks. That’s why they pay you the big bucks for lending your money to them – a whole 1%! If the banks get in trouble, you are just another creditor.
Of course, that’s why there’s FDIC insurance. But after the 2008 crisis, the politicians decided it would be better not to bail out the banks again, so they decided to pass a law for a “bail-in”.
“Back in 2012, the FDIC met with the Bank of England in a joint conference to hash out the framework for bail-in procedures should not only banks go insolvent, but also should there be a sovereign debt default in the wake of a financial collapse. And perhaps most importantly for the common man and individual, the FDIC now has the power to write down your account without ever having to compensate you through promised insurance as they were required by law prior to this conference, and the passage of Dodd-Frank.”
“So… if a large bank fails in the US, the FDIC steps in and takes over, replacing management, and works to shrink the bank by writing-down liabilities and converting debt into equity.
In other words… any liability at the bank is in danger of being written-down should the bank fail. And guess what? Deposits are considered liabilities according to US Banking Law and depositors are creditors.”
Thanks for the article. I know that Harper wanted to free the Canadian banks from some regulations which American banks had been released from. I do know that the problem was global but thought that Canada hadn’t suffered as badly as the US. My fear today is that with low interest rates, slack if any growth in middle class salaries, and increased personal debt, we are on a very fine knife edge.
John P – Canada’s media is no different than the U.S. media. Half-truths, omissions and lies are allowed to flow freely, but unfortunately the truth has a hard time escaping. Canada is on the edge of an abyss.
After everything I wrote then I read this……
John P. It was the Chretien/P, Martin (Liberal) government that refused de-regulate the banking system. When US eliminated the Glass-Stegal act….Conservatives in Canada wanted to do the same thing……It was Paul Martin as the Finance Minister who refused to follow.
I read on E.I.R., in the Hot News section, that the Wall Streeters were warning Trump against repeal of Dodd-Frank, because removal of this piss-poor, too-weak, and porous regulation will leave the door wide open for calls to bring back Glass-Steagall regs (an issue that Trump actually promised to rectify when President). The banksters truly fear Glass-Steagall, because of its complete separation of “passbook” banking from their fraudulent casino operations, making two entities out of the, now monstrous, one financial entity, servicing the good, the bad, AND the ugly. But even more dreadful (for the banksters) is it brings on bankruptcy reorganization, thus exposing all the fraud (and all the banksters to jail terms). Like the battle of Sedan in WWI (I think I have the right battle; historians correct me if I’m wrong), Glass-Steagall is the high ground, the high point-to-be-gained/denied, around which ALL of the swirling battles rage, here AND abroad. Whether we re-apply Glass-Steagall, or fail to, determines ALL of the following outcomes concerning whether the World will embrace Nation-Building, lead by China’s and Russia’s Eurasian Bloc, or embrace coups, assassinations, regime-change wars, cold wars, even WWIII, lead by the Anglo-American Imperium holding sway over the Trans-Atlantic Community.
“The apparatchiks who now control the Democratic Party” have been ‘misreading’ the situation for so long now that they are convinced their reading is correct. Unless and until they own up to their party’s moribund condition and make an authentic overture to the Independents as well as the alienated factions of their own base, they will simply continue on life support until all hope for a recovery is gone. (While, in the meantime, in the interest of maintaining control, continuing to drain resources away from potentially successful political hopefuls who offer at least a chance at revitalization).
What they don’t get, and what I’ve been trying to tell the Democrat females in my family, is that the They No Longer Control the Narrative. It’s that simple. All attempts to deny that, or attempts to regain control, will fail. The Narrative is now telling itself.
I am not a supporter of Trump or Hillary but how can anybody do their job when they are constantly being attacked by a bunch of paranoid people who are screaming all the time in congress, in the media, in social media, and almost everywhere?! Someone once said that Americans are perpetual adolescents…..I think that it is an understatement because Americans are unruly spoiled kids…..Democracy needs three attributes : informed, engaged, adults to succeed and Americans FAIL on all accounts……
Dr. Soudy – couldn’t have even tried to say it better than you did. Great post!
WITH ALL DUE RESPECT….
In one sense the “screams” are counterproductive.
In specific cases, if you are a person of color and
your son has been gunned down–“legally”???–
by “the authorities” (chose your color), you tend
less to be “an informed engaged adult”
(I Soudy) etc.
Similar conclusions undermine the “screams” on
other issues, The Black Lives Matter cited
by this writer above is just one example.
As anyone can tell you, at the point of oppression
such as murder, home appropriation, and the like
using weapons often made in the USA (“America
first”!) the sufferer is not always interested in
a cool analysis such as one might find in academia.
Survival is the only issue and fewer and fewer do survive.
—-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA