I did not have high hopes for a Donald Trump presidency. He is the most manifestly unfit person for that office in my lifetime and, no, I have not forgotten about George W. Bush. But I also thought that he was elected under our rules and that he deserved an opportunity to prove how he would govern. We are starting to find out.
His picks for top positions have been, in my opinion, uniformly horrible and/or unqualified. But I expected nothing less. There are after all consequences to elections. When you oppose someone strenuously on policy grounds, that person’s appointments are not going to be favorable to your views.
There are some noteworthy exceptions, however, that should be condemned universally. Placing Steve Bannon, a supporter of white supremacist and anti-Semitic organizations, in one of the top positions in the White House is one of those. While Bannon denies being a white nationalist – he says he is an “economic nationalist” – he has unhesitatingly bragged about his efforts in bringing the antiseptically named “alt-right” to the foreground.
Then there is General Michael Flynn, Trump’s pick for National Security Adviser, who has trafficked in ludicrous conspiracy theories, including one saying Hillary Clinton was a leader of a child sex trafficking network that operated out of pizza shop basement.
It would be bad enough if the President-Elect had the maturity and wisdom that comes to most people when they hit 70, but he has consistently demonstrated the attention span and temperament of a pre-pubescent adolescent.
When I read last week that he was skipping the daily intelligence briefings on national security issues, I sarcastically tweeted that it was perhaps because he thought they concerned his own intelligence. In an indication that we may be entering a post-ironic age to accompany the post-truth one we seem to be in, this is what the soon-to-be leader of the free world said in an interview: “I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.”
Every now and then I encounter other smart people. To a person they acknowledge that the world is a static place and there is little value in even following the news of the day.
One of the matters Trump does not need to hear about is the conclusion of the CIA that Russia was involved in our election and that Vladimir Putin favored the Republican nominee. He thinks it as likely that a 400-pound person in his mother’s basement may be as responsible for the hacking of Democratic and Republican data as the Russian oligarch.
He argues that he had one of the largest electoral margins in history – a statement, like so many others by him, that is not true. (There are actually some facts that even in this post-truth age are undeniable.) While many of his rants can be attributed to some perceived slight – in this case that he lost the popular vote by almost 3,000,000 – he may also be reacting to what he thinks is an attack on the legitimacy of the election. Forget that he was the first person to claim the election was rigged – before he won.
There are, of course, those who think the only reason Hillary Clinton lost could have been Russian interference. It’s not clear to me how that could be – absent evidence of hacking voting machines – and I can think of ten reasons why she lost solely attributable to her deficiencies as a candidate.
But a foreign country – particularly one with a long history of antagonistic relations with us – having any involvement in our elections would be a major crisis.
It becomes even more troublesome when one considers Donald Trump’s one-way bro-romance with Vladimir Putin and the close connections of some of his top advisers to Russia. There was one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort’s close connections with pro-Russian forces that was a major factor in his leaving the campaign. And now we have “likely” Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, who actually received the Russian “Order of Friendship” personally from Putin.
I don’t understand this fascination with the autocratic kleptocrat by the Trump people. I think back to George W. Bush assuring us that he “looked into Putin’s heart” and everything would be good. Of course, nothing touched by Bush was ever good, but we seem to be entering another period when Putin has seduced a naive Republican President.