Commentary: After a full year, it seems fair to say that Donald Trump has been even worse than we expected.
It's not just the special counsel investigation, abandoning the Paris Accord on climate, and his ludicrous effort to resuscitate the coal industry. Nor is it the deep harm he's doing our judiciary, our environment, and consumer protection.
A random scan of one day's online New York Times is illustrative: Trump has been eerily silent regarding Alabama U.S. Senate nominee Roy Moore as women come forward regarding his taste for underage girls – a taste that was well known in little Gadsden, Alabama when he was a 32 year-old prosecutor banned from the local mall for bothering teenage girls; he's considering a special counsel to investigate a 2010 uranium deal; his envoys to a United Nations climate-change conference got jeered throughout their presentation; his choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services, which regulates the pharmaceutical industry, is a former Eli Lilly executive, after his first nominee misused public funds by using chartered jets for routine travel; Donald Trump, Jr. is admitting (after exposure by the press) multiple contacts with WikiLeaks, which published documents from Russia to help candidate Trump; the former pesticide industry executive he appointed to a top Department of Agriculture position has apparently reneged on her signed agreement to avoid matters on which she had lobbied during the past two years, and is under fire for alleged secrecy in meeting with her former industry allies; Missouri is opening an antitrust investigation of Google, as states and Europe deal with antitrust issues the U.S. used to handle; Republican columnist David Brooks discusses the “dysfunctional group behavior” that helped bring us “Roy Moore and Donald Trump, and the repugnant habits of mind that now excuse them,” while the editorial, entitled “President Trump's Thing for Thugs,” discusses Trump's apparent “man-crush” on Vladimir Putin and his fondness for Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.
Even if he serves one term (or less), Trump's blunders will have long-lasting effects. Time lost in dealing with our climate problems is time the seas keep rising faster than they might have, wiping out island countries. Minimizing barriers to drug companies' abuses of consumers will mean some people die prematurely or grow ill unnecessarily. Greedily implementing a huge regressive change in our tax system will exacerbate our dangerous economic imbalance and jack up the deficit Republicans used to care about.
He and his party are disregarding rules and traditions that protected us and helped foster at least the possibility of bipartisanship. If both parties follow Trump's lead in appointing extremist judges, our courts will become as dysfunctional as our congress.
Obama, bending over backwards for civility, resisted calls to investigate the Bush Administration, although Bush lied to sell us the Iraq War, which killed or injured many soldiers and more Iraqis, and the administration apparently tortured people, violating the Geneva Accords and U.S. law.
Trump is trying to order the Justice Department to go after Hillary Clinton with no good reason – mostly hoping that if Robert Mueller was a potential target or witness, he could be accused of a conflict of interest and encouraged to resign as Special Prosecutor. We have a system where presidents are not supposed to use the Department of Justice as a blatant political tool; or at least we had one.
But there's a lot in Las Cruces to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!
[Couple of interesting articles on some of the material mentioned in the column:
, which was involved in Russian disclosures aimed at influencing the election and apparently provided the campaign with Russian-hacked "dirt" on Hillary Clinton;
-- another from thehill.com on the fact that Roy Moore's obsession with young girls was obvious to everyone in town, when he was a prosecutor in his early 30's;
-- this New Yorker piece that I'd read earlier in the week on how everyone in town knew about Moore, who was banned from the local mall;
-- this opinion piece by a law professor who shared Roy Moore's Christianity and conservatism but found Moore a real problem in class. Moore took stupid positions, defended them vigorously, wouldn't change his opinion despite evidence and authorities, and never won a legal argument in class, but was basically (though the professor is too courteous to sum it up so bluntly) an aggressive and somewhat loony jerk;
-- Adam Davidson's New Yorker piece on "The Shocking Math of the Republican Tax Plan;
-- and this one from Vanity Fair on economists' universal skepticism about "trickle-down economics", which has never worked, though the phrase has been around since at least the 1890's. Economists know it's nonsense; my limited reading of history certainly tends to show it is; and when I had a couple of mainstream economists on my show the other day on KTAL (101.5 FM), they couldn't take it seriously either. I do want to have another show, with two economists -- one further left of these guys and one more conservative -- and get a wider sampling; but just reading generally, it's hard to find any evidence that this plan won't be a complete disaster for the country, and particularly for those who aren't extremely wealthy. (I say that despite the fact that a couple of provisions in it might help me personally -- at least until we all have to deal with the destruction of the economy and massive increase in the deficit.)]
[The only point in the column I'm not really certain about is whether he's worse than expected (because our expectations were pretty low) or the expectations just never got into such detail. It's difficult to watch this play out day-by-day, and to watch Trump and his cronies screw up not just a few things but pretty much everything. It's distressing that although many people who voted for him have recognized over this year that he's a disaster for the country, the vast majority of people who voted for him say they'd do it again. However, that was (a) when his opponent was Hillary Clinton; (b) when they hadn't seen the reality of a Trump occupation of the Oval Office; (c) when they hadn't been treated to daily bursts of angry tweats that contrast with the gentlemanly nature of his predecessor, and (d) when many of them were getting health care they hadn't had before. People must be just tired of the noise, if nothing else. And (at least so far) polls certainly show him to be in deep trouble with the people.]