Why the President’s Defenders are Wrong

Yes, it’s me again, the Repentant (R). With the keyboard in hand I stand today to challenge those of my (R) brethren who want you to believe what the U.S. president says, and how he behaves don’t matter.

The next time President Trump lashes out on Twitter to bully or belittle someone, or to incite an angry conversation, a few of my (R) brethren will jump up and defend him, whether out of belief in the man, or out of blind duty. They will challenge the rest of us to look at his actions, not “the other stuff.” Friends, let us do just that.

The Trumpist: Look, focus on the good he’s done. He’s doing what he said he’d do, he’s blowing Washington D.C. up and draining the swamp! He’s doing what he promised!

Not really. Last I checked, D.C. is there and functioning (though just how well is a different matter). Scandals within his administration are on track to at least equal those of his predecessors. His personal scandals may exceed those of any president in history. The hard right-tested refrain of “drain the swamp” played well with the Trump base, but had little basis in reality.

The Trumpist: He’s cutting burdensome regulations, freeing companies to be more innovative and productive! 

True. But another Republican president would do the same.

The Trumpist: He’s removing limitations on our military, giving them more options against ISIS. 

True. But another Republican president would do the same.

The Trumpist: He’s pro-business, and the stock market is on fire since he took office. 

True. But any other Republican president would be pro-business. The stock market trajectory has been constant for years. The run-up seen since Trump’s election would likely be no different with another Republican president. What another Republican president might not be doing, however, is interjecting uncertainty into the market as Trump has done with his expanding protectionist actions.

The Trumpist: He cut taxes. 

True, he signed a tax-cut. But here’s the thing, Republicans in Congress needing to get something done before facing re-election this fall were just as responsible for the tax-cut. The tax-cut set us on a course that will see a trillion-dollar deficit in the near term. So, yes, he signed an enormous tax-cut. How likely is it another Republican president signs it? Difficult to say. Can you tell me the detail of the effects of the tax-cut 3 years from now? Should he have signed it without meaningful spending cuts? Perhaps another Republican president would have thought better of it.

The Trumpist: He promised to repeal and replace Obama Care (ACA), and when the media interfered, he was still able to gut it.

OK, after being unable to get the deal to repeal and replace the ACA, Plan B saw him get the personal mandate removed, which may eventually gut much of the ACA. But the ensuing uncertainty is not a good thing for our health care system and economy. The health care industry is complex, and significant improvement will not come through such a simple change. This is akin to standing in the middle of the fireworks factory, lighting a fuse, giving them a big thumb’s up and then smiling to the adoring crowd. And doing it without knowing how you will exit the building. Tell me how the story ends if you can. 

The Trumpist: He’s doing so much good stuff even while the media is waging a relentless campaign to smear him, block his agenda and ruin his presidency through fake news! 

Well, yes, the mainstream media doesn’t care for him. It’s unusual that they adore any Republican president. But here, Trump is different. He is his own worst enemy. If the press has a bias against you, stop picking fights with it. The adage of not picking a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel works just as well in this digital era as it did in the heyday of the printed newspaper. His childish tweets, need for the last word and racist remarks are both embarrassing, and unworthy of the Oval Office. My words and indiscriminate, offhand remarks don’t matter. Those of the U.S. president do. 

Let’s not overlook another favorite and serial excuse for Trump’s behavior.

The Trumpist: He’s not a conventional politician!

True. But he still gets measured by what he is achieving versus the costs we are incurring. The decadence of the Trump Atlantic City casinos did not keep them from going bankrupt. The costs far outweighed the benefits. This excuse is not just empty, it’s dangerous.

Things Trump Enjoys

Trump’s penchant for calling people names is not just childish, it sets a terrible example for America’s children.  If it’s OK for the president of the United States to call people names, why can’t our kids do it? How do we explain that to kids? Don’t tell me, let me guess. “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Right up there with “because.”

Trump’s penchant for using vulgar language in public settings is not just in poor taste, it reflects a personal coarseness. If it’s OK for the president of the United States to be vulgar and coarse, why shouldn’t it be OK for your kids to be that way?

Trump’s penchant to take to Twitter and retaliate when someone criticizes him, or to bully people with whom he disagrees is not just embarrassing to our nation, it demeans the presidency. If it’s OK for the U.S. president to behave in this way, why isn’t it acceptable for everyone?

Trump’s penchant of praising leaders such as Putin and Xi is not just odd, it sends a disturbing message to other leaders and to our children. If it’s OK for the U.S. president to heap praise upon authoritarian regimes, why should we expect our kids to grow up valuing our democracy? Why should we expect our allies to continue to have faith in us as a partner in democracy?

Many of us have long criticized the march toward identity politics in this nation. Yet we have a president who embraces it. If it’s OK for him to indulge in this practice, why should it surprise us when our kids view the world through this lens and think it normal? How can we criticize them for thinking, speaking and acting as he does without being hypocrites?

The Hard Questions

If you are one of those who say focus on what he has done and not what he says or how he behaves, it’s time for you to stop and ask yourself the hard questions.

“Do I condone his behavior and think it harmless?”

“Am I so thankful for my tax-cut I will pay any price for it, including integrity, honor, truth and compassion?”

“Do I believe the path he has set us on in the international arena is correct?” If so, can you point to the history that supports it?

Try this one – “Do I believe he has such singular capabilities that I will sit back and watch him destroy the fabric of our nation?”

Or this one – “Am I so unconcerned with damaging the fabric of the nation my children will live in that I can just dismiss that our Commander-in-Chief involved himself with a porn start mere months after the birth of his son to his wife of only a year and a half?”

Can you listen to these questions and in good conscience ignore what this man is doing to our nation? Have we lowered the bar that far?

When Did I Stop Thinking?

I’m a fan of Fox News, but it’s getting tiresome to hear them defending his behavior with “stories” so thin they are laughable. They have become as siren as many of their competitors.

This brings the conversation around to the questions any and every thinking (R) needs to ask him or herself today: 

Did I vote for this? Have I shut my brain off and now just drink the talk-radio Kool-Aid? 

Just because I am unhappy with Washington D.C., or mad that something is making my life more difficult, am I willing to leave my kids a nation worse off than the one I my parents left me?

I voted for Trump and hoped he’d rise to the job. He hasn’t.  Sorry Fox News and Patriot radio, but I prefer not to let you do my thinking for me. While I voted for Trump, I did not give up my brain, jettison my moral compass or stop believing in the essential fabric of America.

America is a nation of values, customs and toleration. A nation with a long and proud history of sacrifice in the name of the greater good, idealism and optimism. This is the culture of America. It is the fabric which has held us together for over 200 years. We are not perfect, but our fabric shows we have the ability to self-examine, self-critique and improve. 

Are we ready to discard this fabric in the name of making excuses for Donald Trump’s behavior? Are we willing to set aside our principles, morals and integrity to explain away the behavior of Donald Trump? If the answer is yes, then I suggest you ask yourself the obvious question. “Where will I draw the line?” 

Erosion does not happen over night. It happens over time, and that makes it easy to miss. When something awakens you, and you discover it has been eating away at your foundation, it’s often too late to fix it. Time for you to act.

As a proud member of the party of Lincoln, I’m certain he is looking down on our nation tonight, and wondering where our better angels have gone?The 

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