A Crumbling Presidency

Alan Zendell, June 1, 2020

Whether it was national defense, the environment, international trade, public health, or nuclear proliferation, the America Donald Trump inherited in 2017 was one that was fully engaged with the rest of the world. Over the course of three years in office he has trashed or withdrawn from virtually every major international treaty and agreement. He has vilified our allies and lionized the autocrats who have been happily working to destroy us. If you’re a fan of isolationism, that sounds like a record of success. If you’re a student of history, you know that portends disaster for our standing as a nation. 

From day one, Trump’s base cheered his attacks on truth, science, and the media. Many of them still do, but for most of us, the Trump clown show has grown as old as rotting fish. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released today found that nearly twice as many Americans now distrust the president as believe he is honest and truthful. The poll reports that nationally, Trump, who has used the Coronavirus Task Force as an ongoing campaign rally is trailing Joe Biden, who has mostly remained silent during the pandemic, by 53-43%, and that since March, Trump’s approval/disapproval rating on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic flipped from plus seven percentage points to minus seven.  

No one takes polls very seriously five months before an election in absolute terms, but a relative change like the reversal over Trump’s response to the virus is very significant. If we break the electorate into three parts, one third who would vote for the president even if he carried out his threat to shoot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue, one third who wouldn’t vote for him if he was running against the Devil, and one third who pay attention to facts with open  minds, that seven percent  flip is more than one fifth of group three, and from that viewpoint it’s huge. They are very likely the swing voters who will decide the next election. 

The poll was based on interviews that took place largely before the country exploded in violent protests over the murder of George Floyd by four police officers in Minneapolis, all of whom were described as complicit by the Minneapolis police chief when he fired them. It does not reflect our national horror over seeing peaceful, mournful protests taken over by anarchistic, destructive elements who would rather burn cities and relationships than heal them. It doesn’t reflect the actions of Governors, Mayors, Police Chiefs, and Sheriffs who reacted with compassion and calm leadership. Nor does it reflect the actions of thousands of police officers who faced angry mobs throwing rocks and bottles as they worked to protect citizens and property. 

It also does not reflect the actions and words of the president during this crisis. It doesn’t represent our national shock at his incendiary remarks that implied protesters should be shot. It doesn’t address his public silence or his private lambasting of governors who prefer to sympathize with and support peaceful protesters instead of ordering a military-style crackdown without distinguishing between legitimate mourners and thugs. In his conference call with governors this morning, Trump said any governor who doesn’t smash legal protests with overwhelming, indiscriminate force is weak. 

No one should be surprised by any of this. In abandoning his leadership role with respect to both the pandemic and nationwide rioting and burning, he behaved exactly as we knew he would. Donald Trump is a sociopath. Look it up – a sociopath is an antisocial individual who lacks both social responsibility and moral conscience. That sounds like a perfect description of a man who prioritizes his re-election over saving tens of thousands of lives. It correctly labels a man who hides in a bunker issuing venomous tweets against perceived enemies while ignoring the genuine pain and suffering of millions of Americans, while the real leaders are out there on the front lines. 

It’s one thing to describe Donald Trump’s severe mental health disorder in psychiatric terms. It’s another to see its impact on his ability to function in a crisis. Trump hasn’t expressed compassion and understanding for either pandemic sufferers or victims of police brutality, because he is unable to comprehend them. If we didn’t already understand that, he made it clear this morning when he told America’s governors that the whole world was laughing at them for their weak handling of the protests. Really, Mr. President? I haven’t noticed anyone laughing. I’ve heard crying and appeals for justice. My guess is that the leaders of our former allies are shaking their heads in dismay, wondering how America could have so quickly abdicated its role as leader of the free world.  

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How To Make Bad Situations Worse – A Primer

Alan Zendell, May 29, 2020

Regardless of how you feel about the presidency of Barrack Obama, one thing most of America concluded from it was that we had turned a corner as a nation. For a black man to have been elected president and served two full terms without an assassination attempt seemed like a genuine milestone for a nation barely a century-and-a-half out of slavery. I drank that Kool-aid too, and for eight years, even when I strongly disagreed with Obama’s Mideast policies, I consoled myself with pride in the fact that our national consciousness had evolved. 

One of the toughest body blows of Trump’s election was the recognition that the eight-year euphoria over improved race relations had been only an illusion. The haters had neither gone away nor changed their minds. They’d just melted into the shadows, waiting and watching. Roger Ailes, the founder of Fox News knew they were there, and he knew how their anger and frustration could be harnessed politically if he could find an ambitious politician shameless enough to pander to it. To our deep regret, he found Donald Trump. 

Trump stoked the flames of hate and divisiveness at every opportunity, appealing to an unfounded paranoia that everyone but him wanted to take peoples’ guns away and affording racists and neo-Nazis a level of respect that was an affront to every decent American. After accusing his predecessors, Obama and George W. Bush, of failing to protect Americans from gun violence he reacted to the October 2017 Las Vegas massacre, the worst act of domestic terrorism since Timothy McVey blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City, by caving in to the National Rifle Association. 

When armed White Supremacists terrorized the University of Virginia and the city of Charlottesville, he called them “fine people.” When desperate refugees from south of our border risked the lives of their families to legally seek asylum in our country, Trump had their children confiscated and incarcerated because they were neither white nor wealthy. When governors of both parties issued Executive Orders to protect their citizens from the COVID-19 virus, Trump undermined them at every turn and encouraged the heavily armed lunatic fringe in those states to open rebellion. 

After five years of Trump stoking the flames of hate and racism since he began his run for president, the city of Minneapolis, long regarded as one of the great melting pot success stories of modern America, erupted in violence because four white police officers were caught on video brutally executing a man who was guilty of being black. I needn’t comment on how awful that crime was. We’ve all seen the evidence with our own eyes. 

In 1968 when I worked at the Institute for Defense Analysis in Arlington, Virginia, I stood at an upper story window watching Washington burn after the assassination of Martin Luther King, as outside agitators and anarchists turned peaceful, mournful demonstrations into a deadly conflagration. In 2015 I was living outside Baltimore when another group of local police caused the death of an unarmed, chained suspect. There too, outside agitators turned angry but peaceful protests into a terrifying riot of mayhem and destruction. 

This week the justified anger of the anti-racist community in Minneapolis and St. Paul erupted into street demonstrations. Most of the demonstrators were there to protest peacefully, until once again, outside agitators and trouble makers turned the protests into a replay of Baltimore. After two nights of chaos and rioting, prosecutors finally ordered the arrest of one of the officers, who had a long record of citizen complaints against him, and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz held an eighty-minute long press conference.  

Walz displayed exactly the right tone of compassion and leadership, promising to get to the root of long simmering racial anger and directly addressing the pain of its victims. He appealed for calm and restraint and several times accepted responsibility for fixing the situation. As we saw with multiple governors’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, Walz accepted the cloak of leadership and wore it with distinction.  

And what did our president do? After hailing the armed protesters who stormed state capitols in Michigan and Kentucky as heroes and patriots, he suggested that unarmed protesters in Minneapolis should be shot. Governor Walz, clearly blown away by Trump’s uninvited involvement, visibly restrained himself and simply called Trump’s words “unhelpful.”

The actions of a small number of rogue police officers and the reactions of aggrieved citizens represent another horrendous stain on the reputations of law enforcement officers everywhere who risk their lives to protect us every day. But our unhinged president’s callous, deliberate disregard for everything but stoking his base in a re-election year is even worse. 

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Inciting Violence

Alan Zendell, May 27, 2020

Brutus said it to Julius Caesar, John Wilkes Booth screamed it at Abraham Lincoln when he shot him, and Virginia adopted it as its state motto after King George’s army surrendered at Yorktown. And on Memorial Day, when a small, angry heavily armed militia group violated the security of the governor’s mansion in Frankfort, Kentucky and hung Governor Andy Beshear in effigy, the dummy with the governor’s face on it bore the same Latin phrase: sic semper tyrannis. The effigy was placed on the front lawn where his nine- and ten-year-old children would have seen it had they been home. Why, you ask? Because they found the Governor’s attempts to save lives inconvenient.  

Beshear reacted to the despicable Memorial Day actions this way. The link is to his May 26 press briefing. It’s long, but the important part is a five-minute segment that begins ten minutes and thirty seconds (10:30) from the start. It’s worth taking the time to watch. 

Andy Beshear is a rising star in the Democratic Party, ironically because his leadership style is totally non-political. He and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have risen to national prominence since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic because they have eschewed political games and displayed the kind of leadership we expect from governors, especially in a life and death crisis.  

Both are sons of governors who were revered for their leadership and integrity, both are Democrats, and both are men of faith and humility. But while Cuomo is in his third term as Governor, Beshear is a newbie. In office less than six months he has risen to the challenge and united a state that voted for Donald Trump by a two-to-one margin in 2016 and whose two U. S. Senators have helped foster the divisiveness of Trumpism for their own political benefit. 

Like Cuomo, whose daily briefings have been must-see TV since the virus exploded in March, Beshear almost never mentions Trump’s name. Simply by being himself, by showing compassion and continuing to stress love over hate, he is rapidly emerging as the quintessential anti-Trump. He is calm and humble and projects strength and leadership without ever raising his voice or resorting to lies, hyperbole or insults. By demonstrating what leadership in a crisis should be, he shines a light on everything our president isn’t. 

It’s significant that Beshear’s approval rating is consistently over 80%, nearly twice that of the president who is his polar opposite, even though his state voted overwhelmingly for Trump. That doesn’t mean Kentucky is about to become the center of progressive politics. But it means that Beshear’s brand of compassionate, honest leadership trumps Trump’s brand when they’re viewed side by side.  

Kentucky is one of the poorest states in the country economically, which made it ripe for the kind of populism Trump runs on. If many Kentuckians were susceptible to Trump’s blame game and the decades-long right-wing media hate campaign against Hillary Clinton, their response to Beshear says they understand the difference between truth and lies, and they prefer compassion to hateful invective. The bipartisan condemnation of the Memorial Day event speaks a lot louder than the actions of the militia group. 

What a concept! Trump rails at perceived enemies and spews sick conspiracy theories, screaming to arouse his base at rallies with his lies and personal slurs, but this year, at least, it’s the calm, reasoned sympathetic leadership of men like Beshear and Cuomo that voters have responded to positively. Most people aren’t saying it out loud, but they can’t help but notice that events like the Memorial Day demonstration in Frankfort have a clear connection to Trump’s rallying cries. He has repeatedly encouraged gun advocates to use their weapons in protest and encouraged them to liberate their states from Democratic governors who he claims abrogate their rights as free citizens.  

Trump’s public statements and tweets would be considered incitement to riot and insurrection if anyone else made them, because that is exactly what they are. In reacting to them as he does, Andy Beshear seems to have modeled himself after leaders like Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King. I’m sure Beshear knows both of them were murdered by their enemies, yet he courageously told his constituents, yesterday, that he would be neither afraid nor intimidated by armed protesters.  

I’m confident that his security personnel will keep him safe. Bullies with big guns are still bullies, and most bullies are craven cowards. But they can still be dangerous. If one of them takes a shot at Beshear, we can thank four years of enabling by Donald Trump for encouraging crazies to vote by bullet instead of ballot. 

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Checks and Balances

Alan Zendell, May 20, 2020

Our republic has survived in reasonably democratic fashion for two-and-a-half centuries, in part because of the checks and balances that were put in place to assure that no individual(s) can accumulate too much unchecked Executive power. The two principal ways that occurs are by Congressional Oversight and internal reviews by Inspectors General.

In the case of the former, we have seen President Trump attempt to nullify Congress’ role every time either the House or Senate questioned an executive action. Trump, more than any president in a century, has been relentless in attempting to undo the constitutionally mandated role of the Congress to oversee the actions of the Executive Branch, and he has been enabled in doing so largely by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But McConnell is only one Senator. His power to decide on behalf of the Senate only exists because most of his Republican caucus believes their self interest lies in supporting the President, right or wrong.

Every Department in the Executive Branch has an internal watchdog function directed by its Inspector General. In the past, most Inspectors General have acted with good faith and integrity, much like the internal affairs bureaus of police departments. In my thirty-seven years working for the federal government, nothing was more intimidating than a notification of a review by the IG’s office. No one ever challenged either their influence or authority – at least until now.

In the Trump Administration, undermining Inspectors General has become an accepted way of doing business. Trump fired four IGs in the past few months, most recently, Steve Linick of the Defense Department. The President has the legal authority to fire anyone in the Executive Branch, but oversight functions are supposed to be nonpolitical. Trump, on the other hand, has weaponized his power to fire and replace to retaliate against anyone who does not sufficiently demonstrate personal loyalty to him.

That’s not the way things are supposed to work in America, but Trump has made it clear from the start that he craves the kind of power wielded by Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Kim Jong- Un. He is driven by a megalomaniacal compulsion for absolute control. He throws tantrums whenever anyone challenges his view that Article 2 of the Constitution gives him the power to do anything he wants. It doesn’t.

The latest example is the firing of Linick. While some have suggested that it was provoked by an investigation of personal improprieties by Defense Secretary Mike Pompeo and his wife, it’s clear that it was really about the $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia which Congress blocked in reaction to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the kingdom’s continuing involvement in the Yemenese civil war. By law, all arms sales to foreign governments must be approved by Congress. But Trump declared a national emergency to bypass Congress and directed Pompeo to proceed with the sale, which included American nuclear technology.

According to Politico, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) said, “[Linick’s] office was investigating — at my request — Trump’s phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia.” Although that sounds political, it is exactly what is supposed to happen when either branch of Congress suspects inappropriate behavior on the part of the Executive Branch. Pompeo made it political by requesting that Trump fire Linick to defuse his review, though the request was obviously cover for Trump, who needed an excuse to get rid of Linick.

This is especially troubling, not only because it is the latest in a long list of Trump administration power grabs, but because of the troubled history of America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. Congress felt deceived by the both the Bush Administration and the Saudis in the aftermath of nine-eleven, leading to our nearly twenty-year war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The current distrust of the relationship between the administration and Saudi Arabia isn’t partisan, as a number of Republican Senators supported blocking the arms deal.  

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), (better late than never?) introduced legislation to require Congressional review of actions like Linick’s firing, claiming that Pompeo and Trump are guilty of “circumventing the congressional role in the advise-and-consent of arms sales to foreign nations.” Nice try, Senator. Don’t hold your breath waiting for McConnell to allow Republicans to support it.

The essential point here is that Trump has systematically attempted to dismantle the protections in the Constitution intended to preserve our democracy, and the Republican majority Senate has refused to intervene for three-and-a-half years. Whether they’re willing to take a stand now will tell us a lot about our future as nation. It may also indicate how far out on a limb they’re willing to go to support Trump as the election approaches.

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Leadership or Self-Interest?

Alan Zendell, May 15, 2020

In the 1967 film, A Guide For the Married Man, Robert Morse tells his friend Walter Matthau that if his wife ever catches him in a lie he should, “Deny, deny, deny.” In the following scene, (watch it here,) Joey Bishop and his mistress are caught in bed by his wife (Imogene Coca.) As Coca screams her distress, Bishop and the mistress calmly get out of bed and dress, and the mistress leaves. Coca yells, “Who was that woman?” to which Bishop replies, “What woman?” Coca looks dumbfounded, and says, “What would you like for dinner?”

What made the skit funny was the absurd idea that you could convince someone that something she’d just seen and heard never happened. Donald Trump must have taken that movie to heart. He was twenty-one when it was released, a year before he launched his career of flimflamming. Fifty-three years later he’s still at it. He got away with it for most of that time because of his ruthless nature, his money, and his all or nothing, never compromise approach to life. As his bankruptcies demonstrated, he’d rather be in charge of a failing enterprise than cede control. More than five decades of getting off scot free have convinced him there’s no reason to change. His success in mobilizing his populist base has further emboldened him until it seems he knows no bounds. His antics were never amusing; now they’re frightening.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented Trump with the kind of test that makes legacies. He could have chosen to lead the country, using every resource of science and medical technology to minimize Americans’ suffering and save as many lives as possible. The nation’s infectious disease specialists knew how to accomplish that. So did the autocratic Chinese government, who were willing to sacrifice at least a half year of economic activity to shut down the virus.

Like Imogene Coca, we saw and heard everything. China tried the denial game, but actions speak louder than words, and their decision to precipitously shut down a province of more than forty million people made it clear to every observer that they were terrified of loosing a deadly pandemic on the world. Our intelligence services and military leaders understood this as early as last November. So did the president.

If protecting America were his first priority, he had several months to prepare. He could have started by reinstating the pandemic preparedness portion of the national security apparatus he trashed when he took office. He could have immediately declared a national emergency like South Korea did and activated the Defense Production Act before Christmas. While the Chinese were hardly forthcoming, the whole world saw how quickly the virus overwhelmed that country’s medical resources. Before 2019 ended, epidemiologists knew the fourteen day asymptomatic incubation period made it virtually impossible to contain the virus in China. Trump knew it was already too late to keep it from reaching Europe and North America.

As Dr. Rick Bright testified, yesterday, people who understood the threat recognized that we were woefully unprepared in terms of medical equipment and protective gear for front line workers. We could have begun manufacturing those things by January. Chinese President Xi Jinping had essentially the same choice. No one had any illusions that Xi acted out of compassion for the Chinese masses. Xi knew that if the virus got out of control there it could take decades for China to recover its position in the global economy.

Trump claims he had a choice between saving lives and protecting our economy, but Xi’s actions exploded that myth – they’re one and the same. The difference between Xi’s and Trump’s calculus was that Trump had to run for re-election. Trump equates the economy with the financial markets. His greatest fear was a panic that would cause them to crash.

Donald Trump was simply incapable of acting differently. It’s not that he didn’t understand his options. Our president suffers from a severe mental illness. His narcissistic personality disorder is not the kind of illness that gets people dragged off in straight jackets, but it’s equally serious when he has to choose between his self-interest and anything else.

We see it every day as he attempts to muzzle the doctors and scientists who’ve spent their lives preparing for the kind of pandemic we’re fighting. And with Trump trailing Joe Biden in every poll, it’s going to get worse. We’re going to see power grabs, attempts to suppress voter turnout, and the removal of everyone in power who hasn’t pledged fealty to Trump.

The next six months are going to be a nightmare of lies, misdirection, and signs of a president becoming unhinged.

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Protect Our People or Let Nature Decide?

Alan Zendell, May 7, 2020

When Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said in March that grandparents ought to be willing to sacrifice themselves for their grandchildren’s futures it created an understandable uproar. Then, in April, he said, “There are more important things than living, and that’s saving this country for my children and grandchildren and saving this country for all of us.” My initial reaction was that Patrick was a Trump wannabe pitching the latest game plan to re-open the country to shore up his re-election chances, regardless of the consequences.

But let’s take a step back. As cold and ruthless as that sounds, it’s actually part of a philosophical debate that’s thousands of years old. Many societies have had to address the question of sacrificing today for a better future. I remember a grade school teacher telling my class that Eskimos floated their old away on ice floes when they could no longer produce as much as they consumed. Many Asian cultures (Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese to mention a few) accept that the present generation must sacrifice for those that will follow, and we saw the same thing among the Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants in the last century.

Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, the debate amounts to whether we’re willing to endorse policies that we know will result in more deaths, particularly among our seniors, to assure that the economy our kids will depend on doesn’t collapse. The question is whether a failed economy will destroy more lives than the virus will if it’s allowed to spread unchecked. Fears about maintaining the food supply are a warning to take the possibility seriously.

It’s tempting to make this debate all about Trump’s sociopathy, but it’s much bigger than he is and bigger than our country. Sweden is using Stockholm as a living laboratory. The government is testing the hypothesis that the benefit of avoiding mitigation methods to quickly achieve herd immunity will ultimately be worth the cost in lost lives. No one is accusing Sweden of dehumanizing its people, but we won’t know the outcome for many months.

The truth is that we don’t know enough. Epidemiologists and infectious disease researchers differ widely on the percentage of the population that needs to be infected to achieve herd immunity. Published estimates range between thirty and seventy percent. Applying that to the United States suggests that to achieve herd immunity, between 100 and 230 million people would have to be infected. We still don’t know enough about this disease to estimate the toll that would take, not only on seniors, but on health- and immune-compromised young people.

Despite recent optimism over potential treatment drugs and vaccines, we still cannot say when either will be available or how efficacious they’ll be. Many experienced researchers are now cautioning that a COVID-19 vaccine might elude them completely, citing the failed thirty-year quest for an HIV vaccine. Most people who favor re-opening our economy and eventually dispensing with virus mitigation efforts assume that effective medical treatments and/or vaccines will be available by the summer of 2021, but what if they’re not? The much heralded University of Washington model adopted by the Coronavirus Task Force predicts deaths in excess of two million in that eventuality if we resume business as usual.

We also have no real data on how a greatly reduced economy will affect people’s lives. Those who are intent on re-opening society claim that letting the economy fail will kill or wreck the lives of even more millions, but no one really knows. This debate will not end soon, and it could ultimately be resolved in the wrong places. This isn’t an issue for either courts or street demonstrations, especially when demonstrators are armed to the teeth.

One thing we know is our history. We could cite the Spanish Flu of 1917-1918, which killed millions and devastated some of our major cities. Those who advocate re-opening the country quickly could say, “Look, we survived that one, and within years the country was booming again.”

We can also look back at the Great Depression, which is held out as a worst case nightmare scenario if we remain locked down. But we survived that too. We could have let people die of malnutrition and disease back then, and let natural selection decide who the winners and losers would be. Instead we created a safety net for everyone, and America remained strong enough to become the manufacturing colossus that turned the tide in World War 2.

My own view is that if we allow countless more of our people to sicken and die with no clear way to assess the benefit, if any, to our grandchildren, we will be guilty of a crime greater than either slavery or the genocide we perpetrated on the native Americans who preceded us. 

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Trump’s Bad Press

Alan Zendell, May 5, 2020

Donald Trump may be right that Abraham Lincoln got better press than he did, despite Lincoln taking a principled stand that alienated half the country and resulted in the Civil War. Not that the Civil War was Lincoln’s fault, but tearing the county apart and forcing the southern states to restructure their economies without benefit of slave labor was bound to make enemies, among them an actor named Booth.

We revere Lincoln for his moral courage and basic decency. His enemies hated him for seeking to cleanse us of the stain of slavery left to us by the British, which by omission, we grandfathered into our Constitution when it was not addressed by the Bill of Rights. Lincoln’s bad press was funded by vested interests that were seriously threatened by an economic revolution even greater than what Bernie Sanders’ movement is fighting for.

The divisiveness caused by Lincoln’s policies was a side effect of pursuing the betterment of the American soul. Trump uses divisiveness as a tool for amassing and solidifying power. Trump’s press isn’t worse than Lincoln’s as much as it’s inside out. His negative press stems from his lack of respect for law and the Constitution, his disregard of truth, and his willingness to stoop to depths of immorality in his lust for power rarely seen in our political history. His loudest positive press reflects the racist, misogynist, elitist Tea Party, one-issue (abortion rights) evangelists, the Alt-Right movement, and extremists who believe the Second Amendment gives them the right to defy the government.

Like Lincoln, Trump has a vision for a different America. But while Lincoln’s cleansed the nation of its worst disgrace, Trump’s would dismantle the social safety net that represents the horrifying specter of a level playing field. Trump is an aggressive champion of the fight against the massive transfer of wealth that Republicans have feared since The New Deal of the 1930s. Agree or disagree, but political ideology is not the reason much of the media and a majority of Americans despise our president.

Trump has a desperate need for adulation, yet he behaves in precisely the manner that assures he will never have it. When he panders to the worst elements of human nature, how can decent Americans not oppose him? When he lies or distorts reality whenever it suits him, how can Americans who need to believe they can trust their president not cry out? When he is incapable of facing dissent and opposition without resorting to vulgar insults and slurs, how can decent people respect him?

Trump gambled since he entered the public arena that his ability to distract and create chaos would shield him from the truth. He’s extremely good at it, but every gambler knows winning streaks always end, and every juggler knows there’s a limit to how many balls he can keep in the air. Provoking trade wars, dismantling efforts to protect our environment, and abandoning our allies were problematic, but none of those things was an immediate existential threat to our country. COVID-19 is precisely such a threat, a crisis that requires a president who can see past his self-interest. Donald Trump fails that test daily.

Rather than grow into his responsibility, he uses the pandemic to increase his hold on power. He’s still trying to cripple the oversight role of the Congress, and he continues to retaliate against everyone in the Executive Branch who attempted to bring truth to light.

You want good press, Mr. President? Start by not vilifying honest journalists and labeling anything that doesn’t support your version of events fake news. The First Amendment was passed for a reason. Most journalists do what they do in the pursuit of truth and transparency. The same left-wing media you despise is now pursuing sexual harassment allegations against your probable opponent as vigorously as they look for truth in your administration. And you might notice that Mr. Biden handles the situation with class and dignity.

Stop approaching every issue with personal animus and playing the victim whenever someone disagrees with you, lashing out like a spoiled brat having a temper tantrum. And most of all, learn to express compassion even if you’re incapable of actually feeling any. In short, start behaving like a president.

The Old Testament God demanded constant praise and tribute. Fail to pay proper respect and offer daily sacrifice, and you’d find your towers collapsing around you or washed away by a Great Flood. This may come as a shock to you, Donald, but you’re not God, and you’re not a king, either. You’re not superior to everyone else. In many ways, you’re the worst of us.

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