Small World: A hollow or high-principled presidency?

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

Let us give some thought to the ruckus involving Russians and Republicans and their opponents among Democrats and the media. At first glance, it appears that a case of hypocrisy is the correct diagnosis. Or is it simply the classic Greek curse of hubris or over-weaning pride in operation? I opt for all of the above. But let’s be systematic.

First, we have a president whose ego surpasses any recorded in the annals of White House history. Of course, we have had second-echelon figures whose self-esteem convinced them they belonged in the first rank. I can think of General McArthur who thought he should be running policy in the Korean War. Or General Haig who believed he should be (and perhaps was) calling the shots when he worked for presidents Nixon and Reagan. Over-weaning pride led them to the ash-heap of history. When it comes to presidents, a listing of men who ranked high on the hubris hit parade makes one long for the humbler reigns of Eisenhower and Ford.

But to the present: I would say we owe fealty to the all-time champion ego of Mr. Trump. Will the Greek gods keep hold of his destiny? Or will he come crashing down like one of those classical marble statues of himself he would probably like to see erected with toga to boot. The question before us (and future historians) is: can humility be learned at age 71? That is, can the air be let out of his Macy’s-like sculpture while it is still on parade? A large bunch of those who know him close up (as contrasted with blood relations) doubt it.

After all, a recent New York Times article found that the pre-president’s career had been marked by over 4,000 litigations. Observers of those dramas concluded that winning a suit was less important to him than making a good show. That would be consistent with thrice-married, often-dallying Mr. Trump’s appeal to fundamentalist Christians. He would rather inspire awe and a following than attain justice or achieve an understanding.

That very same talent — the compelling attraction of a powerful ego — may assure reelection in 2020 if voters prefer personality to issues in their interest. Trump won the election delivering a message of support for those who had been hurt by the economy and other factors beyond their control. The societal balance that weighed against them would be corrected, he promised. Instead, posts and policies went to the nation’s richest conservatives whose view of law and regulations have been decidedly supportive of their own interests. As noted earlier, these upper class masters used health care reform to reduce benefits for the less well off and reduce taxes for the far better off.

Trump may win because those who support him don’t pay attention to the measures he has taken that contradict their interests. The basic truth that many have not grasped is that the voting machine is not a TV set.

Now to say a pleasant word for Mr. Trump: his opponents seem not to realize that the Cold War is over. Russia is not the enemy it once was. To talk to a Russian is not a traitorous act. No more than a consultation with an Israeli or Chinese official is. There is the distinct smell of hypocrisy hanging over the charges against the Trump kin and campaign. Has not the United States engaged in similar activities? I am not thinking of Cold War blatant actions to overthrow or influence legitimate governments (Iran, Guatemala, Italy). I ask whether or not Washington helped bring down the government of Ukraine (say) and replace it with people of our preference?

What’s that recipe for sauce for goose or gander?

Maybe I should stop there, but allow me one more word: I think Mr. Trump is more advanced in his thinking than Democrat/media critics when he advocates working with Russia in an effort to resolve the thorny problems of Ukraine, Syria, and cyber crime. Like climate change (where he is dead wrong), these are issues that are beyond the capacity of one nation — no matter how great a power — to resolve alone. Those days are past — not only because other powers have risen up, but also because the American people have tired of policing the globe. The United States needs Russian cooperation.

I hope Mr. Trump can stick to his guns on that policy.

Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.

Please follow and like us: