Small World: Our president — a pre-mid-term peak

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

We’ve had a year of his leadership now and if we’re honest with ourselves, there is only one conclusion we can reach: The presidency of Donald Trump is bad for the United States.

The foundation idea of this country is not too complicated. We learned it in high school civics class and in the daily experiences of living and working on this land: Diverse groups of people, showing mutual respect, listen to each other and persuade or compromise in order to agree on actions for the whole of us to take.

In order for the system to work as intended certain essential qualities must be present. I’ve just mentioned mutual respect. That demands equality for all our citizens from top to bottom. Before we were an independent nation we had a revolution to bring down King George III. After relieving ourselves of his superior power, we still had the institution of slavery — about as unequal a system as you could devise. The Civil War ended that abuse of equality but strong, residual attitudes have remained. Racism is the term we use. Mr. Trump must have been on vacation when his civics teachers discussed racism. Or maybe when he was so keen on prevailing in a real estate deal, he didn’t give thought to how his words affected his associates or competitors of a different race or background.

Another quality necessary for the proper functioning of our system is the maximum openness of government towards its citizens — consistent with security, to be sure. Here, you might say that Mr. Trump is on the right track with his daily, often hourly, Tweets. We know what he is thinking even though those thoughts might not make consistent, wise sense. That’s the idea, but do we really understand what he has in mind on immigration? Or North Korea, or Iran? Or health care? I would hate to have to write an essay predicting where we’ll be on these subjects a year from now.

A big part of the problem of tracing the contradictory thoughts of our president is that he is not a truthful man. When he refers to Haiti and other poor black or brown nations with nasty and insulting words it’s bad enough. But when he denies having said the words he is caught in a lie. Makes you think of Richard Nixon, doesn’t it? Donald Trump appears not to have learned that the cover-up is always worse than the offending deed.

But back to my indictment of his flaws: Republicans are supposedly closer to our nation’s business community and others who have learned how to make money — i.e., the nation’s indicator of success. Therefore their party should represent the successful and the efficient elements in our society. They can manage huge and complex enterprises (whereas Democrats can only sympathize with those on the bottom). If that is actually the case, can anyone please explain the shambles of an administration that Mr. Trump is supposed to be leading? Appointments to key positions not made or else filled by flops quickly exposed. A merry-go-round of appointees in the White House in and then quickly out — only recently acquiring a measure of self-control and teamwork.

Then there are our nation’s foreign relations. For a couple of centuries, more or less, on and off (mostly more and on) our country has been held in high regard by governments and ordinary people around the globe. In many places we have lost that standing. The Brits are delighted that our president cancelled a visit to London. The German leader says Europe must learn to make its own way, no longer relying on Washington to lead. Name the people who hold a good opinion of us. Well, there is Israel, recipient of limitless favors and cash, and ordinary Iranians subject to a regime in Tehran that compares with ours in Washington.

So, what is to be done? I’m no fan of impeachment unless there is a specific, terrible offense. We (not me) made a mistake in the election. We must now suffer and learn from it. Maybe take a few night courses in civics and history over the coming three years. And make sure we think more carefully, more critically in the next poll.

Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.

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