When he was running for the presidency, Donald Trump said, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” At the time of writing, the United States is about fourteen months into Trump’s first term, and some Americans really would have to watch a videotape of the president gunning people down in the street before they renounced him. His approval ratings continue to hover in the high thirties even though his first year in office has been characterized by a ceaseless series of scandals. He and his administration recently coordinated an effort to protect the reputation of a wife-beating aide. He claimed during a rally that the Democrats who did not smile and clap for him during his State of the Union address were “treasonous.” Back in November, he retweeted a video entitled “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches,” but the attacker in the video was not a Muslim and not a migrant. Conservatives found every possible reason to call Barack Obama arrogant and lazy, but they see nothing wrong with electing a classless, vindictive child.
One writer at the National Review said that liberals have trouble “distinguishing between tyranny and mere boorishness” when it comes to judging the incumbent president. There are plenty of people on the left who overreact to President Trump’s controversies, but the issue goes far beyond simple vulgarity. It has never been more normal for a president to bloviate instead of making an argument, and presidential bloviation has never been more vapid. President Trump claimed that the Nunes memo “totally vindicated” him in regards to Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation, which he labeled a “witch hunt.” The Nunes memo asserted that the FBI used biased and inaccurate information which they received from Clinton campaign aides to acquire a FISA warrant on a Trump adviser at the end of 2016. Even if the claims in the Nunes memo were all true, the document did not impugn the integrity of the Mueller probe. The president deliberately feeds his supporters misinformation and is practically incapable of disputing with someone in good faith. He always takes the lowest road imaginable – a road paved with innuendo, indecision and vile insults.
When Steve Bannon left the White House in August of 2017, he was presumably not on good terms with the president or any of the administration staffers. Nevertheless, he and the president maintained an armistice up until reports emerged that damning quotes from Bannon about Trump would appear in Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury.” The president released a statement in which he said, “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me … When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.” On Twitter, the president added that Steve Bannon “cried” when he got fired, begged for his job, and “has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone.” In a very short amount of time, the president went from calling his former senior counselor a “tough and smart new voice” to calling him an ugly crybaby. President Trump acts like nothing can stick to him, whether it’s lying about the Nunes memo, denying the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate, or admitting that he knew Michael Flynn lied to the FBI.
How are Americans supposed to have faith in their president when he responds to each new story about the crimes of his former aides by lying or equivocating? Why would President Trump say that Mike Flynn should ask for immunity from Mueller’s witch hunt if he knew that Flynn committed a crime by lying to the FBI? More to the point, how is the special counsel investigation a witch hunt if Mueller has already indicted 18 people, including the president’s former national security adviser and foreign policy adviser? As of now, there is no substantive reason to doubt the investigation’s integrity, but President Trump and his media lackeys have capitalized on every opportunity to discredit the special counsel. As a matter of fact, the president asked his attorney to speak with Rod Rosenstein about the possibility of firing Mueller in June of 2017, months before the charges started raining down on Flynn, Papadopoulos, Gates, and Manafort.
Manafort, the president’s former campaign manager, is facing allegations of money laundering, foreign lobbying violations, bank fraud, and conspiracy against the United States. Rick Gates, another Trump aide and Manafort’s second-in-command, has already reached a plea deal with Mueller, so Manafort may wind up spending the rest of his life in prison. The president knew in June of 2017 that firing Mueller would stymie the investigation of Paul Manafort. After hiring a crooked GOP operative to be his campaign chair, the president did his best to challenge and obstruct the investigators who forced that same crooked operative to reckon with decades of criminal wrongdoing. If President Trump fires Mueller or pardons Manafort, conservatives will still deny the obvious fact that the most powerful man in the world is trying to protect his network of shysters from getting their legal comeuppance. None of the indictments against Trump aides allege that they committed crimes related to the 2016 presidential campaign, but Manafort continued some of his criminal schemes throughout 2016 and “at least January 2017.” In other words, the president’s claim that Manafort committed his crimes “years ago, before (he) was part of the Trump campaign” was, unsurprisingly, a lie. One can almost sense a pattern emerging.
President Trump is like the propagandist from “1984” who is tasked with inciting hatred against Eurasia, the country with which Oceania is at war. In the middle of his rant, the propagandist is informed that the war with Eurasia is over, and that Oceania is engaged in a new war with Eastasia. George Orwell describes the demagogue’s reaction by writing: “Nothing altered in his voice or manner, or in the content of what he was saying, but suddenly the names were different. … The hate continued exactly as before, except that the target had been changed.” Conservatives, even if they value the reforms introduced by the Trump administration, ought to admit that the president “openly mocks the idea that words in politics mean anything.” He could switch positions on Russian election interference in the middle of a speech without stumbling over a single world. If Americans are content to vote for a charlatan like President Trump, they should not be surprised when cheap sleaze becomes the status quo in the Oval Office.
Alex Klein is a staff columnist for the Daily Campus and can be reached via email at email@example.com.