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Presidential Cluelessness at Home and Abroad

Mar. 7, 2017
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The longer Donald Trump spoke to Congress, the more obvious it became that the new president had no idea how government works. That could save all of us from the worst consequences of Trump’s presidency unless, of course, it destroys us. 

Equally obvious was that words mean little to him. 

Otherwise, Trump couldn’t calmly read a speech calling for national unity and bipartisanship and repeat just as serenely his torrent of campaign falsehoods and inflammatory rhetoric demonizing others that intentionally divide the nation and alarm all but his most rabid supporters. 

It might make more sense to watch the reaction of Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan sitting behind Trump. Ryan certainly knows how complicated it is to pass extreme right-wing legislation, pushing the limits of decency, since he’s been trying to do it for years.

But since the election Ryan has become skilled at faking his support for Trump despite previously denouncing candidate Trump’s most offensive ideas as racist, unconstitutional, un-Republican and un-American.

So, there was Ryan bouncing to his feet repeatedly to applaud. Ryan even appears to have given Trump a few tips on how to make political dishonesty sound more convincing.


Magical Thinking

Trump had promised a terrific, magical replacement for Obamacare that, get this, insures everybody at a lower cost. He guaranteed it would cover pre-existing conditions, but wouldn’t force anyone to buy insurance, which is literally impossible. If only sick Americans need to buy insurance, it eliminates insurance company profits, unless they raise prices astronomically.

Last week, Trump instead began using Ryan’s own weasel words, claiming his replacement would “ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage.” 

Of course, it doesn’t do Americans any good to have access to coverage if they can’t afford it. Republicans still don’t really have an agreed-upon plan as cancer victims and others terrified of losing insurance jam the town halls of members of Congress demanding protection.

Of course, destroying affordable health care for millions is only the beginning of Trump’s radical domestic agenda. It also includes abandoning support for civil and voting rights, whacking environmental protection “in almost every form” leaving only “little tidbits” intact, redirecting financial support for public schools into private and religious schools, and on and on.

At the same time, Trump brags a $54 billion-dollar increase in military spending that would be one of the largest in American history. Let’s see. Fewer people voting and a massive military buildup. We wondered how Trump’s admiration for Russia would affect the U.S. 

The shift to decimate government programs benefitting Americans in favor of wasteful overspending by the military exposes how completely Republicans have abandoned fiscal conservatism.

Trump’s campaign claim that the U.S. military was in tatters was always absurd. We should spend less after winding down two long, agonizing U.S. wars. Instead, the U.S. still spends more on its military than the next seven countries combined—China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, United Kingdom, India and Germany. 

Trump’s call for even more military spending for the sake of spending won’t make us safer or allow the U.S. to start winning wars again, as he claims. It’s ignorant and dangerous.

The healthiest realization our country finally learned in Vietnam, reinforced again in Iraq and Afghanistan, was that we never win by going to war. What we lose is American lives and that treasure can never be replaced. That’s why war should always be a last resort.

Only shallow national leaders who have never experienced war themselves could ever believe otherwise. Unfortunately, that includes the last Republican president and vice president and now Trump. 

I don’t fault George W. Bush, Dick Cheney or Trump for avoiding military service. When I was in college during Vietnam, dodging the draft was considered a matter of life and death. I’ve always been grateful to be exempted by the Kennedy administration as a young father starting my career.

But I sure fault Bush and Cheney for their seeming eagerness to send others into the horrors of war from which they were protected as privileged young men.  

The same goes for Trump taking a few minutes during dinner to approve the disastrous raid on a compound in Yemen, targeting a terrorist who wasn’t there, that killed Navy SEAL Ryan Owens and a couple of dozen civilians. 

Then, on “Fox & Friends,” Trump tried to dodge presidential responsibility by saying the raid was planned before his presidency and recommended by his generals. “And they lost Ryan.” I’m sorry, but Trump then milking the applause for Owens’ tearful, grieving widow during his speech was tasteless and cynical.

Putting American lives at risk should weigh heavily and personally upon any president. That’s why it’s absolutely terrifying to have a president who asked a foreign policy expert during a campaign briefing: “If we have nuclear weapons, why can’t we use them?”


Now that controversial strategist Steve Bannon has left his administration, will Donald Trump begin to pivot to the center?

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