In her weekly column for The Wall Street Journal (Feb. 10), former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan shares some thoughts from Trump supporters and non-supporters, along with her own observations.
One veteran remarked, “People who are for Trump always say, ‘look, he’s got an unfortunate character and temperament, but he’s good on regulation, good on the courts.’
“The problem, the veteran said, is the but. Once you get to the but you are normalizing him… That means you have lowered the presidency forever… just when the world’s problems are more dangerous, and thoughtfulness and wisdom are more needed.
“…an executive in a large American company,” Noonan writes, “went right at the Trump supporters’ faith that he will learn in the job. The executive said: He doesn’t learn! He’s not about to. He doesn’t have the mechanism inside that allows people to analyze problems and see their part in them.”
Example, the Rob Porter scandal.
Porter, a 40-year-old White House staff secretary, came with a stellar political background, but, as we now know, far from stellar personal background. He gave one ex-wife a black eye, and the other filed a restraining order against him. Due to Trump’s support, however, he was granted interim security clearance.
Apparently, no one in the White House, including Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly, was aware of what is clearly no small news, so much so that Kelly and others originally defended him as “a man of true integrity.”
When asked by the press about the recent allegations against Porter that caused him to resign, Trump said, “He says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that … He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent…”
Without a single word about spousal abuse, after press reports show photographic evidence and a police report, Trump just charges ahead believing that whatever he says about anybody should be good enough to satisfy rational thought.
Remember Trump’s defense of Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes and Roy Moore?
“You can’t really blackmail Donald Trump on personal conduct,” Noonan writes, “because nothing said about him would surprise or shock.”
The problem with Noonan’s observations is that she doesn’t go far enough. Not by a long shot.
Recently, a reader asked why I spend so much time writing about Trump before and especially after he was elected?
I believe that Donald Trump is an existential threat to this country’s national security, the rule of law, a free press, and any semblance of ethical standards.
I’ll begin with the easy part, ethical standards.
Last month, I discussed (The Most Unethical Presidency, Jan.29) how former ethics lawyers Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, who, along with Citizens for Responsibly and Ethics in Washington Executive Director Noah Bookbinder released a report critical of Trump’s first year in office.
“The Trump administration,” they write, “is confronted by an extraordinary scale and scope of legal and ethics scandals. It is unrivaled in the modern era, and perhaps in the history of the nation, for a first-year administration. The conduct of this administration, from the president on down, threatens our centuries-old tradition of a government that functions to serve the interests of the American people, rather than to serve the interests of those in power.”
And if that isn’t enough, Trump lies like no other president in modern history.
The rule of law –
After initially praising FBI Director James Comey for reopening the Clinton e-mail investigation literally days before the 2016 election after classified documents were discovered on Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s home computer, Trump fired Comey when he realized that the FBI was continuing its investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. (The Trumped-up reason given was Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton e-mail issue.)
Comey’s firing initiated a special counsel investigation by Trump appointee Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. For months, news reports have chronicled the numerous ways and means Trump has attempted to demean and discredit Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller II and his investigation. His most recent tweets:
Trump on Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the Russia Investigation:
“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.”
The Nunez Memo –
After the FBI insisted that they “have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the [Nunez] memo’s accuracy,” and against direct pleas by FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, not to release the memo, Trump releases the memo which alleges abuse by both Justice and the FBI.
After the House Committee on Intelligence recently approved the release of the Democrats rebuttal memo pointing out the inaccuracies of the Nunez memo, Trump has declined its release.
“The president’s refusal to release the Democrats’ memo,” USA Today writes (Feb. 9), also goes against the committee’s unanimous, bipartisan decision Monday to make it public.”
When asked if he was considering firing Rosenstein, Trump told reporters:
“You figure that one out.”
A fifth-grader wouldn’t be as obvious as Trump in attempting to cover-up apparent misdeeds.
National Security –
Trump has a long track record of criticizing and disparaging not only the intelligence community, but law enforcement at both the FBI and the Justice department.
Trump on the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian meddling:
“I mean, give me a break, they are political hacks,” Trump said. “So, you look at it, I mean, you have [former CIA Director John] Brennan, you have [former Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper, and you have [former FBI Director Jim] Comey. Comey is proven now to be a liar and he is proven now to be a leaker.”
When asked by reporters if he confronted Putin about Russia’s interfering in the 2016 election, Trump said:
“He said he didn’t meddle, he said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One Saturday. “Every time he sees me he says I didn’t do that, and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.”
EVERY… SINGLE… MEMBER… OF CONGRESS… DOESN’T BELIEVE IT!
Free Press –
More than any other group, Trump’s many attacks on the press make past presidents’ criticisms pale by comparison:
“Fake reporting” “dishonest” “FAKE NEWS” “very corrupt” “talks about anything negative or that can be turned into the negative” “Fake News” “contrived!” “So much Fake News is being reported” “They don’t even try to get it right, or correct it when they are wrong” “Fake News”
In a November 25, 2017 tweet, Trump said:
“@FoxNews is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them!”
Former CIA and National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden wrote in a tweet:
“If this is who we are or who we are becoming, I have wasted 40 years of my life. Until now it was not possible for me to conceive of an American President capable of such an outrageous assault on truth, a free press or the first amendment.”
Taken collectively, Trump is single-handedly destroying the reputations of fundamental institutions and democratic values. He has repeatedly demonstrated that he is only concerned with protecting himself and his interests, no matter the cost to the country and is willing to use all means at his disposal to do so. He compulsively lies about virtually everything from the size of his inaugural crowd to Russia’s meddling in our election — “Nobody knows.”
He demeans and belittles everyone from Republicans and Democrats to his own intelligence community; from his own handpick FBI director to his own handpicked Deputy Attorney General; everyone, except… Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Recently, Trump refused to initiate sanctions against Russia voted on by Congress.
And yet, every week, EVERY… WEEK, Trump adds another piece to a growing tapestry of self-aggrandizement.
Trump ordered the Pentagon to prepare a full-scale, military parade in November.
Noonan writes, “It is a ridiculous and embarrassing idea. … What do you gain from showing off your weaponry? What are we celebrating – that we have nukes? That we have to have them is a tragedy. … people will see right through it. … They’re not stupid, they’ll know… It is Trump being Trump and obsessing the nation. …
“And it is not like us, at least the old and honored us.”
And that’s the point. Trump’s puffed-up image demands greater shows, more puffery. But in doing so, he dishonors us all just when thoughtfulness and wisdom are needed most!