Sunday 22 September 2019

Paul Waldman: 'This is what we were afraid of with Trump'

 

US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Paul Waldman

When the new year begins next week, US President Donald Trump will have an acting chief of staff, an acting secretary of defence, an acting attorney general, an acting EPA administrator, no interior secretary, and no UN ambassador.

The officials originally in all those positions have either been fired or have quit in various measures of disgust or scandal. His former campaign chairman, deputy campaign chairman, national security adviser and personal lawyer have all pleaded guilty to crimes. His campaign, his transition, his foundation and his business are all under investigation. The United States' allies are horrified at the chaos Trump has brought to our foreign policy. The stock market is experiencing wild swings as investors are gripped with fear over what might be coming and what Trump might do to make it worse.

This, my friends, is exactly what we were afraid of when Trump somehow managed to get elected president two years ago.

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The government shutdown is expected to last into the new year because a bunch of Fox News and talk-radio hosts criticised the president for not being tough enough in fighting for his ludicrous border wall. Trump, always deeply insecure and eager to feed his base's endless rage and desire for conflict, responded quickly to the accusation of weakness.

Two years ago, as we were still trying to wrap our heads around the idea that Trump was actually going to be US president, it was not uncommon to hear the hopeful prediction that things wouldn't work out as badly as we feared. The weighty responsibilities of the office would turn Trump serious, sober, "presidential".

That has not occurred. If anything, Trump has shown himself to be even more of a despicable human being than he appeared then, and utterly incapable of growing into the office. He is just as petty, just as impulsive, just as narcissistic, just as dishonest than we realised.

Not only does he seem to be using every available opportunity to exploit the presidency to enrich himself and his family, but a recent, meticulously documented investigation showed that Trump, his father, and his siblings engaged in a years-long scheme to commit tax fraud on an absolutely massive scale. He continues to jealously guard his tax returns, to the point where any reasonable person would conclude that the information contained therein must at a minimum shock the conscience, if not providing evidence of outright criminal behaviour.

It is true that Trump has not yet started World War III. If you're a Republican, he has done many things to please you, such as cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy, or slashing regulations that protect workers, consumers, and people who enjoy breathing air and drinking water. If you thrill to the sight of immigrant children being ripped from the arms of their parents, then this presidency has been a joy.

But in so many ways, he has shown himself again and again to be not just as bad as we thought, but worse. In the next two years, we must realise there will be no stability, no settling down, no period of calm. The best we can hope for are brief moments when the lunacy pouring from the White House are more comical than terrifying. But most of the time, they'll probably be both. (© Washington Post Service)

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