Editor’s note: This commentary is by Walt Amses, a writer and former educator who lives in Calais.
There was a time when Americans horrified at the Trump presidency took some solace in the fact that Donald Trump was an object of almost daily ridicule. Much of what he said and did immediately translated to humor, often by simply repeating it and sitting back, waiting for the guffaws to begin. Late night hosts and stand-up comedians feasted on the mindless Twitter storms beamed out of the White House or wherever the president was ensconced for one of his numerous golfing weekends.
But that time (was it really only a week ago?) may be over, or at minim temporarily suspended. While the planet tried to make sense of his alarming effort to out-stupid North Korea’s Kim Jong Un with threats of “Fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen,” the clarity of Trump was thrown into alarming focus by the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, as the president apparently struggled for two days to avoid condemnation of the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis and white supremacists. When Jeff Sessions sounds like the voice of reason, we’re in deep trouble.
Only after enormous bipartisan public pressure did Trump respond with a half-hearted recitation from the White House teleprompter: far too little, far too late. The message had already been delivered in a silence that screamed loudly and clearly this administration’s stance on race in America, the constituency to which it consistently genuflects, and, perhaps unwittingly, the continuing indignity of having this miserable excuse of a man (self) serving as president.
But Trump’s narcissism could not be contained for very long. In an astonishing, impromptu New York press conference on Tuesday afternoon he reversed himself again, blaming “both sides” for the terror in Charlottesville, drawing almost universal, bipartisan condemnation. By equating counter protesters with white supremacists and referring to those standing up to hatred as the “alt left,” a term siphoned directly from his Fox News puppeteers, POTUS unequivocally breathed new life into a movement that should have died with Strom Thurmond.
The very idea that a hate-filled movement in KKK robes brandishing Nazi flags would be emboldened by a presidential endorsement to confidently step out of the shadows and descend upon American cities like a malignancy is shocking even by this administration’s standards. We have in Trump someone who either cannot comprehend what he is doing or simply doesn’t care, continuing to elevate ego above all, eagerly misrepresenting indisputable facts in service of creating a chilling new reality.
It is no longer a question of whether or not Trump is a liar. He lies on a daily basis. The only viable speculation is what he will lie about next and how quickly and easily it will be disproven. He couples his indisputable ignorance with an arrogance born of inherited wealth and privilege wherein he’s never needed to be accountable to anyone for anything and is incapable of beginning at the age of 70. Ideally, in the most powerful person in the world, accountability would be a given, along with introspection, responsibility and a modicum of empathy — an ability to understand the struggles of other people. Trump comes up empty on all counts.
He has no concept of democracy, readily undermining its foundations if they fail to aggrandize him sufficiently: questioning the validity of our electoral process; depicting the free press and journalism as “fake news”; and attempting to sabotage the judicial system as “unfair” (mostly to him). Unfortunately, many Trump supporters still believe this knee-jerk superficiality masquerading as substance, flocking to “campaign” rallies and providing the mindless adulation Trump so desperately craves like a vampire craves blood.
If all this makes you nostalgic for the good old days (last week) when “The Mooch” was — however fleetingly — expected to plug the leaks in Trump’s floundering ship of state and Chris Christie might be named to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general, you’re not alone. Those of us who appreciate humor as panacea were salivating in anticipation: imagining “The West Wing” as a summer stock collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola … Hyadoin? … Hyadoin? … Fuggedaboudit!
But alas, comic nirvana was not to be. In the space of several days Sessions was brought to heel, Christie went back to picking fights at baseball games, and The Mooch spectacularly flamed out via an expletive-laced diatribe against White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and presidential adviser Steve Bannon. Priebus did not survive the onslaught but at this moment, Bannon — former Breitbart troll and alt right champion — maintains a tenuous grip.
When he escalated the North Korea rhetoric, suggesting his initial rant was insufficiently bellicose: “maybe it wasn’t tough enough,” the stark reality of Trump’s utter incompetence began to sink in. But his failure to comprehend the nation’s outrage at the racist, anti-Semitic, Nazi-sympathizing white nationalists in Virginia was a bridge too far for anyone with a shred of decency. After KKK stalwart David Duke vowed to “take America back,” fulfilling “Donald Trump’s campaign promises” the president’s pandering spoke volumes.
The damage this pathetic soulless man has done to America in a mere six months is almost unfathomable. His mere presence in the Oval Office provides license to abysmal creatures like Duke and his cohort spewing their filth in hate-filled demonstrations across the country. What’s worse, the rest of the far right is opportunistically moving to curtail minority voting; jeopardize women’s health; discriminate against African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims and the LBGTQ community; and destroy the Affordable Care Act, leaving tens of millions without health care. All because of the fellow traveler in the Oval Office.
Before the country we know and love is no longer recognizable, this man has got to go. Three and a half more years of this is unthinkable.