A failed presidency

A failed presidency Featured

THIS week's column is my fifth on American politics since the Donald was enshrined in the pantheon of America's celebrated villains as a convicted felon. The equivalent notorious personalities in American history — the likes of Benedict Arnold and Charles Manson, among others, come to mind. We will also discuss in passing the first debate between two old men, representing the best or worst of US politics; on one side, a senile aging warhorse, Biden; on the other, a cognitively impaired, compulsively lying Trump. Last Thursday's encounter was a battle of perception and one-upmanship. Biden was nowhere. From the start, his gait was slow, his voice was raspy, and his gaze was frozen, reinforcing his senility. Where was the energy?

On the other hand, there was Trump, aggressively in control of the conversation, with much energy spewing out the same old lies in sound bites, playing the artful dodger, not answering the questions directly but projecting an image of a winner, not a whiner. He won this one.

But partisans have made up their minds all along. One debate will not convince them otherwise. It is the independents, undecided and the fence sitters who will be the arbiters come November 5. Meantime, the spin doctors on both sides will have their megaphones redirecting their arguments toward what, for them is really important. They will have to attempt to change the face of the issues these coming weeks.

Meantime, I quote a critic of my last week's column, a certified proud MAGA, "...I don't want to discuss the private character of Trump. As I have said in the past, the man is flawed. However, as president, his POLICIES are the best I have seen so far... that is why the TDS are not hitting the benchmark because it's all personal attacks on Trump's character."

"It Was All a Lie" (Stuart Stevens, Knopf Doubleday, 2021). This book contradicts MAGA's allegations: "President Bill Clinton's administration was the greatest modern-day economic success story. He was the only president in recent memory who was able to balance the US budget. He even presided over the first budget surplus since 1969." In retrospect, Clinton, a Democrat (1993-2001), presided over the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history.

But Joe Biden's record is not that bad either. "The US economy reaches superstar status," bannered The Atlantic (Roge Karma, June 10, 2024); "S&P 500 breaks 5,000 for first time in history," reported Forbes (Derek Saul, May 14, 2024); "Crime on the Decline: Murders likely fell at record speed last year," wrote The New York Times (German Lopez, Jan. 11, 2024); and "Unemployment rate remains below 4% for the 27th consecutive month," MSNBC reported (Steve Benen, May 3, 2024).

But this is not a battle of statistics. It is more than that, as articulated by critic Rolly Narciso, an MBM mid-60 classmate, "Just on one factor — decency — Trump already fails miserably. Add a second key factor — integrity — he again definitely fails. He is an impulsive, non-thinking guy. Just another rabble-rouser..." Considerations of decency and integrity, litmus tests for a leader's character, trump economic data anytime.

As erroneously portrayed by MAGA, Trump's was not the economic miracle. In line with the fake news and lies that they are expert at concocting, even their statistics are always predicated on the statement, "Let's look at Trump's first two years in office" — 2017-2019, where he benefited from the residual effects of the previous US administration's policies. But to be fair, I must grant Trump's successes by his own right early, the first 24 months: high employment rate, bringing back manufacturing from China; a more than decent GDP growth, the economy was in good shape, etc. Unfortunately, the upward trajectory could have continued were it not for Covid-19 derailing the world's economy.

"I Alone Can Fix It" (Carol Leonnig/Philip Rucker, Penguin Press 2021). And here is where Narciso's arguments about a leader's decency and integrity become relevant. Other countries, with their kind of responsible leadership, surmounted the crises. But not the kind of leadership Trump exhibited. And I cite excerpts from the above-titled book.

The pandemic by end of 2019 started to ravage the world economy. But in America Trump did his part to exacerbate the devastation. Not only was he slow to appreciate the threat posed by Covid-19, but he rejected the advice of his own experts and even dismantled the National Security Council directorate at the White House, set up previously by President Obama to confront similar contingencies, to prevent America from being blindsided by pandemics.

The directorate was set up in the wake of the past outbreak of SARS — a coronavirus and H7N9 strain of the "bird flu." Experts were convinced it was a matter of time before another similar respiratory disease would erupt. But Trump, decided that "containing the virus would cause economic havoc, and the economy was his ticket to victory in the coming 2020 presidential election." Trump's pandemic response was shaped by political calculation, not science.

Dismissing all professional opinions and experts, he even suggested that injecting bleach and inserting light into the body might prevent the virus' growth. Simple precautionary protocols like wearing masks were discarded. He himself refused to wear one because masks made him look "weak." Toward the end, his administration had given up the fight against Covid. On the last full day of Trump's term in 2021, 400,000 Americans died of Covid.

A summer of deadly protest

Trump's obsession with his self-image, a disastrous flaw in his character, shaped his responses to subsequent crises. In Minneapolis, 46-year-old George Floyd, a Black man, died under police custody when an officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes despite Floyd's pleading — "I can't breathe," more than 20 times. Floyd's name was the latest in a long list of Black Americans who posed no threat to law enforcement and were killed anyway. This incident and others precipitated bigger protests all over the country. The "Black Lives Matter" movement took off. When these protests became intense, Trump's response was no less than a reflection of his racist tendencies. Calling these legitimate protesters thugs, he was inflammatory: "When the looting starts, the shooting starts."

Laying predicate of 2020 elections

By this time, Trump's poll ratings were in a free fall. It was around September 2022 that the first sign that Trump was brewing up an unprecedented constitutional crisis came up. When asked by a journalist if he'd commit to a peaceful transfer of power, Trump later tweeted that the coming election in November would be the "most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history." And Joe Biden was "the worst candidate in history." If Biden beat Trump, it could only mean one thing: the election had been rigged.

True enough, because all votes coming in show Biden leading the electoral college, Trump declared victory in the presidential election before all the votes had been counted. Trump's efforts to retain the presidency led to a final showdown culminating in the deadly riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. His last stand!

To be continued

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Read 94 times Last modified on Thursday, 04 July 2024 06:10
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