A WarningBook - 2019
From the critics
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In these pages, I’ve done my best to provide an unvarnished assessment of Donald Trump and his presidency based on my own observations and experience, not baseless rumors.
Removing my identity from the equation deprives him of an opportunity to create a distraction. What will he do when there is no person to attack, only an idea?
Two traits are illustrative of what brought the Steady State together: the president’s inattentiveness and his impulsiveness.
Trump was all over the place. He was like a twelve-year-old in an air traffic control tower, pushing the buttons of government indiscriminately, indifferent to the planes skidding across the runway and the flights frantically diverting away from the airport.
Great deeds can be done by imperfect men. We just need to decide whether it’s worth it.
Athens was the cautionary tale of how self-government could go wrong. It was an example of “direct democracy,” a society where the majority ruled and where citizens participated personally in the assembly, voting on the issues of the day by raising their hands. At first this was revolutionary, but in time, a herd-like mentality overcame the system. In the heat of the moment, the passions of the people could turn them into an angry mob, leading the majority into destructive decisions that proved to be their undoing.
We’ve grown impatient with our bureaucracies, with our Congress, and with one another. We’ve retreated into ideological corners. At the same time, the decisions we face are not routine; they are of the highest consequence, from an exploding federal debt to protracted foreign conflicts.
Let’s say April 1, 2018. That week his Papers will record that the president blasted ABC News, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, and the Washington Post ( all individually ) as “fake news”; blamed online retailer Amazon for stores closing “all over the country”; ridiculed the “money-losing” US Postal Service; mocked former US trade negotiators as “foolish, or incompetent”; denounced Mexico on immigration and threatened to cut off their “cash cow, NAFTA”; lamented his own Justice Department and FBI as “an embarrassment to our country ”; and rounded it off by deriding his predecessor as “Cheatin’ Obama. ”
“The President hears a hundred voices telling him that he is the greatest man in the world. He must listen carefully indeed to hear the one voice that tells him he is not.” — Harry Truman
When you bump into former officials in the course of Washington business, they ask what it’s like to operate in this type of environment. I’ll tell you. It’s like showing up at the nursing home at daybreak to find your elderly uncle running pantsless across the courtyard and cursing loudly about the cafeteria food, as worried attendants try to catch him. You’re stunned, amused, and embarrassed all at the same time. Only your uncle probably wouldn’t do it every single day, his words aren’t broadcast to the public, and he doesn’t have to lead the US government once he puts his pants on.
I will be the first to say that political opponents have clouded our ability to judge the president’s statements fairly because they have a knee-jerk reaction to everything he says. To them, it’s all a lie. That’s not accurate. Everything the president says is not a lie, but an awful lot of it is.
What is troubling about the president is not that he came into office with so little information about how it runs. It’s that he’s done so little to try to learn more in order to do his job.
A Washington Post analysis found that after nearly nine hundred days in the White House, the president made a staggering eleven thousand junk claims. This averages out to more than ten half-truths or untruths a day. While some Americans have grown skeptical of a media that seems to attack President Trump relentlessly, this figure is based on objective analysis of his own words, words that can be proven inaccurate or flat-out wrong.
The president has been called a pathological liar. I used to cringe when I heard people say that just to score political points, and I thought it was unfair. Now I know it’s true. He spreads lies he hears. He makes up new lies to spread. He lies to our faces. He asks people around him to lie.
Kellyanne Conway unintentionally summed up this Trumpian philosophy beautifully. She went on Meet the Press and was forced to defend the president’s absurd boast about having the largest ever crowd at his inauguration. To be clear, the president’s claim was easily disproven by facts and photographs and numbers and recorded history and basic human reasoning. Still, Chuck Todd pressed Conway on the subject, to which she responded: “You’re saying it’s a falsehood … [but] Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts.” “Wait a minute, ” Todd interjected. “Alternative facts? … Alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.” She chided the host: “Your job is not to call things ridiculous that are said by our press secretary and our president. That is not your job.” In other words: We said it, so it’s true.
The most recent study found “there is virtually no common ground in the priorities that rise to the top of the lists” between the two sides. Democratic respondents said our nation’s biggest challenges were health care, education, the environment, Medicare, and poverty. Republicans said they were terrorism, the economy, Social Security, immigration, and the military. It’s the least amount of crossover the Pew Research Center has found since it began tracking these metrics more than two decades ago.
Our capacity to reason — to see through falsehoods — is one of our sturdiest ramparts against threats to democracy. Without it, our republic is vulnerable to creeping encroachments of authoritarianism. Trump’s words have already undercut the independence of the judiciary, excused the overreach of executive power, and chipped away at public trust in government. They are also being used to attack our last hope for truth: the free press.
He once said, “See, I don’t think that the mainstream media is free speech either because it’s so crooked. It’s so dishonest. So to me, free speech is not when you see something good and then you purposely write bad. To me, that’s very dangerous speech, and you become angry at it. But that’s not free speech. ” That, of course, is the very definition of free speech — being able to criticize a president when he doesn’t like it.
“Mob-rule is a rough sea for the ship of state to ride,” an American historian once wrote. “Every wind of oratory stirs up the waters and deflects the course. The upshot of such a democracy is tyranny or autocracy; the crowd so loves flattery, it is so ‘ hungry for honey, ’ that at last the wiliest and most unscrupulous flatterer, calling himself the ‘protector of the people,’ rises to supreme power.” That’s when self-government implodes.
We all know that people are dumber and crueler in large groups. Trump plays this to his advantage by directing the violent energy toward whatever careless end he wishes. When the pixelated pitchforks get raised, truth becomes the first victim. Irrationality takes over. That’s how the president turns his own fake news into instantaneous reality. His falsehoods get retweeted by the tens of thousands before the fact-checkers wake up.
When the president talks about people he wants to keep out of America, he tends to bring up Latin America, Africa, or Middle Eastern nations. When he tells the public about places he loves — countries whose citizens he would happily welcome in large numbers — he tends to talk about European nations, especially white, wealthy Nordic countries. I still don’t think he’s a hardline racist, but draw your own conclusions.
Many other elected conservatives chimed in throughout the campaign, calling the Republican nominee a “bigot,” “misogynist,” “liar,” “unintelligent,” “inarticulate,” “dangerous,” “fraud,” “bully,” and “unfit” for the presidency. One Republican had especially blunt words as the clock ticked down to Election Day. He said he only supported Trump out of antipathy toward Hillary Clinton. “I’m doing so despite the fact that I think he’s a terrible human being.” Donald Trump is “absolutely not” a role model, the conservative leader declared. In fact, he is “[one] of the most flawed human beings ever to run for president in the history of the country.” The speaker was South Carolina congressman Mick Mulvaney. Roughly twenty-four months later, Mick would become Donald Trump’s third chief of staff.
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