Remaining promoters of the concept of Donald Trump as President of the United States cite the fact that he has started no new shooting wars while Russiagate has turned out to be a flop and the economy seems to be doing well. He also seems serious about leaving Syria and Afghanistan, though those initiatives are currently on hold pending the approval of his consigliere “Defender of Israel” award winner John Bolton.
The Trump supporters however choose to ignore that the president has been unable to secure the southern border, which was a significant campaign pledge, and has initiated a series of trade and economic wars supplemented by a heavy dose of sanctions that have possibly killed more people and destroyed more American jobs collaterally than if he deliberately gone out and sought to do so. And also on his watch relations with Russia, the most important country in the world with respect to national security, have gotten worse, not better. Far worse.
I voted for Trump because he was not Hillary Clinton and he presented himself as the peace and reconciliation candidate. Almost everyone I know from my national security and moderate conservative background did the same, but now few of those supporters are enthusiastic about Trump based on his record of war-crime cruise missile attacks on Syria and his shameful and never ending pandering to Israel, which has included withdrawal from a highly beneficial nuclear agreement coupled with almost weekly piling on Iran. Venezuela, which is a sideshow, has merely confirmed that the Trump Administration has a lot of loose cannons on deck and the least tethered of all just might be the president.
At this point, people I know are completely disillusioned by what is going on – or not going on – in the White House and would only vote for Trump if he again runs against Hillary in 2020. But that is a Clinton thing that actually has little to do with what Trump is or represents and it begs the question why America tends to produce such terrible presidential candidates.
Unfortunately, when one thinks about Donald Trump the words “boorish” and “uncouth” come immediately to mind, followed by “possibly insane.” Some observers suggest that the crudeness is a ploy on Trump’s part, the kind of language that his supporters expect, something that excites them, but I tend to think that he has lost more than he has gained by his demeanor. And then there is the tweeting. It is so far beneath the dignity of the office that Trump holds to tweet insults far and wide that it is difficult to imagine what he thinks he gains by doing it. It is perhaps an indication that his self esteem is so fragile that he has to be on the attack constantly and his chosen method for dealing with critics is ridicule.
A recent Trump target was putative Democratic presidential candidate Pete Butteig, whom he nicknamed Alred E. Neuman, Mad Magazine’s perennial cover nerd. In an interview, Trump declared to Politico that “Alfred E. Neuman cannot become president of the United States,” an insult presumably based on Trump’s assessment of Buttigieg’s appearance. Buttigieg, for his part, did not know who Neuman was as the “What, me worry?” boy was a humor magazine staple well-known half a century ago in the 1960s and 1970s. He responded that he was “surprised” Trump wasn’t “spending more time trying to salvage this China deal.”
Donald Trump is much given to lashing out with insults to his opponents, but denigrating Buttigieg on his appearance, who, as mayor of South Bend Indiana, is only recently on the national political map, might be considered a new low. Other Democrats in Congress have been subjected to phrases like “pencil-neck” and have been derided for their height or physical appearance. Or for being stupid, which recalls Trump’s own assertions that he is a “very stable genius” and possibly the most brilliant of all presidents. And then there was the Pocahontas label attached to Senator Elizabeth Warren, though she probably in fact was somewhat deserving of a put down as she had clearly faked her native American roots for personal gain in academia.
Buttigieg, however, may be a fairly conventional liberal but he is not a lightweight. He is a genuinely religious former Rhodes scholar and Navy Reserve intelligence officer who actually served a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Donald Trump famously avoided the draft for Vietnam in the nineteen-seventies because of an allegedly phony claim that he had “bone spurs.” The thrice married Trump once described how he had experienced his own “personal Vietnam” during the war by avoiding sexually transmitted diseases while sleeping with random women. “I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”
The point is that Donald Trump was elected because many American people realized that the Establishment politicians had failed them while other voters took his commitments to secure borders and a less aggressive foreign policy seriously. But his tweeting and insults plus his frequently unhinged assertions quite plausibly make him unworthy of the office he holds, regardless of whether it all amounts to an impeachable offense or not. Citizens entering the voting booth in 2020 should consider Trump’s character and demeanor as well as his record, such as it is, before casting their ballots.
This article originally appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal.
Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest.