It has been a busy week for Donald Trump, and the wheels look to be coming off the wagon. With the firing of Steve Bannon, the resignation of Carl Icahn, and now the resignation en masse of the entire Council on the Arts & Humanities, the Trump administration is running out of eyes to blacken. Add those names to the growing list of fired or resigned cabinet members, and we see in just how much disarray this administration really is. Since taking office in January, he has already fired or seen skedaddle Michael Flynn (National Security adviser), Derek Harvey (Middle East adviser for National Security Council), James Comey (FBI Director), Reince Priebus (Chief of Staff), Walter Shaub (Office of Government Ethics Director), Anthony Scaramucci (Communications Director – the second such of this administration), and Sean Spicer (Press Secretary).
In a way, you have to feel sorry for the guy. And I do, I truly do. Don’t get me wrong, as a human being, the Trump we have come to know is a detestable, boorish, creep. He has earned that on his own merits. His knowledge of the workings of the world and of the historical context in which it needs to be understood, are almost invariably wrong. He can’t seem to be bothered with half-truths; he has launched himself headlong into absolute irrationality. For most of us, we have to scratch our heads and ask, “How could anyone think that?”
And that is the important question. That is where our lesson needs to be learned. The next time it is suggested that we have to elect an extremely wealthy “businessman” to the Presidency, “because he will understand the economy,” we should ride that messenger out of town, on a rail, tarred and feathered. In our history, we have elected eight men to the office of the Presidency who came to us from the world of business. Of the eight, only two will be remembered favorably, and only one of them for the actions taken while he was in office.
It would take three hundred or more pages to accurately dissect the administrations of these men, so I’ll have to paraphrase it here, running the highlight reel. The first was Warren G. Harding (#29), who died in office after just two years and left us most notably with the Teapot Dome Scandal, wherein his administration had leased Navy petroleum reserves to private oil companies, without a competitive bidding process. In other words, his administration was turning a buck by selling off that which they managed but did not own, a prime example of early venture capitalism.
Harding was followed by Calvin Coolidge (#30), who proclaimed that “The business of America is business,” when the rest of the country was operating under the vague notion that the business of America was supposed to be freedom and government of and by the people. Coolidge oversaw the deregulation of large corporate interests as government shifted to working for the corporation, and put in place the policies that would lead to the Stock Market Crash in 1929.
Herbert Hoover (Hoobert Heever) (#31) inherited Coolidge’s America and managed to shepherd the country from the 1929 Crash, straight into the Great Depression. He will never be remembered as anything but an abject failure as an administrator.
Harry Truman (#33) became president on the death of Franklin Roosevelt and proved to be a very able administrator indeed. Nicknamed “Hydromatic Harry (a shiftless son-of-a-bitch)” while in office, he has none-the-less come to be regarded as one of our better Presidents, implementing the Marshall Plan for the restoration of Europe (which made the United States the world’s #1 industrial power), the creation of NATO and the founding of the UN, and negotiating the early stages of the Cold War between the Russians, Chinese and ourselves. It is important to note that as a “businessman,” Truman was a small-businessman, the owner of a haberdashery.
Jimmy Carter (#39) will also be remembered well, but not for his time in office. Carter is a fine human being who has sought to lead by example, well into his nineties. But his administration was a disaster of epic proportions, including staggering double digit inflation, the botched Iranian hostage rescue and a cabinet of ill-informed people, particularly in terms of foreign policy, who bungled our reaction to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and furthered the decline of our global position throughout the middle east (the Camp David Accords notwithstanding). His business? We all remember that Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer, not an oil man or a real estate mogul.
G.H.W Bush (#41) came to us as big oil money and a “thousand points of light,” but managed to steer us into NAFTA, the first Gulf War (which, to his credit, was superbly prosecuted), and an economic recession with a recovery so weak that we elected a hillbilly to the office in his place.
Of course, GW Bush (#43), scion of GHW Bush, the elder, led us into Afghanistan, the second Iraq War and the “global war on terror,” while surrounding himself with the likes of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Haliburton. We continue to dig out from that morass, today.
And now we have Trump (#45), born with a silver spoon in his mouth and his daddy’s fortune in his hip pocket. The ultimate “businessman.” Real estate tycoon, steak salesman, casino mogul, beauty pageant impresario, and TV game show host. Sounds legit. But here we are, barely eight months into his four year hitch, and the rats are fleeing the sinking ship while he continues to drill holes into it to let the water out.
And I feel sorry for the guy.
I feel sorry for Trump in the same way that I feel sorry for all these other richer-than-you-could-ever-imagine schnooks (popularly referred to as the 1%). You see, in his life, Trump has never needed to be right. When you have that kind of money, you can do anything you want, think anything you want, believe any cockamamie idea that comes down the pike, and you’ll still come out fine. Fortune Magazine ran an article on him in 2015 which demonstrated that the man who is worth an estimated $5 billion would have been worth as much as $13 billion if he had just put his money in an index fund and sat on it ( http://fortune.com/2015/08/20/donald-trump-index-funds/ ). In other words, his bungled business ventures have cost him almost $8 billion, but he is too damn rich to even notice.
By contrast, look at a small businessman like Harry Truman. Anyone who has ever owned or managed a small business can tell you that they can’t afford to be wrong. One error in judgement, one bad investment, one failed advertising campaign, can set a small business back or even force it under.
While Americans applaud the brashness and financial devil-may-care attitude of the fabulously wealthy (politicians or celebs, is there a difference?), what we consistently see from these people is that they operate on a set of misapprehensions that would confound anyone with a decent, twelfth grade education. By all means, plop these folks down in a reality TV show, so we can kick back, point at the screen and have a laugh at their expense. But don’t expect these people to make decisions on your health care, on your civil liberties, or give them the keys to the nuclear arsenal.
In the end, I feel sorry for Donald Trump, not as a president with an administration destined for the shredder, but as a failed human being. Boor, loudmouth, creep, however you wish to think of him, Donald Trump, in my estimation, is a stupid person, stupid in the sense of possessing a profound ignorance about damn near everything. In an alternate universe, he might be an eighth grade dropout, panhandling on a street in a major city, unable to read a classified ad and find even minimum wage work. He might be someone convinced that the moon landing was faked, that the sun orbits the earth, or that the planet is just 6000 years old.
Instead, he is someone in a finely tailored suit, with a much younger, very attractive wife, a perpetual “whatever!” expression and the might of the world’s most powerful military behind him. But none of that fixes stupid. He clings to the belief that climate change is a Chinese hoax, that there is some manner of equivalency between nazis and the decent people who stood up to them in Charlottesville, that our own LGBTQ community poses a threat to our military, that immigrants are destroying our country and its economy, and that we can bomb our enemies into democracy and friendship. I am saddened by his ignorance, not just for the sake of our country, but for the sake of a man who will live out the rest of his life, wallowing in money and never comprehending all of the things which can not be bought. One appellation for Trump would be to call him a “cynic,” a person who believes that people are motivated by self-interest alone, and not by a sense of honor or for other unselfish reasons. Or as Oscar Wilde defined, a cynic “knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Today, we are paying the price for Trump and seeing that there is indeed no value in him. He has become pathetic.