Donald Trump, a leading-edge baby boomer, was elected to the presidency a year ago today. Compared to previous presidents, some of the cheers are even louder, but so are the jeers. So which way is his star moving right now? BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs, who has covered several presidents as a journalist, has this boomer opinion.
“Congress must govern with a president who… is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct.”
“Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as telling it like it is when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified.”
“He will probably tell an awful combination of partial truths and outright falsehoods.”
“I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him.”
“We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty.”
“He’s a blowhard.”
Damning quotes indeed about Donald Trump. The thing is, they’re not from the mouths of Democrats. Heaven knows, the way Trump has bashed the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, you might expect them to throw these bombs. And after last week, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer too, who the president all but blamed for the New York City terrorist attack. But no, Mr. Trump’s discordant critics are fellow Republicans. Four senators — John McCain, Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse, and Bob Corker — and two former presidents: George W. and George H.W. Bush.
Nor are they borne of ideological differences with the president. With the exception of Senator McCain’s dramatic thumbs-down vote on healthcare, these senators have pretty much voted the Trump ticket in Congress.
But while they might give him decent marks for policy and possibly the state of the economy, they all give him thumbs down for integrity. For character. And no matter how this current Asia trip turns out, for fitness to serve as leader of the free world.
Some analysts say that since three of these senators won’t be running for reelection, they pilloried the president because they have nothing to lose. Maybe true, but all that tells me is, other prominent Republicans also would dart through the door these dissidents have opened if they weren’t terrified to be the next targets of a Trump tirade on Twitter.
Sure, some Republicans truly like the president, if not for his behavior, then at least for his agenda. That would include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has an agenda of his own and knows firsthand what happens if you get on the wrong side of this president. Nowadays, reportedly, McConnell explains to detractors that Donald Trump is the only American who can sign a bill into law. As if that’s reason enough to sweep the president’s profuse personal imperfections under the rug.
What it comes down to is, Republicans in Congress are scared stiff. The threat they see doesn’t come from the aggregate of American voters, which (lest we forget) went for Hillary Clinton by a margin of three million; it comes from the anger of their party’s “base.”
Former Republican senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma last month put it this way: “We have a leader who has a personality disorder, but he’s done what he actually told the people he was going to do, and they’re not going to abandon him.”
No they’re not, not the base. But don’t forget, the Electoral College put Trump in the White House; the aggregate of Americans didn’t. And those numbers aren’t getting any better for the president. Between his performance on issues from the National Football League to arguing with the widow of a fallen soldier to the nuclear threat from North Korea, the base might still praise him, but his approval rating in last week’s polls sank to the lowest point so far after one year in the White House. The criminal indictments of former campaign cohorts surely won’t drive the poll numbers back up.
The power of the base is not overstated when it comes to the party. But it is when it comes to the country.
So depending on where you stand on Donald Trump, there is a lesson in all this. If you support him, beware his behavior because it is not winning him new backers. If you oppose him, take comfort; positive-sounding economics notwithstanding, he has yet to resonate with the majority.
And that’s after only the first year in office.