Is the President like a Rebel Without A Cause?

By traditional standards, the pace at which the nation and the world are consumed by conflict is without precedent; neither baby boomers nor anyone else has seen anything like it before. As BoomerCafé co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs writes in this Boomer Opinion piece, President Trump is at the root of it and while some people like how he operates, he might be putting the rest of us, and them too, in peril.

In the classic game of Chicken, two drivers race their cars side by side toward a cliff. The first to hit the brakes is the chicken.

It’s the stuff of a good flick. ‘50s teen icon James Dean, who many baby boomers will remember, played it and pulled through without a scratch in Rebel Without A Cause.

Two legends of motion pictures — James Dean with Natalie Wood.

But it’s the stuff of bad leadership. Just last month alone, President Trump played chicken with our economic security, our national security, and our personal security. Yet we are powerless; he’s the only one who can slam on the brakes.

But he doesn’t. At least not until we are close to the cliff. Not until we’ve watched our fortunes threatened in trade feuds with other global powers. Not until we’ve trembled from fears of conflict with a nuclear-armed tyrant. Not until we’ve watched innocent children confined to cages within the borders of our own nation.

In the film, Rebel Without A Cause, actor James Dean escaped going over a cliff.

The President plays chicken, and we are the pawns. The overarching theme of his high-risk game is that the end justifies the means. But how can that be if the means make us less secure, not more? If the means alienate our allies, pull money from our wallets, or in the case of the children, simply make us ashamed but no safer? Say what you will about illegal immigration, in the case of those thousands of children pulled from their parents, the end did not justify the means. Not even close.

Economic security is the President’s rationale for the tariffs, the trade wars. His biggest target is China, although he also has gone to war with old friends and allies in Europe, and neighbors like Mexico and Canada (which is puzzling; as columnist Tom Friedman put it, “What country wouldn’t want Canada as its neighbor?”)

President Trump

Trump’s goals with China, arguably virtuous, are to stop its intellectual property thefts and balance our trade gap. But his crusade to accomplish those goals isn’t enriching us, at least not yet; it’s draining us. His defenders argue that it is a necessary evil. I argue otherwise: it is only evil. Evil to American companies that depend on China as a major market, evil to American manufacturers that depend on Chinese parts to produce their products, evil to Americans (and this is mostly baby boomers) who are watching their nest eggs in the uneasy stock market dwindle.

Yet when China announces tit-for-tat retaliation to Trump’s first shot in the war — $50-billion in tariffs — does he say, “Let’s sit down and talk?” Nope. He raises the stakes. To $200-billion. Maybe more. The President’s chief trade advisor Peter Navarro— the guy who angrily promised long loyal allies “a special place in hell” if they cross President Trump— insists that in the trade war, China has “much more to lose.” Point of clarification Mr. Navarro: maybe China has more to lose, but we lose too. This trade war may weaken China (and all the others), but it weakens us too. What’s more, if you know anything about China, its people have a history of hardship. They can endure it far better than us. As its foreign ministry said this week, China is “fully prepared” if a trade war comes.

Our balance of trade with China and our other new enemies wasn’t perfect, but think about this: we were still prosperous. The President’s playing chicken with our prosperity, and we can’t slam on the brakes.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a missile launch.

National security has been the President’s ongoing rationale for his tempestuous relationship with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. His rash rhetoric earlier this year about “Little Rocket Man” and “fire and fury” and his own “much bigger” nuclear button had us genuinely worried about war (remember Hawaii’s nuclear alert) before he brought us down (as if he deserves credit for defusing the fuses he lit). While we all hope the amity of the Singapore Summit will last, the nuclear threat has not melted away. Not until Kim’s nuclear weapons do.

And if they don’t, we’ll be right back where we were just months ago, playing chicken, wondering which strongman will choose to launch the first strike. If it does come to that, it’s a very safe bet that North Korea will be crushed and the United States will come out on top. But not without taking some bad blows ourselves. Maybe North Korea has more to lose, but we lose too. Not to mention the losses our allies will suffer.

Yes, North Korean nukes are uncomfortable, and maybe ultimately Trump’s tactics will succeed, but Kim wasn’t threatening to blow us to kingdom come until Trump threatened him. Is this worth playing chicken with our lives, and our allies’? Maybe not, but we can’t slam on the brakes.

Personal security? That’s what’s behind the ceaselessly controversial case of illegal immigrants, which led to children confined in cages, courtesy of the U.S. Government. President Trump said he doesn’t want illegals to “pour into and infest our country” (another commentator recently wondered, mindful of fascism in the 20th Century, will Trump use the word “vermin” next?). At least he’s consistent; the day he launched his presidential campaign, he said of illegal immigrants from Mexico, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Greg Dobbs

The trouble is, Trump just makes things up. In May, four separate studies were released, the upshot of which was, illegal immigration does not increase violent crime. The libertarian Cato Institute even found that rates of sexual assault and murder are higher among native-born Americans than among illegal immigrants. (It’s a repeat of this lying president’s reckless rhetoric about German Chancellor Angela Merkel, asserting in a tweet that because of her liberal immigration policies, “Crime in Germany is up 10% plus,” which has been thoroughly discredited.)

But Trump has many Americans convinced. Fans of his “zero-tolerance” family separation policy argued that it was the parents’ fault because they had put their kids in this fix. But until he buckled to political pressure, it was the President who kept them there. Which makes me ask, if it was indeed the parents’ negligence, has this nation no conscience to mitigate it, rather than aggravate it?

Caught in their cages, caught in the middle of the President’s game of chicken, were the children themselves, who had nothing to do with any of this.

He even advocated abolishing due process. Several commentators observed that the Statue of Liberty was weeping. Yet she can’t slam on the brakes and neither can we.

Some people think that everything Donald Trump does is part of a strategy, a strategy of putting America First. I think they’re giving him too much credit. Credit for having a strategy at all. Credit for having a well-thought-out plan, whether it pertains to our economic security, our national security, or our personal security.

I think if we’ve learned nothing else about this creature in the White House, it is that he does not operate according to any well-thought-out plan. He operates according to only one principle: the impulses and ego of Donald J. Trump. Once he feels threatened, once he feels offended, everything becomes a tug-of-war. Almost every action is driven by vengeance toward anyone who has looked at him the wrong way, or affirmation of what he has insisted is true.

Chicken is a game. Our security is not. But President Trump doesn’t make the distinction. And we can’t slam on the brakes.

Greg’s book about the wacky ways of a foreign correspondent, Life in the Wrong Lane, is available from Amazon.

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8 Comments

  1. Greg,
    Thank you for your thoughtful commentary. Your comparison with the powerful ’50’s film is apt. In my opinion, Congress is failing in its role as a check on the president’s amoral abuse of power. They could move to “slam on the brakes.” We must ask more of our elected representatives in Congress!

  2. I hope, and I hope, and I hope that Americans will wake up before it’s too late. Trump is nothing but a professional huckster and a giant fraud. His ’empire’ is and always has been built on shifting sand. He runs on ego, thrives on the energy that his fake rallies bring him, and plays games with dangerous politics without understanding what he is doing beyond what his ego needs. He is a child in a mans body. He is a wannabe dictator, because that would feed his ego and that authoritarian power would feed his needs on a daily basis as he dictated who would live or die were he a true dictator. He is a fake, a clown, a fraud, a liar, and a president. I hold no malice towards him, as I truly believe he doesn’t understand what he’s doing. I love my country, and God bless America, and God help us all.

  3. My trust is in Mueller and the November elections. If there is any chance for our democratic process to survive, it is through democracy. I still can’t believe that almost 50% of Americans didn’t vote.

  4. Interesting piece, Greg. Speaking of movies, I’ve seen the ‘Churchill’ movie. Now there’s a man whose countrymen hated him during his time, who was called vile names and fought an uphill battle, just like the Left/Democrat machine is doing to Trump today. But Churchill soldiered on because he knew his country would be swallowed up by the Nazi war machine if they didn’t soon prepare to defend themselves. I can see folks running to their keyboards now to tell me I’m crazy… that Churchill was a statesman, and Trump talks like a tradesman. Well, perhaps, because as a builder he spent lots of time talking to the hands-on people who worked in his business. But Greg uses the current trade negotiations to point out Trump’s evil, so I want to point out that Trump’s expertise is in business. What he’s doing may look like evil to Greg, but I’m sure it looks differently to other people. And if anyone knows how to cut a deal, or make a business run better, it’s Trump. He’s certainly a cut above Obama, a man who never had a real job in the private sector, who never built anything except an organization of agitators who shook down businesses, a president who looked and sounded great, but who did nothing to improve the economy, who put it in a coma, and who increased government spending, government employment, and made it easy for millions more Americans to sit at home and collect a check.

    Getting back to ‘Trump is evil,’ another move analogy I think applies here is ‘The First of the Few,’ staring David Niven, about R. J. Mitchell, the designer of the Spitfire airplane. He and other Brits saw the coming danger for their country over in Hitler’s Germany. They attempted to get their government to spend the money to design a new fighter plane to prepare for it. Of course, governments are bureaucratic and slow, and they didn’t want to do anything but the status quo. Fortunately for R. J. Mitchell and the British people, some in government saw the light and gave Mitchell the money and team to finally build the plane, the Spitfire, that helped save Britain from the Nazis.

    With all respect, Greg, I think your defense of China’s trade games and thievery of American intellectual property is weak. You state, “…China, its people have a history of hardship. They can endure it far better than us.” Wow. You don’t’ have a very high opinion of Americans, or perhaps you’re speaking of just some Americans. Seriously? Wouldn’t we all be speaking German and Japanese if our fathers’ generation, the Greatest Generation, had believed, ‘we can’t go to war with Germany and Japan. They can endure battle and hardship far better than us.’ But, to be fair, I’m sure that there were American Opinion columnists back in the thirties who scolded concerned American citizens who wanted to curb Japan’s growing might by limiting steel and oil sales, “why, that’s evil! Store keepers depend on inexpensive Japanese products, American consumers need these products; they cannot afford ‘Made in America’ products.” At the same time, Japan was building up her war machine with the scrap iron America was sending her. And for the last twenty or so years, China has been building up its military to an strategic offensive capability with the money they make from us on outrageous trade deals and the theft of our intellectual property. But to keep it simple, your approach, Greg, seems to me to be like a father saying to their son who’s having his lunch taken away from him every day, “Well, Johnny, don’t say anything to them; after all, they’re not beating you up, are they.” Well China isn’t beating us up at present, but there are many in our defense agencies and in other governments, like The Philippines, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea, that are very concerned about China’s long range plans. Just look at what China is doing in the South China Sea (the Pacific Ocean), building artificial islands and attempting to make that their own private lake, with transit subject to their approval, the ‘Law of the Seas’ treaty be damned.

    Let’s look at the Illegal Immigrant invasion of our Southern border which you comment on. Much like the Viet Cong did in the Vietnam War, and the Jihadis did during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the perpetrators of this invasion use children as propaganda tools. They know Americans have a soft spot for children. Nothing wrong with loving children. But when they’re used as a Trojan Horse, then the situation changes. Let me make two points: First, if an American citizen commits a felony, they, and not their children, go to jail. Is this not correct? Okay. So when Illegal Immigrants Illegally break into our country, we have a right to put them in jail till such a time that they can be repatriated to their own countries. So we have to come up with some facilities to house their children. This strategy was employed by the Obama administration with not a peep from the Left. But when Trump carries out a law made by congress, and enforced by Obama, all of a sudden he’s Hitler and America is Nazi Germany. Second: Please tell me, people, how many millions of poor Mexican and Central American, Hattian, etc. Illegal immigrants can we allow in before we overwhelm our country’s capability to care, not only for our own poor and working class, but all these extra people. This is pretty basic. Think ‘Titanic,’ if we’re talking movies today. Remember the scene where the people in the lifeboats took in every person they saw floating in the water until their lifeboat was overweight and sank? No. Neither do I. Because they didn’t. They weren’t that stupid.

    You quote studies by left-wing think tanks as if they’re gospel. You say, “… illegal immigration does not increase violent crime.” Really? Talk to people who have had loved ones murdered by Illegals, run over by illegals, etcetera. You say “it was the President who kept them (children in cages) there.” No, this law regarding processing of Illegal immigrants from Central America, was passed by the US congress; remember them? And this law was enforced by previous administrations. Remember them? And Trump has asked congress to fix this law. Remember that? But they refuse, wanting to sandbag Trump with it, as if it were his idea. You excoriate Trump for recklessly attempting to finally fix a problem, North Korea, that Clinton, Bush and Obama left festering for him.

    This opinion piece is full of phrases like: played chicken, over the cliff, children confined to cages, high-risk game, rash rhetoric (lots of that in this piece), fuses he (Trump) lit, lying president, the Statue of Liberty was weeping, every action is driven by vengeance, abolishing due process. Regarding ‘due process,’ despite all the paranoia on the Left about Trump being evil, Hitler, the Devil, Stalin (pick one), I notice he hasn’t declared Martial Law and put his most vociferous critics that slander him daily behind bars in the deepest cell of the most awful prison in America. Or, has he? Maybe I missed it.

    During this peaceful and prosperous, but hyper-contentious, time, we need thoughtful, non-partisan, balanced news articles that examine all sides with cool logic and reason. That’s why I always look forward to boomercafe ‘Trump is evil, and this is why’ Opinion pieces.

    1. As usual, Paul hits the nail on the head. Trump isn’t perfect; no President has been. But the best choice of the choices we had to choose from. And he’s not a politician. People seem to forget that, and expect him to act like Hillary or Obama.

  5. I have one question. Is everyone is complaining about our government ones who voted in the presidential Election? I voted and I heard his campaign, and Hilary’s and all of the rest of them and I made a choice that way. We have a right as a nation to vote as we see fit even if it is stupid and asinine. If you didn’t vote, be quiet. because this is what part of the baby boomers were about. i heard we are peaceful – I see the number of murders inside of the murder between citizens – I hear we are prosperous but I see soup kitchens going up, snap benefits and a real concern for our senior citizens who are living longer than projected. My son still lives at home and I am moving and not taking him with me. he wont work. The cell phone has become the weapon of choice on news and that is slanted by the one aiming it. We wont know the true meaning of this presidency for 20-30 years. We also had one president who played poker with his buddies for 4 years . People will put up with a lot if they thing the prize is going to be there. if you dont believe, stand up and do something. I think this is something our generation has taught us. Too bad its not happening as much any more.

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