Democrats are beginning to realize (if they didn’t already) that there is something dumbfounding about Donald Trump. Maybe he really could, as he controversially claimed during his presidential campaign, “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” So when Republicans defect, not just from their president but from their party, it rates some notice. Which is what BoomerCafé co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs writes about in this Boomer Opinion piece.
Only a few weeks ago I read what should not be a surprising piece of news but it was: a Republican state representative is defecting to the Democrats, and it’s because of Donald Trump. His name is Andy McKean, and as an office-holder for 35 years, he was the longest-serving GOP lawmaker in Iowa.
But in an essay in The Atlantic, McKean sounded like the Democrat he is now becoming: “He (Trump) sets, in my opinion, a poor example for the nation and particularly for our children by personally insulting — often in a crude and juvenile fashion — those who disagree with him, being a bully at a time when we are attempting to discourage bullying, his frequent disregard for the truth and his willingness to ridicule or marginalize people for their appearance, ethnicity or disability.”
And McKean’s declaration of defection wasn’t just about the president’s appalling lack of character or class. It also was about the president’s policies. He denounced “President Trump’s reckless spending and shortsighted financial policies, his erratic, destabilizing foreign policy and his disregard for environmental concerns.”
The mystery is, why does this longtime Republican stand out? Where are the others in statehouses and in Washington alike who know full well that Trump is a threat to our values and a menace to our stability? Are they actually watching what this wrecking ball of a president is doing?
Did they wonder last week why Donald Trump was sending an aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf to fire up our feud with Iran, while after yet another of North Korea’s missile tests, which violate U.N. Security Council resolutions, he was tweeting that Kim Jong-un— who personally supervised the latest launch— “knows that I am with him?” Iran is a threat to western interests in the Middle East, that’s not debatable, but does Trump not realize that while he’s pandering to a murderous dictator on one side of Asia, on its other side he’s reinforcing the influence of hard-liners at the expense of moderates? If I learned anything at all from my years covering that part of the world, it is that the best way to bring polarized people together is to threaten their country. Iran’s angriest threat against us has been the enduring chant I first heard covering the revolution there 40 years ago, “Death to America.” North Korea’s sounds a whole lot more dangerous.
Trump’s approach to policy, which some cleverly call “shoot-from-the-lip,” is to start a fire so he can then rush in and put it out. The trouble is, some of his fires are not controlled burns.
The trade war he started with China is an unnerving example. Ultimately the U.S. might win, depending on how you even define a victory. But at what cost? As the president of the U.S. Council for International Business, which represents global corporations, says, “When the U.S. and China fight, nobody wins, as the past year’s market gyrations, lost deals, and strained diplomatic ties have made abundantly clear.” Not to mention the cost to American farmers and small business owners, and stockholders. And not to mention the unrecoverable cost to the whole economy of the Western world. And not to mention the American consumer. The Vice President of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents major retailers like Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and others, says, “Americans’ entire shopping cart will get more expensive.” Thanks, Mr. President.
Then, there’s Trump’s approach to honesty. Of course when it comes to anything that reflects badly on the man, he calls it a witch hunt, a conspiracy, a lie. As if this guy knows the difference between a verity and a lie. Oh, his defenders will counter that lots of politicians lie. Fair enough. But compared to Trump they are bush league. The president lies to protect himself, to insulate himself, to inflate himself, to fool himself, probably to amuse himself.
That’s what makes Trump’s remorseless resistance to the continuing congressional campaign to force records from his files and testimony from his cronies so intriguing. Especially his reliance on “executive privilege.” It’s a clever tactic because it will stall the campaign, but “executive privilege” is meant to protect private presidential communications, not public prosecutors’ proceedings. Especially when, despite a lack of prosecution, those proceedings turned up at least ten plausible examples of presidential obstruction of justice.
As Democrat Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, says of what Trump is trying to hide— and note that word “oversight,” which is constitutional congressional responsibility— “If there’s nothing, there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Look in almost every direction though and you’ll see that the president has a lot to be afraid of. His tax returns, for example. We recently learned from tax records in the 80s and 90s that at the very time when Trump was wowing readers with his pecuniary prowess in The Art of the Deal, he was in fact losing, over the course of a decade, more than a billion dollars… and for eight of those years, paying not a penny in tax. “You always wanted to show losses for tax purposes,” he tweeted in self-defense, trying to put lipstick on the pig. “It was sport.”
Yeah, so were Barry Bonds’ home runs. As columnist Gail Collins put it, “Trump would like us to believe all that red ink was actually a canny business strategy. On behalf of the millions of Americans who filed their IRS returns last month, I want to say that it is always a treat to hear our president explain how only suckers pay taxes.”
So to go back to the observation from Chairman Cummings, if there’s nothing to be afraid of, why is Trump so afraid? Here’s one answer: because we’re finding out he’s an even bigger liar than we realized. Which is embarrassing for the president, although not half as embarrassing as it is for tens of millions that he is our president at all.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Congressional demands for more cooperation “a desperate ploy to distract from the president’s historically successful agenda and our booming economy.” Wisconsin Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner called the Democrats making those demands a “character assassination squad” sullying innocent people.
To which I can only repeat: if there’s nothing, there’s nothing to be afraid of.
I first preached a particular principle while producing ABC News’s coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings in the 1970s that undid President Richard Nixon: “Nobody can make the man look like a crook without his help.” The same applies to Donald Trump: nobody can make him look reckless, shortsighted, or erratic, and nobody can make him look like a liar and a bully, without his help.
Iowa representative McKean ended his defection declaration saying of Trump’s way of governing, “If this is the new normal, I want no part of it.” Republicans who do still want a part of it should be ashamed.