Dirty

9. He enables corporate polluters on a massive scale

DT is dirty. I don’t mean crooked; he is, but that’s already been discussed here. And I don’t mean Steele dossier dirty; the salacious bits of that scandal are nobody’s business but his own (as long as they don’t impact national security). I mean that he has, in four years, undone almost 50 years of progress on environmental policy. As a result, the cleaner water and air that we take for granted are now severely threatened. That kind of dirty.

If DT had done nothing else in the environmental sphere except deny climate change is happening and withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, he’d go down in history as a dismal failure on the environment. The climate crisis is almost certainly the greatest menace that humanity has ever faced, so it’s understandable that his failure of leadership on that issue has gotten the lion’s share of the headlines, but there have been other failures as well. A lot of them.

A TINY PORTION OF GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE NATIONAL MONUMENT
CC-licensed image by John Fowler

Less than a year after assuming office, he announced plans to decimate two national monuments in Utah. Bears Ears National Monument was to be reduced in size by 85 percent, Grand Staircase-Escalante by half. These two pristine sites were federally owned treasures protected for the benefit of all of the American people. Now vast portions of them, including archaeologically sensitive areas and sites sacred to several Native Americans peoples, are open to destruction from mineral extraction and other commercial interests. Since then, he has pursued an ongoing agenda involving giveaways to corporate industries at the expense of public health, wildlife, and land conservation. The favors he’s done for his polluter friends include:

  • rolling back provisions of both the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, two of the oldest and most fundamental federal environmental laws on the books;
  • removing sensitive wetlands from the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers;
  • expediting approvals for the Dakota Pipeline, an extremely disruptive project that intrudes on sacred Lakota lands and threatens the drinking water supply for tens of thousands of people;
  • opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration;
  • removing protections for waterways in the vicinity of coal mines, threatening the drinking water of innumerable people;
  • removing protections for migratory birds;
  • weakening habitat protections under the Endangered Species Act;
  • loosening rules on mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants;
  • lowering fuel economy standards for new automobiles;
  • declining to ban pesticides found to be toxic to children.

And of course he has waived numerous environmental rules to enable the building of his ridiculous border wall. (More on that in a later blog.) If this gutting of established rules had a noticeable effect on air or water quality at Mar-a-lago, of course he wouldn’t have pursued them. But they don’t. Instead, they have a disproportionate effect on people of color and people in lower-income areas—the sort of people he disdains.

This is the same sort of deregulation that the Republicans have been pursuing for many years, ever since they began purging their party of moderates in the early 1990s. It’s worth saying, however, that the scale of the deregulation we’ve witnessed during these four years is unprecedented, and DT is almost certain to increase the pace of these rollbacks if he’s given the opportunity. The results wouldn’t be pretty: we’d have dirtier water, dirtier air, accelerated extinction of endangered wildlife, increased destruction of irreplaceable landscapes, and rising rates of premature death, cancer, and respiratory diseases. Much of the damage caused by this flurry of giveaways can be undone if we limit DT to one term.

What about GAOA?

It is true that earlier this year DT signed the Great American Outdoors Act, a major piece of environmental legislation that undeniably will have positive effects. It is also true that a broken clock is correct twice a day. Why did he sign it? Who knows. It had significant support from congressional Republicans as well as Democrats, perhaps because it was essentially uncontroversial by anyone’s standards, even among corporate polluters. Supporting such a law provided cover for Republicans in tight races who could point to it and claim to be pro-environment. In any event, it in no way makes up for all the damage done.

Enemy of the free press

10. He’s afraid of the truth getting out

No president has had an entirely smooth relationship with the press. Reporters ask tough questions. Columnists write witheringly critical op-ed pieces. Television pundits have a habit of pointing out inconsistencies and insufficiencies in any policy initiative. The relationship between the presidencies of John Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon and journalists of their respective eras was an especially fraught one, and even thoroughly competent, media-savvy, modern-day presidents such as Barack Obama are often deeply unhappy with the coverage they’re receiving. Unsurprisingly, there has been one modern-day president whose relationship with the press has been consistently dysfunctional from day one. His name rhymes with “frump,” and he’s currently running for reelection.

Exactly how should the press treat a president who had been tabloid fodder for decades before he announced he was running for office? What if he was an arrogant egomaniac, a self-promoting wheeler-dealer with a reputation for high-stakes deals but with a string of failed businesses and bankruptcies in his wake? Suppose he was a demagogue with a history of racist rhetoric and conspiracy-mongering, a reputation as a swindler and a deadbeat who played fast and loose with the truth. It is a fact that no one like that had ever mounted a viable campaign for the presidency before, so it was hard for journalists to know how to cover him. Most journalists gave DT the benefit of the doubt and tried to treat him the way they’d treat any other candidate, president-elect, or newly inaugurated president. But the unprecedented way he acted every step of the way kept them off-balance. Many of the things he said were obviously untrue, but the press (what DT insists upon calling the “mainstream media”) was reluctant to say so plainly, so they couched their coverage in euphemisms and buried the lead—that America had elected a liar—in a fog of trivial details. It’s also true that they provided him a vast amount of uncritical coverage—free advertising, in essence—during his campaign. All in all, it would seem that the press was actually helping him far more than it was hurting him. Was he grateful? Of course not. They didn’t actually fawn all over him, so he hated their guts.

As winter 2017 gave way to spring, it became increasingly clear that the new president was in way over his head. Key positions remained unfilled, turnover among White House staff was already a phenomenon, and DT seemed to have no idea what presidents are supposed to do or how they’re expected to act. Slowly, incrementally, the press became bolder in questioning what was going on and reporting it to the nation. Predictably, this made him hate their guts even more. He took to reflexively retorting “fake news” every time they reported anything substantive about him at all. In press conferences, in speeches, and in tweet after tweet, he attacked them, and his attacks became more extreme. Journalists are “ the enemy of the American people,” he said, “a great danger to our country.” He accused them of disseminating “purposely false and inaccurate reporting.” He suggested revoking the licenses of television “networks” [sic] whose news divisions were covering him negatively. He even went so far as to speak in support of people who assaulted reporters. No legitimate news outlet was spared his displeasure. Eventually, even Fox News, which went out of their way to be downright unctuous in nearly all their coverage of him, became the occasional target of his attacks. Needless to say, he had no qualms about disparaging individual reporters and anchors, especially those who were women.

The situation is better now insofar as the press no longer gives him any benefit of the doubt. They’ve seen firsthand the kind of president and the kind of person he is; they’ve been covering him for years now. As the 2020 election season runs through its final days, the gloves are off. Unfortunately, the meteoric rise and subsequent near-ubiquity of social media, plus the advent of innumerable Internet-based right-wing “news” operations, means that millions of American voters are no longer on the receiving end of comprehensive, fair reporting; instead, they’re holed up in echo chambers, receptive only to what DT and his new-media promoters want them to hear. And that most emphatically does not include the truth: that the man they’ve been revering isn’t a reformer with a few rough edges but rather a dangerous sociopath who doesn’t care if they live or die.

The power of journalism

A free press is one of the most basic components of a free society, in part because it informs the people of threats to their continued freedom. Unsurprisingly, a restricted press is one of the most obvious identifying features of an undemocratic society. Truth is the mortal enemy of authoritarianism, and a free press brings the truth to the people. When an authoritarian leader comes to power, one of their first actions inevitably is to try to muzzle their country’s journalists. All too often they succeed, and there are graves in many countries to attest to the fact.

So far, we’ve been lucky in the U.S., in that violence toward journalists has been relatively rare. It is on the rise, however, and DT has a lot to do with that. The most important thing we can do to ensure that our nation continues to have a free press is to vote him out of office.

Bad influence

11. He is the poorest of role models

Simply by virtue of the position they hold, U.S. presidents are role models. Children are encouraged to excel in school or in certain extracurricular activities by adults who tell them, “You could be president someday!” Some of them actually believe it. (And why not? A child has a roughly 1 in 10 million mathematical odds at being elected president in their lifetime.) Even those who scoff probably take it to heart in some way, for instance by realizing that the presidency is something worth aspiring to. From hearing adults talk, kids learn that individual presidents can be liked or disliked but the office of the president is always worthy of their respect. As long as the person who is the president hews to certain basic conventions of behavior, this is not a problem. What happens, though, when the president thoroughly defies those conventions?

Adults are less likely than children to view a president as a role model, but they are influenced by presidents nevertheless. When a president makes a speech or participates in an interview, their statements typically are replayed ad infinitum over the next several hours or days, until something else supplants them. Statements that are particularly memorable can have a much longer lifespan, measured in decades at least. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country” still resonate 78 and 60 years, respectively, after they were uttered. Both of those presidents still are capable of inspiring a great many Americans. So are a number of others, including Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

DT apparently succeeds in inspiring a certain segment of the American population. To date, he has inspired acts of hatred ranging from racist epithets to mass murder. He has inspired a frighteningly large number of white supremacists, who used to dwell in the shadows, to engage in public demonstrations of their views. And let’s not forget that he has inspired almost everyone on one side of the aisle in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to abandon the last vestiges of bipartisanship, fairness, and goodwill. It’s too early to be certain what the long-term effects of his influence on Americans will be, but it seems probable that they won’t serve to advance the ideals of democracy or equality or even basic human decency. What will be remembered of his words in five, ten, fifty years from now? His suggestion that immigrants from Latin America are rapists and murderers, perhaps. His phrase, “Lock her up,” almost certainly. His boast about sexually assaulting women, without a doubt.

Change the channel

The uncomfortable fact is that DT is the first U.S. president who isn’t even remotely acceptable as a role model for anyone with a functional sense of ethics. Four years of exposure to his repellent rhetoric has gone a long way towards normalizing ways of speaking, and underlying ways of thinking, that no decent American should ever consider to be normal. Another four years of it may well push us past the point of no return. In voting him out of office, we have the opportunity to correct DT’s corrosive influence and begin the healing process.

Four takeaways from the second presidential debate

I’m awfully glad there won’t be any more debates this year. If nothing else, they’re exhausting to watch. Four takeaways from the one tonight:

  1. DT showed self-control.
    Although he may be an emotionally immature narcissist with sociopathic tendencies, the president demonstrated tonight that some degree of self-control isn’t completely beyond him. He was belligerent and rude and several times insisted on talking over the moderator, but he knew that with his microphone muted he’d look supremely foolish for trying to interrupt Joe Biden during the former vice president’s initial answers. So he didn’t. In a way, this makes him look even worse because if he is capable of controlling himself, it means he chose not to do so at the earlier debate. In other words, he was intentionally making an asshat of himself before.
  2. DT has no shame.
    Okay, so everybody knew that already, but calling himself the “least racist person in the room” reinforced the fact that he doesn’t hesitate to make any claim about his own character or abilities, no matter how demonstrably false or patently offensive, if he thinks it will suit his purposes. He looks in the mirror and sees perfection. Yet behind that…façade, shall we say, is a deeply ignorant, narrow-minded man of extraordinary privilege who wouldn’t know racism if it stared him in the face. Which it does—when he looks in the mirror and when he meets with the various white supremacists with whom he associates.
  3. DT is really, really dense.
    Comparing one’s record to that of Abraham Lincoln is a risky thing for any president to do. Though not beyond criticism by a long shot, our 16th president was probably the best one we’ve had, to date. By all accounts, he was bright, compassionate, and humble—three adjectives one would be hard-pressed to apply to our 45th president unless one were making some kind of sick joke. It was interesting what happened when Joe Biden jokingly referred to his opponent as Lincoln. Anyone else with a modicum of mental sharpness would have laughed or at least smiled, maybe cracked a joke in return. Instead, DT expressed surprise, indicating he thought Joe had misunderstood him, and took pains to explain that he hadn’t called himself Lincoln. It was a missed opportunity for DT to come across as a little more human, and he blew it.
  4. Joe has the power.
    Speaking of bright, compassionate, and humble, Joe Biden gives every appearance of sharing those attributes of Lincoln’s. Like Lincoln, he will (God willing) to take over the reins during an especially dark and trying time in American history. (We’ll hope there won’t be any sort of civil war again.) Having watched his performance now in a whole lot of debates, including those during the primaries, I am confident that he has what it takes to return the nation to a normal state. I also believe he is willing to take bold action on the interrelated issues of pandemic, climate crisis, and jobs. In doing so, he could well end up being the most transformative president since FDR. Transformation for the better, I mean.

World-class failure

12. He has lowered America’s standing internationally

U.S. foreign policy has seen its share of ignominious moments over the years. To put it simply, we have an unfortunate tendency of acting with more aggression than finesse on the world stage. We’ve provoked coups, assassinated politicians, propped up undemocratic regimes, backed murderous rebel movements, and entangled ourselves in wars that dragged on for prolonged periods and were completely unnecessary in the first place. The flip side of the coin shows the U.S. capable of being highly effective at diplomacy when we make the effort. Our participation in NATO was instrumental in keeping Western Europe safe from Soviet aggression, and our leadership on the United Nations Security Council played a key role at various critical moments in modern history. With the exception of the Iraq War debacle, our foreign policy remained remarkably consistent since the breakup of the USSR, across four presidential administrations and eight secretaries of state. Then came DT, and the playbook went sailing out the window.

Under DT, the longtime problematic aspects of U.S. foreign policy have continued, while its better aspects have deteriorated. He promised to put an end to foreign wars but has made no effort to do so. He withdrew the U.S. from the international nuclear deal with Iran and then ordered the killing of a top Iranian general, bringing us closer to war with that country. He moved our embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a controversial move that was entirely unwarranted. He declined to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder of a prominent journalist who had written pieces critical of that country’s ruling family. He threatened our allies with sanctions, announced that he trusted a dictator’s word over that of the entire U.S. intelligence community, stepped up the bombardment of a country we invaded almost two decades earlier, and acted coercively toward an ally in the hope of helping his reelection campaign. His unreasoning insistence on demonizing China while singing the praises of Putin’s Russia smacks of racism and ignorance. He has appointed two secretaries of state, the first a well-meaning corporate executive with no government experience who was quickly in over his head, the second a right-wing ideologue who has completed the politicization of the State Department, resulting in a mass exodus of career diplomats. Perhaps most chillingly, he has pursued a policy of extreme isolationism, even going so far as to withdraw from the World Health Organization as an unprecedented pandemic seized the planet.

Competent foreign policy isn’t just a nicety. It improves our standing in the community of nations, furthers our economic interests, gives us leverage with which to negotiate, helps protect us from unexpected threats, and it can be instrumental either in averting a war or, if that war happens, winning it.

There are too many more examples of DT’s incompetence and misbehavior in foreign affairs to mention here. In short, under DT the U.S. has lost credibility and stature in the world. We have become something of a laughingstock—the most powerful nation on the planet and a supposed beacon of democracy, run by a petty thug who neither knows nor cares about anything but himself. If we are to remain in a position where we won’t be eclipsed financially by China and militarily by Russia, we need to vote him out of office and replace him with Joe Biden, who has vast foreign policy experience and will act to protect the nation, not himself.

Open to debate

The second, and final, presidential debate of the 2020 general election is slated to air tonight at 9 p.m. EDT. But should it?

Joe Biden is doing well, and tonight will provide a chance for him to stick his foot in his mouth. DT is doing poorly, and tonight will provide a chance for him to tone down the interruptions and the insults that characterized his performance at the first debate. It’s doubtful that either of those chances will come to fruition, but it’s a concern. So is the coronavirus. Even with social distancing, it seems like an unnecessary risk for Joe to take to even be there. We need him healthy and strong over the next four years. Or eight.

Misogynist

13. He flaunts his disrespect for women

Like many acutely misogynistic men, DT is obsessed with women’s appearance. He obviously considers that they’re there for him to look at, and he doesn’t hesitate to call them how he sees them. “Look at that piece of ass,” he remarked to Michael Cohen once upon a time, not realizing he was looking at his attorney’s young daughter. Sadly, that sort of statement is hardly a rarity in the world, but most men who say it, when informed of their mistake, would be embarrassed and quickly apologize or risk getting punched. Not DT, whose next words to the girl’s father were: “When did she get so hot?”

Cohen didn’t punch him. At that point, he was DT’s chief enforcer, his go-to guy for strong-arm legal tactics that all too often crossed the line into unethical and illegal territory. Unlike many who worked for DT, he was paid well for his efforts. Later, in the presence of the lawyer’s daughter, DT told Cohen that “there is no way that she got her looks from you. Thank God you married a beautiful woman.” DT went on to be elected president. Cohen went on to prison, but not without renouncing his evil ways and laying bare the misdeeds of his elderly horndog client. The daughter was lucky: DT didn’t assault her. To date, 24 women have publicly accused the president of sexual assaults ranging from groping to forced kissing to rape.

Women he perceives as threats don’t receive such “compliments” from the president. Instead, they’re told they are unattractive. There are many examples of this because DT perceives many women as threats. They’re threatening to him if they criticize his administration, ask him pointed questions, fail to act obsequious enough. Woman journalists are a frequent target of his insults—to hear him tell it, practically all of them are “nasty”—but no one is exempt. According to DT, Rosie O’Donnell is a “big fat pig” with a “fat, ugly face.” Arianna Huffington is “unattractive.” Bette Midler has an “ugly face and body.” Cher’s “massive plastic surgeries…didn’t work.” Senator Kamala Harris, who as a woman of color running against his running mate represents a triple threat to him, is a nothing short of a “monster.”

Misogyny takes various forms, some more blatant than others. The world has its genteel misogynists who consider women inferior but would never consider insulting, let alone assaulting, them. Most modern-day U.S. presidents have probably fit that profile. Then there’s the 45th president, who dispenses not only with gentility but also common courtesy. Most people who hold deeply prejudiced views make some effort to conceal them. This comes from an awareness that putting such views on display would be socially unacceptable and cause unnecessary friction with others. DT isn’t like most people: he wears his prejudices on his sleeve. He has quite a few prejudices, but none is as flagrant as his bias against women. He must really hate them.

Calling all voters

Presidents lead by example. As DT has emboldened racists and authoritarian thugs, so he has emboldened sexists. His example has made the country—and the world—a less safe place for women and girls. There is some evidence that his support among white women voters, a majority of whom helped nudge him to his narrow victory 2016, is slipping. Let us hope that is so. Let us also hope that male voters, either out of a sincere desire for women’s equality or at least from an uneasiness about the safety of their own wives, daughters, and female friends, follow suit.

By almost all accounts, DT’s bid for reelection is not going well, but we cannot afford to be complacent. For over a year, I’ve been saying that the way to defeat him is to turn out the vote, and the way to be stuck with four more years of rapidly failing democracy is to fail to act as if every voter counts, especially in the battleground states. So let’s hold hope in our hearts but act as if Joe Biden is in big trouble. Vote, remind other reasonable voters to vote, and volunteer to help if we can. Electing Joe, and ending this nightmare of brazen misogyny in the White House, is possible if we try hard enough.

Deadbeat

14. He doesn’t pay his bills

During all those years when he oversaw the building of casinos and hotels, DT used an unusual method to rake in as much money as possible: he refused to pay the people who did the actual building. This was widely covered in 2016 but quickly moved off the radar screen, displaced by scandals more recent and more lurid. Now it is getting some press once again, as his second campaign holds rallies in city after city without paying the costs associated with hosting them.

Back in the day, the pattern went something like this: DT arranged for contractors to build or renovate his properties. Although his sense of style leans heavily toward the tacky, he insisted on premium materials and high-quality craftsmanship, especially when it came to features that were readily observed. In other words, the overall effect may be tasteless, but it’s an expensive tastelessness. So, on his orders, the contractors dutifully hired the best woodworkers and metalworkers and painters, sought out the finest carpets and most luxurious appointments, and the properties were built and completed and opened for business. The contractors billed DT but he didn’t pay them, in full or in part. They sued DT. He still didn’t pay them, and he hired lawyers to get him off the hook. The lawyers billed DT but he didn’t pay them. They sued DT. He still didn’t pay them, and he hired new lawyers to get him off the hook with the old lawyers. In the meantime, bank loans came due but he didn’t pay them. He took out new loans to pay off the old loans. The new loans came due but he didn’t pay them. On on and on and on it went, mostly with him staying a step ahead of his creditors.

Of course, he wasn’t able to outrun his creditors indefinitely; six times he was forced to file for bankruptcy. Nevertheless, he emerged from each of these bankruptcies, having found new suckers willing to finance still more unprofitable schemes. Meanwhile, a whole lot of people who try to make an honest living were left in the lurch. Some were obliged to declare bankruptcy themselves. Others lost their livelihoods, settled into downward spirals of debt and despair. Careers, families, lives were destroyed, and it can be said with high confidence that DT never gave them a second thought. To sociopaths like him, people are there to be used. One wonders how many of the blue-collar workers who voted for him realize that he screwed over a whole bunch of people just like themselves. (Psst! He’s doing it again.)

There were other failed ventures over the years, including a pyramid scheme involving nutritional supplements, a made-in-China clothing line, and the infamous Tr-mp University, which defrauded thousands of would-be students who wanted to learn how to succeed in real estate and had imbibed the fiction that DT knows how to do that. They paid thousands of dollars to watch infomercials and hotel-room seminars, then were refused their diplomas until they gave a favorable rating to the company that had just ripped them off. This led to numerous lawsuits. Some students got their money back (it was paid out by a business associate, not DT himself), others were out of luck. DT paid off at least one state attorney general, who promptly dropped her suit. In another suit, DT complained about the ethnic background of the judge.

Predictably, he didn’t start paying his bills after he was elected. As of six months ago, his campaign owed almost $2 million to municipalities for security reimbursement costs for MAGA rallies dating back to 2016. The chances of any of that being recouped are not good. Perhaps the president should start charging admission to those rallies, with a small cut going to the local government. Anyone willing play Russian roulette with Covid-19 at a super spreader event would probably be willing to pay for the experience.

All creditors, foreign and domestic

Since he continues to refuse to release his tax returns, we really don’t know who all DT is in debt to. Has he been repaying some of his business debts by causing the government to do favors for certain individuals? That’s unknown at this time, but if so, it certainly would constitute corruption of a kind not commonly practiced by U.S. presidents. We know he owes a lot to Deutsche Bank, but there may well be other foreign actors as well. That is a national security concern.

Whoever all his creditors are, if history repeats itself, they probably will get stiffed. In any case, routinely and deliberately stiffing people is the sort of unethical activity that presidents shouldn’t engage in. That’s one more reason to return him to civilian life, where at least he can be deposed, sued, and prosecuted, just like anyone else. In another four years, it may be too late.

Oath breaker

15. He isn’t preserving, protecting or defending the Constitution

Article II of the U.S. Constitution specifies the oath that presidents must take when they’re inaugurated:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Beginning with George Washington, every president has agreed to do what it says in the oath. For more than 220 years, every president—irrespective of party, popularity, temperament, level of intelligence, degree of honesty, and where they were ultimately to stand when viewed through the lens of history—adhered to the essential terms of the oath. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, who were impeached, were steadfast in fulfilling the oath, as were deeply flawed presidents such as Herbert Hoover and George W. Bush. Even Richard Nixon, whose dishonest and dishonorable actions were an affront to the dignity of the office, didn’t come close to failing in his basic duty to follow the oath.

Then came the 45th president, the one we’ve been stuck with for the past four years. He not only has failed to uphold the terms of his oath; he has made a mockery of it.

Even the most dubious interpretation of the oath couldn’t possibly excuse any president’s acting to encourage forces that are actively struggling to subvert national security, but that is exactly what DT has done repeatedly since taking office. It is what he is doing right now. He views every decision he must make from the perspective of whether it will help or hurt him politically. Sometimes he miscalculates, but for the most part he knows what will play well to his core supporters, so that’s what he does. Even if it’s unethical. Even if it’s illegal. Even if it puts American lives at risk.

So he consorts with totalitarian strongmen. including sworn enemies of the United States. He befriends foreign antagonists, including at least one whose country has made multiple credible attempts to influence the outcome of American elections. He trusts Vladimir Putin’s word over that of the American intelligence community, i.e., the ones who are working around the clock to safeguard the U.S., and specifically DT himself, from threats originating abroad. Then he retaliates against government employees, including military officers who have devoted their careers to protecting the U.S., who testify truthfully to Congress about it.

On the domestic front, the situation is scarcely any better. Just recently, he’s been giving aid and comfort to groups of Americans who are planning to engage in rebellion against the state and commit acts of violence toward their fellow countrymen. Unlike the people of antifa, his latest favorite bogeyman, many of these people are organized in named groups with leaders. They are quick to turn violent when confronting people they decide to hate, and some of them are prepared to resort to abduction and murder when their adversaries are public officials. Let’s be clear: these people are not only extremely dangerous; many of them are trying to start another civil war and would be only too happy to overthrow the government. DT not only frequently fails to condemn them, he actually encourages them.

An oath of office is worth taking seriously, and failing to do so should result in removal from office. Since all but one Republican senator shirked their duty to make that happen, it is now up to the voters to let Joe Biden join the ranks of presidents who uphold the Constitution instead of undermining it.

Is he blameworthy?

Note that the oath of office has a built-in disclaimer: it says that presidents will do what they’re supposed to do to the best of their ability. Given DT’s psychological issues—among them emotional immaturity, anger management problems, and severely narcissistic tendencies—it is far from inconceivable that what we’re witnessing is the best of his ability. It is also possible that he is able to do far better but chooses not to. We have no way of knowing with any degree of certainty which is the case, but the question is academic. Either way, he’s not doing his job, so he has to be shown the door.

Anti-science

16. He has devalued science in dangerous ways

Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases! The foregoing was tweeted by DT in March 2014, long before he announced his first run for the White House. Although it is no more nonsensical than various other tweets he posted in his pre-presidential years, such as the ones accusing President Obama of falsifying his birth certificate, it provided an early warning that once he assumed office he wouldn’t let science stand in the way of his agenda. In fact, he’s been hostile to science and scientists in a way that no other president can even begin to match.

Since taking office, he has dropped his dangerous opposition to vaccines (presumably because it was no longer proving useful to him politically). On numerous other topics, however, he has continued to disrespect scientific findings and the people who develop them. His appointees have followed his example, leading to an unprecedented rejection of scientific principles across the entire executive branch of our government.

At EPA, a science-based approach to regulation quickly gave way to an approach that simply discarded science and gave corporate industry whatever it wanted. The effects of this transformation on a previously valuable agency will be felt for years as increased air and water pollution harms individuals and communities across the country. Similar changes took place at nearly all cabinet-level agencies—including Interior, State, and Education—as well as the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Even NASA wasn’t exempt from DT’s war on science.

Science is important to humanity because it provides a the only framework available to us for understanding the world independently of cultural biases, such as those arising from religious beliefs and political ideologies. Scientific methodology is the same the world over. Sometimes it results in findings that interfere with preconceived notions of how we think the world should be, but that’s actually one of its most beneficial attributes. It allows us to adjust our views to reality and reformulate our plans to enhance our position and create safeguards for our future security. When we dispense with science because we find it inconvenient, we hinder our ability to adapt in myriad ways that would protect and enrich our lives.

Reality remains the same whether we accept it or not, and it may be that science will always triumph in the end, but the more we demean science, the harder it will be for us. For instance, the steps that we’ve been avoiding taking over the past three decades to reduce greenhouse gas emissions mean that the steps we now need to take are far more onerous. By the same token, our reluctance to extend health coverage to all Americans has resulted in a system that not only allows a large number of people to die unnecessarily but also is needlessly complex and expensive. Now, seven months into the pandemic, we’re seeing the results of our failure to mask up and lock down: an economy in tatters with no relief in sight, while new infections increase exponentially. These are failures of society, but they are also failures brought about or exacerbated by DT’s failure to make evidence-based policy decisions. And that failure, in turn, is a direct result of his war on science.

Willful ignorance: take it or leave it

The United States has long had its share of citizens who are deeply ignorant and proud of it. DT is not the first president to take advantage of that cohort, but the stakes are so much higher now than they used to be. In the short term, the pandemic must be dealt with, effectively and soon, or we will find ourselves with half a million dead Americans and a crushing economic catastrophe that makes the Great Depression look like a happy interval. The climate crisis also has to be addressed in a meaningful way very soon, or the result will be global social upheaval on a scale never before seen since records first were kept. In the meantime, the threat of war never goes away, and we and our adversaries have enough nukes on hand to end life as we know it on planet Earth.

By rejecting DT’s selfish desire for a second term, American voters will send a strong message to the world that this nation respects science and is ready to lead the way in finding solutions to humanity’s most pressing problems. If the election goes down another way, we will be leading the way down a very different path—the path to wrack and ruin.

Transphobic and more

17. He is no friend to LGBT Americans

On January 20, 2017, shortly after DT took the oath of office before a small crowd on the National Mall, all references to the LGBT community vanished from the web sites of the White House and other federal agencies. No explanation was given, and the content did not reappear. It seemed that the opening gambit in the new administration’s attempts to “Make America Great Again” involved making LGBT Americans invisible again.

For anyone who had followed the presidential campaign over the preceding year, it wasn’t a huge surprise. We had witnessed the cynical use of the rainbow flag at that summer’s Republican National Convention and we had heard assurances from DT that he considered marriage equality “settled” law, but it was already plain to see that the new president’s actions would be determined not by ethical or legal requirements but rather cold, hard political calculation.

And so it has been. DT hasn’t found advantage in making anti-LGBT policies a major focus of his agenda. Public opinion on LGBT rights evolved markedly in the first decade and a half of the 21st century, and catering to the bigoted whims of social conservatives no longer was a net positive for a public official outside of several deeply red states. Besides, his stated opposition to reproductive choice has already bought him favor (irrevocable favor, it seems) with a strong majority of evangelical voters. Nevertheless, his administration has actively pursued a number of discriminatory policies toward LGBT people, repeatedly declined to advance LGBT-friendly policies in instances where doing so would have been easy, and has consistently singled out transgender Americans for inferior treatment as if they somehow were unworthy of equality.

The administration’s blatant bias against transgender people is particularly troubling when one considers the epidemic of violent acts committed against those populations. Most notoriously, DT personally ordered a ban on transgender service members in all branches of the armed forces—a move that he initiated without consulting or even notifying military leaders (who had recently testified to Congress that they saw no need for any such ban). The administration also has ordered the Department of Education to stop looking into reports of discriminatory actions against trans students and rescinded antidiscrimination rules protecting trans people in several contexts, ranging from healthcare facilities to homeless shelters.

Other anti-LGBT actions taken by the administration include filing multiple amicus briefs in federal courts advocating for rulings that deny equal treatment under the law, channeling taxpayer dollars to antigay organizations (some of which are classified by the SPLC as hate groups), revoking the visas of same-sex partners of United Nations employees, granting adoption and foster-care agencies that receive federal funding exemptions allowing them to discriminate against families headed by same-sex couples, and watered down nondiscrimination requirements for companies seeking to become federal contractors so that sexual orientation was no longer a protected class. DT has indicated he is opposed to the Equality Act, which would protect LGBT Americans from discrimination in several areas, such as housing and public accommodation, where other minorities have enjoyed federal protection for decades.

As if all that weren’t enough, DT has also appointed to positions in various agencies a slew of people with backgrounds in homophobic and transphobic activism. Several of them have ties to hate groups. None of them was particularly well qualified. Predictably, some of them have failed to check their prejudiced views at the door when they came to work, recreating a climate of fear in the workplace that certain federal agencies had shaken off a quarter-century before. Last but not least, let’s not forget that DT picked someone infamously hostile to LGBT people—Mike Pence—to be one heartbeat away from the presidency.

This sad chain of events will end when Joe Biden takes office, if only we elect him. If, on the other hand, we have four more years of DT, no one will be safe, and LGBT Americans will be especially at risk.

What about what’s-his-face?

Some of DT’s apologists have made a big deal out of the fact that he has appointed several openly gay persons to responsible positions, such as an ambassadorship. One group, the Log Cabin Republicans, somehow even parlayed that into his being “the most pro-gay president of all time.” This is delusional thinking or propaganda or both; it has no basis in reality. As this blog series has noted before, DT is transactional in everything he does. Appointing a gay man here and there gives him cover to claim that he’s not homophobic, which in turn gives groups like the Log Cabin Republicans cover to endorse a sociopathic villain like him. His personal views towards LGBT people are unclear, but that doesn’t really matter; what matters is that he has implemented anti-LGBT policies. He holds appallingly racist views towards African Americans, but he has appointed a few of them. (Very few.) One even serves in his Cabinet. (Just one.) He clearly has deep-seated issues with women, but he has appointed several of them, too. Fact is, DT would appoint a hookworm to a federal post just so long as that hookworm was an obsequious boot-licker with a proven right-wing agenda.