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.

ACA assassin

18. He doesn’t care if 20 million Americans die

America’s healthcare system is a mess. Ours is the only First World nation where lots of people routinely sicken and die because they cannot afford medical care. The reasons behind the mess are too numerous, and many of them too complex, to be discussed here. Suffice it to say that for decades various corporate interests, most notably the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, have wielded an inordinate amount of control over where and how the money funding Americans’ healthcare flows. Government efforts at intervention over the years—Medicaid and Medicare, for instance—have improved the situation somewhat in terms of giving more people access to care, although this has been at the expense of adding further layers of complexity onto what was already a labyrinth for both patients and providers to negotiate. At the end of the day, the fact remains that about 1 in 8 Americans have no health coverage at all, at least double that number are have insufficient coverage, and still more are at risk insolvency if they happen to get seriously ill or injured.

None of the above is particularly DT’s fault; it has been that way for years, and there is ample blame to go around. What is DT’s fault can be stated quite simply:

  • he promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better;
  • he has failed to keep his promise thus far;
  • if he is reelected, he almost certainly will keep his promise to repeal Obamacare;
  • he has no plans to replace it with anything else.

Obamacare, more formally known as the Affordable Care Act or ACA, was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2010. It constituted the first major attempt by the U.S. government in decades to address the inadequacies of the American healthcare system. Far from a panacea, Obamacare is deeply flawed: among its deficiencies is the fact that coverage is prohibitively expensive for many of its potential enrollees. A single-payer system, such as the misleadingly named Medicare for All plan proposed by some Democrats, would fix that, but the political will to enact such a system is hard to come by. So we’re stuck with Obamacare.

For all of its shortcomings, Obamacare has brought health coverage to 20 million Americans who didn’t have it before and allowed many others to afford better coverage than they had previously. It also forbids private insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions or making their coverage more expensive. Most importantly, it provides a proven framework to which improvements could be added, bringing near-universal coverage to Americans at long last.

DT and his toadies on Capitol Hill want to end all that, and with the pending installation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, they are likely to get their wish: oral arguments before the Court on the future of Obamacare are scheduled for November. Despite promising to provide a replacement plan for Obamacare, in four years the White House has failed to come up with one. So if DT is reelected, 20 million Americans will lose their health coverage, millions will be denied new coverage or see their premiums hiked, and the chances of a fair and rational system offering coverage to everyone will go up in smoke. If DT is denied a second term, and especially if the Senate flips to Democratic control, there will be several viable paths not only to restoring Obamacare but to building on it.

Give it a miss, Joe

During his town hall broadcast last night, DT cast doubt as to whether he’d tested negative for Covid-19 on the day of the debate between him and Joe Biden—a prerequisite for participating per the Commission on Presidential Debates. Unless there is credible evidence (perhaps a statement from his physician) that he has tested negative for next Tuesday’s debate, Biden should decline to appear. It is simply not worth the risk of becoming infected. We’ll need you alive and well in January and beyond, Joe.

Reality denier

19. He has deliberately stalled the nation’s response to climate change

Despite what Amy Comey Barrett may say to avoid answering a question, climate change isn’t controversial. Although society’s response to it has engendered enormous controversy, the phenomenon itself is not; it was long ago proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. The basic mechanism behind it was first described almost 200 years ago, and alarm bells have been ringing for several decades now. To date, no disinterested scientist has presented one shred of credible evidence to counter either of two fundamental premises:

  • our planet is warming, and
  • human activity, specifically the large-scale emission of greenhouse gases, is the primary cause.

Predictably, various entities concerned about their short-term earnings have attempted to muddy the waters. Much money has been spent on a disinformation campaign intended to delay governmental action as long as possible, so as to maximize profit as long as possible. This delay has caused us to lose valuable time in addressing the problem. Now, due to 30 years of inaction and insufficient action, we are faced with a crisis of staggering proportions—the greatest challenge ever to face humanity. Exceptional leadership, not to mention much sacrifice, will be required to avert complete catastrophe.

America’s leaders do not have an impressive track record in addressing the crisis, thus far. President Bush the Elder at least acknowledged the problem. President Clinton took a baby step or two to address it. Bush the Younger’s record was shameful. President Obama’s leadership on this issue was inadequate, although he likely would have done more if he hadn’t been stymied by Congress. In 2016, he did sign on to the Paris Agreement, a too-little, too-late accord that nevertheless represented a foundation on which to build an effective global response. Then came the election of 2020 and a sneering, angry man with a pronounced disdain for science took over in the White House.

One of DT’s first actions as president was to announce the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement. When the withdrawal takes effect next month—on Election Day (!)—the U.S. will officially join the company of eight other countries that aren’t on board with the agreement: Angola, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Turkey, and Yemen. With the possible exception of Turkey, whose authoritarian leader he admires, those aren’t exactly countries that DT professes to like. Some are even what he calls “shit countries.” Funny that he should want the country he supposedly leads to be associated with them.

DT has spent the last four years publicly questioning the reality of climate change, ignoring what scientists are clearly telling him, and denying that there is a problem, let alone a crisis. While this has played well among the deeply gullible and the willfully ignorant who constitute his voter base, the clock has kept ticking, the planet has kept warming, and climate-fueled disasters have kept occurring. One wonders how many of those attending his super-spreader rallies have seen their homes destroyed by hurricanes or wildfires. Perhaps whatever flavor of Kool-Aid he’s served them blinds them to reality, even when tragedy strikes them personally. At any rate, one hopes there aren’t enough of them to grant him another four years. When it comes to climate change, it’s not only the U.S. that is directly threatened by the prospect of DT’s being reelected; it’s the whole world.

Migrations

One of the more startling ironies of this troubled age involves the connection between climate change and the migration of people. Opposition to immigration has become almost the sole province of the Republicans, and yet it is climate change, which Republicans steadfastly refuse to address, that will play an increasingly large role in large-scale migration to the U.S. over the coming years. As the planet continues to grow hotter (which it will do for the rest of the century, even if we take drastic action now to inhibit it), there will be mass movements of people away from the equator—e.g., the tropical regions that include half of Mexico and all of Central America—to temperature regions such as the U.S.

So yeah, let’s keep our heads in the sand, guys. No need to convert over to renewable energy—just keep building more of that wall. If they dare to breach it and sully the purity of America with their brazen desire for food, water, and shelter, we’ve got ICE and citizen militias to handle it.

(The preceding paragraph contains irony, a mode of communication that DT and his followers don’t appear to comprehend. More on that soon.)

Agent of (great) regression

20. He wants to bring back the bad old days

“Make America Great Again.” We’ve all seen it on the hats and the signs. By the time the 2016 presidential campaign entered its final weeks, those four words had already sparked much controversy. Some of us wondered how anyone possessing both a brain and a heart could possibly present such a phrase without intending it to be ironical. Others dismissed it as a mere slogan—a bit silly, perhaps, but essentially harmless. Four years later, our worst fears are realized. It means exactly what we were afraid it did: DT intends to return our country to a less evolved state.

It’s well underway already. The hard-won progress we made over the past century is eroding. The steady headway the nation had made on matters of race is endangered now. White supremacists, who outside of certain limited contexts had learned to shut the hell up and keep their heads down, have seen in the president a kindred spirit and are primed for battle. And it’s policy matters as well as social matters that are at stake: with an extremist-majority Supreme Court a near certainty, nothing we had come to take as settled law is off the table. Various civil rights laws, including the Voting Rights Act in its entirety, are under threat. So is the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education. It seems that would suit DT fine. He wants to return the US to the Jim Crow era.

LGBT rights are at risk. Marriage equality is almost certain to be challenged before the court, and it seems probable that it will be weakened. SCOTUS’s recent surprise ruling on Title IX, which outlawed certain kinds of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, will almost certainly be superseded by one or more rulings that undermine its broad applicability. That would suit DT fine, too. He has made clear his disdain for transgender Americans, and he wouldn’t mind if the US returned to the pre-Stonewall period.

Women’s rights are under threat, not only from Title IX challenges but from a raft of other initiatives. Roe v. Wade will likely be eviscerated, killing some women outright and dooming a vast number of others, as well as their children, to lives of abject misery. It would also set a new, dangerous precedent, reducing women’s ability for self-determination and setting the stage for a return of state-sanctioned patriarchy. Surely that would make DT ecstatic.

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is liable to be overturned, throwing 20 million Americans to the wolves in the midst of a pandemic. Programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, WIC, and Social Security are liable to be cut. It will be just like the 1930s again, except all the out-of-work Americans will be carrying pay-as-you-go phones as they stand in the soup lines. Or perhaps DT will find a way to outlaw soup lines. Maybe ICE could round up anyone without a job and detain them somewhere out of sight.

Even if DT’s pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg is confirmed, which is a near certainty, all of these regressive developments can be neutralized or even averted entirely—but only if DT does not have a second term.

Great or not

Greatness is both vague and subjective, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion of what it means. In times of rapid change, the past is always alluring. The past quarter-century has involved change happening at a pace unseen since the Industrial Revolution (if then), so it’s unsurprising that many people feel drawn to what they nostalgically think of as simpler, better times. Great or not, there is little doubt that some aspects of the U.S. were once better than they are now, at least for many people. There was less polarization, more common ground. Facts were generally accepted as facts, when the evidence to support them was available. Expressions of hostility and hatred toward minorities were more universally condemned. On issues ranging from gun control to civil liberties to the environment, meaningful advancements had taken place. For most of us, even among the more oppressed, hope for better times burned brightly, and it was justified.

So it would appear that DT is a total liar, even down to his simpleminded slogans. With assistance from his Republican cohorts, he has taken whatever greatness we had and systematically dismantled it. Another four years of his handiwork will ensure it is gone forever.

Sick, spaced out, or just shameless?

21. He’s been getting weirder

Since contracting the coronavirus, DT has shifted his grandstanding into overdrive. Not content to kick back and focus on recovery, while basking in the bipartisan well wishes that only an ill president can amass, he has made a spectacle of himself both outside the hospital and back at the White House, endangering many other people in the process. Now he’s on the campaign trail again, putting countless others at risk.

He claims to be cured. Possibly he is, but there is no way he can know for sure; many Covid-19 patients relapse after seeming to recover, and others develop symptoms that linger. These symptoms frequently include what has come to be known as “brain fog,” a neuropsychiatric malady featuring difficulty concentrating and deficits in memory and cognition. This brain fog can last for months. Actually, it’s too early to know if it will ever go away completely. If he winds up showing signs of such a problem, will he be prepared to step aside? It seems unlikely. Will his Cabinet members be prepared to declare him unfit for office? That seems unlikely, too. For 45 months, amid a dizzying array of bad policy decisions, he has managed to refrain from launching a nuclear strike. If he decides to do something impulsive in that regard one day while suffering from brain fog, will anyone be able to stop him? He’s got three months to go in this term. We can cross our fingers for three months. Add another four years? No one can cross their fingers for that long.

While actively under treatment for the virus, he received several medications including a powerful steroid that is known to cause mania and delusional thinking. The potential side effects from such a drug could well explain the grandstanding that even by his standards has been over the top. Suppose he has a relapse and needs more of this drug? Again, we’re talking about someone with access to the nuclear codes. He also has a vast military and federal police officers at his disposal. If he wants to do something so vile that even his fellow Republicans wouldn’t approve of it, would they stand in his way? The nation has the right not to be pondering such questions for the next four years.

It hardly needs to be said that his thinking was already noticeably disordered and his behavior often borderline manic before he caught the coronavirus or took any drugs for it. It may be that he has been making a particular spectacle of himself lately simply because he is moved to do so, either from some hidden inner need or from a belief that doing so will gain him votes. News flash: the chances are vanishingly small that he will become calm and measured and sensible when he no longer has to worry about votes. He is someone who is accustomed to being the center of attention. His proclivity for outrageousness has served him well, and he will not abandon it after the election. If he gets another four years in the brightest spotlight on the planet, he is likely to up the ante. Never mind nuclear missiles and troops; we’re talking about somebody who can spark utter havoc with one tweet, and he’s got a large collection of delusional followers, many of them angry and well armed.

So what’s the deal—is DT sick, spaced out, or merely shameless? Perhaps he is all of the above. In the end, it does’t matter. Whatever the problem is, we cannot risk its manifesting itself until January 2025.

Immunity

In addition to claiming to be cured, DT also claims to be immune. This is bullshit. While the jury is still out on the frequency of contracting Covid-19 multiple times, enough patients have been reinfected to date that we know it is possible. Sometimes the second infection is much worse than the first. Anyone undecided voter who dislikes the idea of President Pence would do well to keep that in mind.

Speaking of becoming immune…as much as I’d like to see DT prosecuted when he leaves office this winter, I’d happily see him granted total immunity—even including civil cases—if he’d just resign, retire, and withdraw from public life entirely. His presence has a toxic effect on the nation, and what we need foremost is to heal.