by Lyle Harris Sr.
This section is devoted to studying the impacts of the Trump administration.
The U.S. Constitution is based on trust that we citizens, at any time in history, will understand the importance and meaning of certain fundamental principles of government and — hopefully — that we will adhere to them. And, in our more than 200 years since the signing of that document, we have survived through great strife, depression, vast expansion and civil and international war. And now we are harshly tested again. How, then, do we, as citizens who have stood by those constitutional principles for so many years, keep up with President Donald Trump’s lies and distortions found daily in Fox News and other sources that no longer focus on news that is put out by professional journalists and credible news sites? What is happening, unfortunately, is that “many Americans have lost track of how unusual his behavior is.” That is the theme of a major New York Times piece last Feb.19.
The Times’ carefully detailed report tells “an extraordinary story of a president who has attacked the law enforcement apparatus of his own government like no other president in history, and who has turned the effort into an obsession. Mr. Trump has done it with the same tactics he once used in his business empire: demanding fierce loyalty from employees, applying pressure tactics to keep people in line and protecting the brand — himself — at all costs.”
Two crucial points from the Times’ story:
“Mr. Trump’s public war on the inquiry has gone on long enough that it is no longer shocking. Mr. Trump rages almost daily to his 58 million Twitter followers that (Robert) Mueller is on a ‘witch hunt’ and has adopted the language of Mafia bosses by calling those who cooperate with the special counsel ‘rats.’
“His lawyer talks openly about a strategy to smear and discredit the special counsel investigation. The president’s allies in Congress and the conservative news media warn of an insidious plot inside the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to subvert a democratically elected president.”
And Trump’s lies and distortions even have irritated some of his major supporters. Ann Coulter, a popular conservative social and political commentator, said the president “promised something for 18 months, and he lied about it.” Lou Dobbs, Fox Business host, said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, “just whipped the President of the United States,” and another Fox News commentator, Laura Ingraham, added Trump “did not come out on top” in shutting down the government.
Ed Rogers, writing in a column in The Washington Post, put it this way: “No doubt many conservatives are legitimately disappointed, just as I am, that there is not going to be a wall anytime soon. But I think many on the right are using the failure to secure funding as a vehicle to at least begin acknowledging that the emperor is undressed. The days of the infallible Trump are over.”
He went further: “Unconditional enabling of Trump, including excuses for all his behavior, has finally become untenable. Sponsors are irritated, political allies are bewildered and, sometimes, even family cannot understand how support for all things Trump is possible or honest.” Rogers added that Trump supporters are not going to totally turn on the president, but many are dropping support for him.
Poll: He Is Doing Badly
A majority of Americans who were contacted in a Post-ABC News poll say the president is doing very badly. Michael Gerson, a columnist for the Post, said, compared with polling from when Trump took office, his support has dropped on the federal budget deficit, on improving healthcare and on the national economy.
“His typical tactic is to raise the stakes of a negotiation impossibly high — a government shutdown or nuclear war — then to make a maximal demand and trust in the triumph of his stronger will. It is a form of negotiation ended by someone saying ‘uncle.’ That Trump ended up in abject humiliation was perhaps fated by biology: You can angrily hold your breath for only so long,” Gerson wrote.
Walter Einenkel, a staff writer for the Daily Kos, said Trump’s State of the Union address “includes most of what you expect from a man who lies at a rate that could power the Hoover Dam. Here’s one of Trump’s lies from the Union speech. ’Trump: We are considered, far and away, the hottest economy in the world.’ It’s not even close.”
And Tennessee’s Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen added: “Even the troubled Greek economy posted stronger growth.” Einenkel added that “Trump will always lie about this because he must always protect his biggest lie: he has made America worse (not better) than it was when he came into office. Everything he does, every step he has ever made in our country, has demeaned the ideals of our country and accentuated America’s worst flaws.”
Newly elected House member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who has become a dominate representative challenging Trump, was right when she commented, “I think that the president was unprepared. I don’t think that he did his homework. We have seen State of the Union addresses delivered by many presidents, Democrats, and Republicans. They almost always have substantive policies that are offered.” She added: “There was no plan to address our opioid crisis. There was no plan to address our cost of healthcare. There was no plan to increase wages.”
As for building the border wall — Trump’s favorite deceptive topic — he knew Congress would be unlikely to fund it. So he told his staff they were to find a way to do it without Congress. He decided to call a national emergency so he could spend the money, and his own attorneys warned him that he would be challenged in court and most likely fail.
While that issue was not settled at this publication date, some facts remain important: The number of illegal immigrants entering the United States is small and the drugs that come in illegally typically come through legal ports of entry, not by someone sneaking across the border. Border guards are asking for millions for new equipment to spot contraband. They are not asking for more fencing.
Dee Margo, the Republican mayor of El Paso, Texas, challenged Trump’s false statements about crime in his city, which is on the southern border with Mexico. Trump said El Paso was safer due to “a powerful barrier” it had constructed.
“The geography of Texas won’t allow a fence from El Paso to Brownsville even if you wanted to do it,” Margo said, adding, that Trump’s assessment that there was a great deal of crime until the fence went up is “not factually correct.” And Texas lawmakers from both parties said the fence idea was not realistic.
Lyle Harris Sr., a former reporter in Washington D.C., is Journalism Professor Emeritus, Western Washington University.