Our sad reality: Donald Trump is no Eisenhower

Our sad reality: Donald Trump is no Eisenhower
© Getty Images

Seventy-five years ago, on the eve of the greatest amphibious landing ever attempted — Normandy — with the fate of World War II in balance, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, drafted a memo to be released in the event of a catastrophic D-Day failure: "If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."

It's impossible to re-read that without thinking of the moral failure of President Donald J. Trump, the anti-Ike political coward who believes accepting personal responsibility is a sign of weakness.

The cruel practice of separating children from their families at the southern border, he said, was “the Democrats’ fault.” The administration's ineptitude and insensitivity in aiding devastated Puerto Ricans in the wake of Hurricane Maria is the fault, Trump said, of local officials or Democrats. Anyone but him.


The Administration's failure ever to devise a replacement for Obamacare wasn't Trump’s responsibility, but rather that of the late John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Mark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Prominent conservatives question Jerry Falwell Jr. vacation photo MORE, who Trump continues to trash nine months after the national icon died. When the president was in Tokyo last week, the White House requested the warship named after McCain’s father and grandfather — admirals both — be kept out of the president's sight. When this was reported, Trump denied involvement declaring, "I would never do a thing like that." Yeah, you would, Mr. President.

When American soldiers have been killed performing missions green-lit in Washington, the one person who rejects all responsibility is the commander-in-chief.

It's the Trump mantra, first learned decades ago from his lawyer, the late Roy Cohn: lie, deny and divert.

The Washington Post's fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, who may have the most exhausting job in journalism, has documented well over 10,000 false or misleading claims by the President, or almost a dozen a day — and the pace has accelerated appreciably this year. 

It often works. Much of the national media, usually depicted as left-leaning Trump haters, plays into his hands, moving from one outrage to something else. Previous presidents never would have gotten away with this — or the ethical and verbal atrocities committed by his team.


Two recent examples underscore this. Trump's climate change adviser on the National Security Council was found to have charged that the "demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler." A longtime Trump family retainer, now a federal government housing official, said "I honestly don't care" about violating federal law.

Imagine if an aide to President Obama charged that conservatives view poor people the way Nazis viewed Jews. Or if a longtime confidant of Obama had said it matters not if she violates the law. Former South Carolina Republican Congressman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdySenate GOP set to ramp up Obama-era probes More than two dozen former prosecutors, judges, active trial lawyers support DOJ decision to dismiss Michael Flynn case Sunday shows preview: As states loosen social distancing restrictions, lawmakers address dwindling state budgets MORE and his comrades would have been dusting off impeachment articles.

Trump shrewdly plays the media despite his open hostility and careless charges of fake news. There's a lot of first-rate reporting in the difficult task of covering this president, who has such little regard for truth. One of the best is the New York Times’ Maggie HabermanMaggie Lindsy HabermanTrump appeals to 'Suburban Housewives of America' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - Mask mandates, restrictions issued as COVID-19 spreads Does Donald Trump even want a second term? MORE, who has been unfairly assailed by the ideological left for not being tough enough on Trump.

The problem actually is the quick-hit stuff on venues like cable television which have a short attention span and often fall for Trump's diversions. A lie on Tuesday is old news by Wednesday, with a new series of Trump tweets or a new charge before a battery of cameras. The public becomes inured and the President has absolutely no sense of shame.

This is a classic case of what Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned decades ago about the dangers of debasing moral values and standards by acquiescing in what was unacceptable; he called it "defining deviancy down."

This is worth recalling as Trump visits Normandy for the commemoration on the anniversary of one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century. The frightening prospect on that dreary day in 1944: 160,000 brave American, British and Canadian forces about to storm five French beaches that might be lethally defended by the German Army with weather conditions uncertain; Eisenhower's Air Force commander predicted an 80 percent to 90 percent fatality rate for the 82nd and 101st airborne divisions. The possibility of failure was real.

In that case, does anyone believe for a moment that a Donald J. Trump would conceivably have said the fault is "mine alone?"

Albert R. Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as reporter, bureau chief and Washington editor for the Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter-century he wrote a column on politics for the Wall Street Journal, then the International New York Times and Bloomberg View. Follow him on Twitter @alhuntdc.