Nothing becomes Donald Trump’s presidency like his leaving it
In “Too Much and Never Enough,” Mary Trump, a clinical psychologist and niece of the president, described her uncle’s fundamental personality traits. Donald Trump, she indicated, believes that lying, spinning, obfuscating and bullying are not only acceptable; they are a way of life. According to her, he believes only losers apologize or display vulnerability. Incapable of acknowledging — let alone empathizing with — the suffering of others, Trump, she says, meets all nine criteria for narcissism outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Donald Trump, she concluded, will never change.
That’s from a relative.
When it became clear that Joe Biden had won the election, Mary Trump predicted that her uncle, the president, would not concede or cooperate in the activities associated with a peaceful transition of power. The “kind of person who thinks that even if you steal and cheat to win, you deserve to win,” she wrote, “he’ll be having meltdowns upon meltdowns.” He will “break stuff,” issue pardons “that will demoralize us” and do these things “with a vengeance.”
In his final months in the White House, Trump is fulfilling his niece’s prediction.
Trump has abandoned even the pretense of doing his job.
The president is spending his time tweeting and retweeting false and definitively debunked claims that the election was rigged; he’s reportedly considering schemes to retain power (including a declaration of martial law, seizing voting machines, rerunning the election, and persuading state legislatures or courts to overrule voters); he’s settling scores — and playing golf.
Trump has not met with his own coronavirus task force for months. He has made no public statements about the surge in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and fatalities. He has not urged Americans to wear masks, to practice social distancing or refrain from traveling during the holidays. He has not been vaccinated. When Vice President Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, or Surgeon General Jerome Adams was vaccinated, he did not appear to assure Americans that Pfizer or Moderna shots are safe and effective. He has been silent about distribution of the vaccine, acquisition of an adequate supply of doses and criteria for deciding who gets vaccinated first.
The self-proclaimed master of the art of the deal, Trump did not play an active role in the protracted negotiations that led to a $900 billion bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill. After the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the legislation — and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin praised it — Trump called the bill a “disgrace.” He demanded an increase (from $600 to $2,000) in payments to low- and middle-income Americans, an amount Democrats support and Republicans oppose. He blasted allocations for foreign aid, the Smithsonian and the Kennedy Center for Performing Acts (that were in the budget his administration sent to Congress) that are part of omnibus appropriations bill for government operations and the military and unconnected to COVID-19 relief. A veto (that is not overridden) or refusal to sign the bill will have devastating consequences for millions of Americans as well as result in a government shutdown beginning Dec. 29.
Following revelations of a massive hack on government agencies (including Homeland Security, Agriculture, Commerce, Energy and State), deemed a “grave risk” to national security and attributed to Russia by the CIA, the National Security Agency and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump sent a Welcome to Fantasy Island tweet: “The Cyber Hack is far greater on the Fake News Media than in actuality … everything is well under control. Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!). There could also have been a hit on our ridiculous voting machines during the election, which is now obvious that I won big.”
On Dec. 22, Trump issued 20 pardons and commutations, many of them to cronies and political allies.
Trump pardoned former Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), the first House member to endorse Trump in 2016, who pled guilty to lying to the FBI and conspiring to commit securities fraud; former Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), another supporter, who (after blaming his wife) pleaded guilty to using hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal expenses; and former Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas), who was convicted of fraud and money laundering.
On Dec. 23, Trump pardoned political operatives Roger Stone and Paul Manafort as well as Jared Kushner’s father. Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, who prosecuted the case, said the elder Kushner had committed “one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes I ever prosecuted.”
More pardons — quite possibly including “preemptive” ones — are sure to come.
“The worst thing” for Donald Trump “is becoming irrelevant,” Mary Trump maintains.
To root for him to make America “grate” again, however, is to root against honesty, empathy and democracy.
Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of “Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century.”