After being the most repulsive candidate ever nominated by one of our major political parties and after being the most vindictive and obnoxious president-elect, we are about to see whether Donald J. Trump can master the art of being President of the United States. His refusal to even pretend to be interested in uniting the American people and his infatuation with the dictator of Russia require us to take a look at what manner of man we now have in the White House.
Thanks to an unverified dossier published by BuzzFeed, the biggest question right now is whether or not Mr. Trump is a puppet of Vladimir Putin. He certainly appears to be, but let’s get one thing straight. The Donald is not being blackmailed by Mr. Putin. The Russian dictator may have a video of our new president cavorting with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room, but who cares? Not Trump and certainly not the minority of Americans who voted for him.
As a candidate in the Republican primaries, The Donald boasted that he could shoot someone in Times Square, and it wouldn’t cost him any votes – and he was absolutely correct. He saw anger in the land and decided to appeal to the absolute worst instinct of every voter who held at least one pet peeve. He used no political correctness (no civility or dignity) and continuously appealed to anyone who wanted to return to the “good ol’ days.”
I previously wrote that “We’ve come to know (Trump) as all the following: a pathological liar, a sociopath, a bully, a cheat, a bigot, a misogynist, a sexist, a racist, a xenophobe, a con artist, an anti-Semite, a homophobe, a white supremacist, an ostentatious plutocrat, and a supporter of violence and/or threats against his critics.” Trump has been upfront on all these things and has never tried to hide any of them. If enough voters could relate to any one of these traits and ignore the others, with all the free media attention, he knew he could win.
What could Vladimir Putin have on Trump that we don’t already know – or presume anyway? Trump, of course, denies that Putin has anything on him. That’s irrelevant because we all witnessed throughout the campaign that the man is a chronic liar – he can’t help himself. We’ll never know when he’s telling the truth. It doesn’t matter. Those who supported him before the election will support him now. Even Republican congressmen who were embarrassed by him before the election now abide him.
The other issue publicized by BuzzFeed is this: Did the Trump campaign work with the Russians to introduce information into the election campaign that would increase the public’s negative perception of Hillary Clinton? The Republicans have been targeting Ms. Clinton since 1993, so the answer is probably yes. Trump even publicly asked Russia to hack her emails. Also, Republican campaigns have been working with foreign powers to affect U. S. presidential elections for years, so this would be no surprise.
Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign learned that President Lyndon Johnson was about to end the Vietnam War through negotiations at the Paris Peace Talks. Nixon’s people worked with the government of South Vietnam and got it to refuse to cooperate with the settlement and wait for him to take office. This prevented V.P. Hubert H. Humphrey, whom historians have ranked as one of the three greatest senators in U.S. history, from getting elected. (Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were the other two “greatest senators.”)
Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign learned that Iran was in such dire need of cash due to President Jimmy Carter’s freezing of Iranian assets in the U.S. that Iran was about to release the 52 American hostages held in Tehran. Agents from Iran claim they met with agents from Reagan and agreed to hold the hostages until after the election in return for a better deal. After Reagan’s inauguration, we immediately began flying badly needed supplies to Iran; eventually, the Reagan administration began selling missiles to Iran so as to get funds, prohibited by Congress, to purchase Soviet weapons for Contra rebels to help them overthrow the government of Nicaragua.
Putin would relish having a kindred spirit in the White House. Human rights issues have always been a thorny issue between the West and the old Soviet Union and present-day Russia. Trump plainly cares nothing about human rights at home, so why would be care about them in Russia. Trump’s appointment of Jeff Sessions as attorney general tells you all you need to know. A fellow authoritarian ruler like Trump will be a breath of fresh air for Putin.
We definitely need to be concerned about the probable reason that Trump envies, respects, and wants to emulate the dictator Putin. Putin is conceivably the richest man in the world. Bill Gates has assets of 75 billion dollars. Putin’s wealth has been estimated at equal that amount, 10 billion dollars more, or even twice Gates’ wealth. How did a former member of the KGB spy network get all that money? He used his government positions as president and prime minister to rig elections, silence opposition, influence policy, and invest in property and hedge funds.
Mr. Trump can certainly relate to that. Just think about all the wealth that being president can bring to himself and his family. What other reason would a man like he want to be president? He knows nothing about government, the U.S. Constitution, U.S. history, or essential issues like climate change and nuclear proliferation.
He never released his tax records before the election, so there’s no reason for him to ever release them – his supporters clearly don’t care where his money is invested. He never planned to divest himself of his businesses – that would defeat his whole reason for being president. He says he will let his family manage his enterprises – and they promise to never discuss them with hm. Right. It might be safer if we not ask about his family business either.
Also, Trump’s creation of a plutocratic cabinet of millionaires and billionaires doesn’t bode well. His example of denying conflicts of interest will no doubt be contagious – no matter what his nominees say in their confirmation hearings. The “greed is good” mentality of the Gilded Age and Reagan Era will be back with a vengeance. The vast financial scandals that characterized the Grant, Harding, and Reagan administrations may well pale in comparison with what’s to come.
To appraise the president, as well as his cabinet, we can do no better than combine the assessments of New York Times columnist Charles Blow and Truthout.org editor William Rivers Pitt: Each cabinet meeting will be a “Monsters’ Ball,” where they are served “some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”
By David Offutt
A version of this essay was published January 21, 2017, in the El Dorado News-Times as a guest column.