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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/24/17

First 100 Days: Trump and the Degradation of the Presidency

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Reprinted from RobertReich.org

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Trump's failure to accomplish little or any of his agenda during his first 100 days is striking. But we should not forget the vast harm he has done in this comparatively short time -- especially his degradation of the presidency.

From early in the Republic, we have looked at the office of the president as a focal point for the nation's values. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and his Teddy's fifth cousin, Franklin, are studied by school children as both exemplars of what it means to be president and of the moral authority of the office. It is not merely what these men accomplished, but how they did it; not just their policies but their positive effects on the institutions of democratic governance.

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True, many of our presidents have fallen short of those ideals. But our disappointments in them largely reflect the high expectations we have of those who hold that office.

But not until Trump has the moral authority of the office disappeared.

I'm old enough to recall when John F. Kennedy invited the world's great artists, writers, and philosophers to dine at the White House. The nation felt ennobled. Donald Trump invites Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent, who once called President Obama a "mongrel," and we feel sullied.

But it has not just been Trump's vulgarity.

There have also been Trump's lies -- blatant, continuous, and unsubstantiated even after the lack of evidence has been pointed out repeatedly. They are not just any lies, but lies that deepen Americans' suspicion of one another and undermine our confidence in our system of government -- such as his repeated contention that "three to five million" people voted illegally in the last election, or that Obama spied on him during the campaign.

Prior presidents have embellished the truth and on occasion have lied about a particular important thing, such as the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But before Trump we have never had a president who chronically lies, whose lies have become an integral part of his presidency even in the first 100 days.

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We have also been confronted with Trump's vast family business, from which he continues to benefit even though the decisions he makes in office affect the what he earns, and the almost certain decisions by foreign governments to curry favor with him by bestowing benefits on his business. He shrugs off such conflicts -- even refusing to release his tax returns, even inviting his daughter and son-in-law, each with their own businesses and conflicts of interest, to join him at the highest reaches of the White House.

Some presidents have profited from their presidencies after they leave office through large speaking fees and book contracts. But never before Trump have we had a president for whom conflicts of financial interest during his presidency are flagrant yet ignored.

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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