President-elect Donald Trump walks to take his seat for the inaugural swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
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In 2009, sparked by a poll that asked voters to use one word to describe President Bush, I wrote a piece "The Bush Presidency in Four Words" to sum up the catastrophic failure that was the George W. Bush presidency (an assessment shared by historians who rank him only slightly higher than Herbert Hoover). With respect to President Trump, a pre-election poll elicited responses such as "incompetent", "liar", "failure," "racist", "stupid," and "embarrassing" - each of which have merit.
In selecting the few words that define the Trump presidency, I would start with unfit. The worst thing about the catastrophe of the last four years is that we knew from the outset that he was "unfit", "a liar, a bully, a buffoon," "a danger to the Republic" and "the most unstable, proudly uninformed, psychologically unfit" nominee. These were the words used by Republican-leaning newspapers who uttered these words in endorsing a Democrat for the first time in generations.
I know some who supported the President despite their misgivings under the belief that he would "grow into" the office and or that he would surround himself with capable advisors who would set him straight. By fall 2017, however, after the Muslim Ban and Charlottesville, firing FBI Director James Comey, his disastrous European trip where he attacked (and in once case even shoved) our allies and reports were leaking that senior advisors thought he was an "idiot" and a "fucking moron" - it was clear that the pre-election assessments were spot on and that the country was on a monorail to disaster.
At no time ever did the President demonstrate that he was fit for the job. He showed no interest in rising to the occasion to represent all Americans, but rather only sought to represent the minority that elected him.
What made having a Billy Madison-esque President even worse was that the policies Trump pursued were fundamentally un-American and weakened our standing in the world. President Trump was, in essence, the second Confederate President, as he pursued a nativist, racist agenda and refused to condemn right-wing hate groups. The analogy became more apt when, unlike his predecessor, he was able to extol his followers to storm the Capitol building in what can only be viewed as an attempted coup to prevent the Congress from certifying the election of Joe Biden. Trump and his coup attempt have been defeated, but the venomous poison in our body politics remains, as hate groups are more emboldened than ever.
Trump also was openly hostile to a free press, dismissing reporters who were not in the state co-opted networks as "fake news." Overseas, Trump cozied up to dictators, some of whom duplicated his "fake news" attacks on the media, including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman who Trump helped escape accountability after he assassinated a Washington Post journalist.
When it came to protecting America from its two biggest overseas threats - Russia's Vladimir Putin and the coronavirus, Trump was AWOL, derelict in his duties. From siding with Putin over US intelligence at the Helsinki summit to his silence over Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and subsequent hack that poses a "grave risk" to the government, Trump shamed the office by being Putin's lapdog.
As bad as that was, it was nothing compared to his dereliction in responding to the COVID. Despite being warned that this would be the greatest national security threat he would encounter, his initial response was denial, followed by faux bravado before ultimately surrendering to the virus rather than make the difficult decisions needed to address it. Corona Virus Task Force member Olivia Troye explained that Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic showed a "flat-out disregard for human life" because his "main concern was the economy and his reelection". Far worse than taking no action, was Trump's undermining response efforts by his anti-mask campaign, super spreader rallies (which contributed to an estimated 700 deaths), and disinformation campaign on the deadly virus. As the U.S. death total passes 400,000 in Trump's final hours, Trump cannot escape judgment for the thousands of deaths that could have been avoided had he risen to the challenge.
But the Trump presidency may not have been so ruinous were it not for the complicity of his many cabinet officers and advisors who lacked the courage to stand up and speak out and tell the American people how dangerous Trump truly was. This is especially true for Republicans in Congress, who completely abandoned their oversight responsibilities and became a rubber stamp for Trump. The same party that had hours and hours of hearings on Benghazi and the Vince Foster suicide somehow lost their gavel when it came to the misdeeds of President Trump.
This is particularly outrageous, given this administration's criminality. Trump's repeated attempts to monetize the office through his various properties, obstruction of the Mueller probe; linking military aid to Ukraine with digging up information on Joe Biden; his attempt to coerce the Georgia Secretary of State to "find" votes for him, as well as the misdeeds of his family members and other administration officials all escaped any oversight from Congress.
In his closing argument at the impeachment trial, Rep. Adam Schiff plainly stated, "you know, you can't trust this President to do what's right for this country," but Congressional Republicans simply looked the other way. Far worse, some Congressional Republicans (now known as the Insurrection Caucus) became open co-conspirators as they embraced and assisted his attack on the legitimacy of his defeat.
We also cannot overlook President Trump's barrage of lies. The Trump administration is defined by its unrestrained mendacity, from its opening claims about the inaugural crowd size to its assertions that the election was somehow stolen from the president, this president has told a staggering 30,529 lies. Presidential historian Michael Beschloss exclaimed, "I have never seen a president in American history who has lied so continuously and so outrageously as Donald Trump, period." These lies are corrosive to our democracy as Trump openly conceded that part of the reason was to discredit his opponents so that people would not know who to believe and it also makes informed debate impossible if voters cannot even agree upon facts. The true dangers of Trump's disinformation campaign were plainly on display earlier this month as his supporters stormed the Capitol over false claims that the election was stolen.
The final word that defines the Trump presidency is carnage. He pledged in his dystopian inaugural address that the "American carnage stops right here and . . . now." Yet, Trump presided over the death of 400,000 American due to COVID, an economy in ruins that has lost 3 million jobs (the worst record of any modern president) and caused serious damage to our global reputation as a beacon of democracy by refusing to peacefully transfer power to Joe Biden and inciting the attack on the Capitol.
Unfit, un-American, derelict, complicity, criminality, and carnage. That is the Trump presidency in six words and mercifully it comes to a close on Wednesday at noon.