Terry H. Schwadron
Feb. 7, 2018
We all understand that President Trump can flap his gums with almost no idea of what will come out of his mouth.
We all understand, too, that insult and debasement are tools of his particular trade, and that, despite promoting himself as a deal-maker, he doesn’t know anything but total agreement and capitulation to whatever he wants.
That Trump says outlandish things that are so stupid as to stun unfortunately is no longer news. I’ve advised myself to pay attention on to his actions and policies.
Still, I was agape watching as Trump spoke to factory workers in Ohio on Monday, boasting of tax cuts just as the stock market was tanking wildly, and flippantly describing Democrats who sat on their hands during last week’s State of the Union address as “un-American,” flippantly adding, “well, treasonous,” as if you can be flippant about that word.
It is a picture I cannot dismiss, despite understanding that this narcissistic businessman has no filters and needs constant fealty from all he meets. Calling U.S. congress members traitors has to be a first. Doing so a week after calling for bipartisanship is politically zany. So is calling Trump treasonous for being a bad policy president or a persistent public liar.
Treason is a federal crime punishable by death. Treason is a crime of selling out the country to a foe. Treason is not a debate over policy. Following the president’s own logic about wanting to pursue charges against accusers in libel and slander cases, calling “treason” should carry a price for the president himself since it literally is not true.
Indeed, one could well argue that any finding of undue cooperation between Trump’s political campaign and Russian attempts at influencing the election that emerge from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s investigation would be a hell of a lot closer to treason-like activity than not applauding for a self-serving Trump speech.
Indeed, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill), who lost her legs in combat and knows something about patriotism, captured the moment perfectly: “We don’t live in a dictatorship or a monarchy. I swore an oath — in the military and in the Senate — to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap.” Bravo.
This is to say nothing of the previous Congress, in which Republican members sat on their hands as former President Barack Obama spoke. Indeed, it was a South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson who actually yelled out “Liar” in the middle of an Obama State of the Union address. Hmm. No one brought treason charges against him; indeed, Republican leadership never even censured him.
Debasing politicians for failing to agree with him in full or to give him total loyalty is outrageous, of course, but seems to be the theme that we’re hearing in the White House’s words about immigration, about tax cuts, about health care, about abortion, gun control and the federal budget.
Once again, we wonder not why Democrats avoided clapping, but why Republican leadership consistently has clapped loudly — and done far more than just support legislation they support.
The president’s loose lips in recent days have declared “total vindication” from release of a Republican House Intelligence Committee memo that did anything but vindicate him, he has attacked Rep. Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the same House committee for leaking classified information (he hasn’t), and insulted immigrants in many ways. Trump has also leveled presidential insult guns on Andrew McCabe, deputy director of the FBI, and Rod J. Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General.
Yesterday, the president said he would welcome another government shutdown, saying repeatedly that unless Democrats agree with him about the need for a border Wall and other hard-line immigration policies, only to hear White House spokesmen try to clean up the footage later.
So, he talks endlessly about himself and success when he feels like it, and he spews insults when he feels provoked.
But when we need the president to speak up, too often he is missing in action. Or inaction.
It is clear that Trump has loved to take credit for stock market rises over the last year, but he has been virtually missing in any thoughtful remarks aimed at calming a gyrating, dropping stock market. It is clear that he does not share any economic credit with his predecessor for bringing the country back from the cliff, or acknowledge that the advances in the national economy are continuations of slow but steady improvements that began under Obama.
It is an open question as to whether the White House will okay release of the Democratic retort to the majority memo on reported missteps by the FBI and Justice Department before the FISA court. The talk about “transparency” used by the Republicans was a ruse; the Democrats’ version won’t stretch beyond the case at hand. Again, the president is silent about the memo other than about himself, and about whatever may be the real problems associated with a Russian effort to influence U.S. elections, even as he moves to drop enforcement of sanctions against Russia voted nearly unanimously in both houses of Congress. This is to say nothing of the president handing the Russian ambassador classified information from the Israelis in an Oval Office meeting.
The president is silent about opioids, about the proposed new nuclear weapons race, about the dangers of technology in the workplace, about failures in public education, about the effects of eliminating environmental and consumer protections.
And now, reports are that the president’s legal team is urging he remain silent if called for an interview with the Special Counsel lawyers.
Whatever labels we you, lets please keep in mind that the president — and the Congress — are not supposed to act in ways that work against the interests of truth, the protection of Americans and the reputation of the country. We ought to be able to find areas of commonality and then debate vigorously, understanding from the start that compromise is necessary.