Sticks and Stones . . .

Terry H. Schwadron

Oct. 11, 2017

All public policy politics aside, sometimes the President’s plain old boorishness is enough to drive me to my wits’ end.

Donald Trump has a seemingly endless capacity to try to cover his public failures by turning to the smallest, most inconsequential blow-ups to draw attention to some inane conflict just to change the conversation from what ails the Trump presidency. Every so often, Trump’s insistence on picking personal wars just to boost his own ego — usually the stuff to simply ignore — just irks. Trump is once again painting himself as an elephant-sized winner of some kind in a two-foot puddle.

Let’s face it, these personality flar-ups are embarrassing to anyone with a thought for the dignity of the office of President of the United States, and they are absolute reasons to find the current White House resident unworthy of the office.

The personal spat he’s picked with Sen. Bob Corker already has run several days, for example, and simply seems to be getting worse, not better. Insulting a thoughtful, serious member of the Senate is bad enough, but doing so when military conflict, even nuclear weapons exchanges are in the balance is just nuts. The dispute is not in Trump’s interest, in the public’s interest or contributing towards any matter of public substance.

All Corker did, after all, was point out that Trump’s inconsistent bumbling through the foreign affairs agenda, undercutting Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, enflaming diplomats here and abroad, confusing our allies and provoking our foes, is a continuing danger.

For the President to demand that Tillerson hold a press conference to deny that he privately had called Trump a moron after the disastrously politicized Boy Scout jamboree and repeating his concerns after Pentagon meetings to the degree that required intervention by Vice President Mike Pence.

That the President needs to insult and distort football players’ anthem protests in order to direct attention away from failed health legislation, about support for policies that are proving harmful to the country, about suborning criticism of any kind, should be signs of real danger for a civil society. That the same President finds more to support among white supremacists who continue to march in Charlottesville and other places than he is open to even learning what those black football players are objecting to is a deep danger to our divided society.

For the President to openly tweet a schoolyard challenge to compare IQ scores with those of Secretary Tillerson to settle whether he is a “moron” just shows that he indeed is a moron. Any scientist or other –ist of any substance would dispute that IQ tests are a measure of anything resembling intelligence, other than the intelligence in guessing at the most correct answers in an IQ tests. (Comic writer Andy Borowitz had Trump losing in the Cabinet IQ sweepstakes to Betsy DeVos because he forgot it might include spelling!)

As The Washington Post pointed out yesterday, Trump has gone back to the IQ comparison multiple times over the years — in exactly the same way, to suggest that he is smarter than the person criticizing him or even taking another position. Meanwhile, what is the President’s IQ score, or will that ever be the same kind of secret as his tax filings?

The point is that the issue is so dumb, so irrelevant, so off the mark as to almost make those of us who turn away forget that what is at stake here is nuclear conflict with North Korea, and maybe with Iran, too. Tillerson was trying to indicate that he is pursuing diplomatic entreaties to a stubborn North Korea, while all the President is doing is escalating the level of insults toward the North Korean leader in his tweets and public utterances. He is papering over the fact that as President, 45 is not doing his job to keep us safe and running a steady, predictable foreign policy.

Likewise, what does it mean if Corker is right, and lots of Senate Republicans are going around closed-mouth but in agreement with Corker that Trump is being “contained” on a daily basis by the triumvirate of Defense Secretary James Matthis, Secretary Tillerson and Chief of Staff John Kelly. What has happened to civilian control over the military? What has happened to the courage of Republican senators who apparently want more to hold onto their seats by appeasing the President than calling it as they see it? If Corker is right, why aren’t those Republicans acting? “If that is what they are banking on — Trump’s power being thwarted, ignored, delayed, etc. — then they must consider foreshortening his term,” argued Jennifer Rubin in a Post column. “We have argued that Congress does not and should not need the go-ahead from the special prosecutor to commence discussion of impeachment; impeachment is the province of the Congress.”

Short of impeachment, why are these Republican senators shirking their public duty and appearing to support a President who is going to back primary candidates against each one of them?

The personality stuff is silly and too small to take the spotlight — unless it is the stuff that people are really very concerned about and they are failing to act on it. It’s time for those Republican senators to stand up.




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