Trump as Naive? No.
Terry H. Schwadron
The unending foment continues to bubble between Comey believers and Trump defenders, with no apparent interest on the President’s part in getting beyond self-proclaimed vindication.
Indeed, the President upped the ante by not only taking a victory lap over behavior for which he should be apologizing, but launched a new round of personal attacks, saying that former FBI Director James Comey Jr. had lied about whether he was asked for a pledge of “loyalty” by Trump and promised criminal investigation of Comey’s sharing of his own unclassified notes. He even offered to say so under oath — which some committee or Special Counsel Robert Mueller III should ask him to do.
Listening to people like Speaker Paul Ryan, the main Republican defense is that the President is naïve about protocols and ways of Washington. Somehow, “do my bidding” with a wink, wink and a “I hope you can” while clearing the Oval Office and following up with eight more phone calls is naive? Weighing in the morning after the Comey hearings with tweets that attack Comey as a liar and a serial leaker because he shared his own unclassified notes is naïve?
Clearly it is not naïve behavior under scrutiny here. This is bullying by the President to get his own way. And it is obscuring the seriousness of the Russian interference in the elections altogether, something the President is only interested showing that Mr. Trump personally has not been the object of specific investigation.
My question: Why is having a President this “naïve” acceptable?
This same naivete means it is perfectly acceptable for the President of the United States to mistakenly stick his nose into religious cultural wars in the Middle East and come up with his thumb on the scale for Saudis to organize a revolt of nations against Qatar. This same naivete leads the President to debase age-old Middle Eastern feuds as easy to overcome, or health care a snap to fix, or boasts that he will double the pace of economic growth something we can base a federal budget on. This same naivete bars the President from trying to work with Democrats at all, and gives license for him to publicly demean anyone who criticizes him. This said naivete keeps the President from receiving knowledge from intelligence sources, scientists, educators, even his own advisers.
Why is this level of “naivete” desirable or at all acceptable?
Shouldn’t we be taking lessons from the Comey affair to demand a level of acceptable behavior and respect for the public he serves from this President?
Shouldn’t these same Republicans who have to trail after the President to clean up his constant messes, tweets, insults and just plain, simple lies take him aside and teach him enough to make him less naïve?
Shouldn’t the rest of us do what Comey apparently did not, and stand up to tell the President, “No, that is unacceptable. It is irresponsible, abhorrent of our values and contravenes fairness”?
Ryan was among many Republican congress members willing to minimize Mr. Trump’s “alleged meddling and demands for loyalty as the fumblings of a political tyro — or the behavior of a real estate mogul accustomed to having his orders followed,” per The Washington Post. To prosecute an obstruction of justice case under criminal law, the state must prove a person acted corruptly. If Trump was merely acting foolishly, he would be legally okay, goes the thinking.
And what of the “naivete” of Republican leaders who are so fixated on undercutting health care and programs to fight poverty (as the Comey hearings went on, they were repealing parts of Dodd-Frank regulations over banks) that they huddle to protect the President from attacks on his lack of knowledge, his lack of caring and his isolationism. They are ignoring a serious and swift erosion in American influence around the world and a rising disgust and fear for government at home, all in the name of acting for a naïve President.
Actually, the President’s naivete may yet get him in more trouble. His lawyer said Mr. Trump wants to pursue action by the Investigator General of the Justice Department against Comey’s leaking of unclassified notes through a friend to The New York Times. Apparently, just that act of retribution may well deepen the case for obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump against now-civilian Comey.
No, this President is naïve only in treatment of others. He is perfectly equipped to defend himself and to poke others in the eyes, to his personal and would-be nationalistic ego boost. He is a bully who refuses to inform himself, he is a bull in the White House china shop, he is an insulting, if seemingly powerful jerk. That may be a lot of things, but it ain’t naïve.