When Caution does not Suffice: Reflections on the Current Presidency

This is a long follow-up to my Facebook post about Donald Trump and the Fiddler on the Roof (see the end of this piece).

When the President speaks with a teleprompter, that is not Donald Trump speaking. Donald Trump’s largely non-teleprompter “speech” Tuesday night (8/22/17)—despite his appeal to earlier remarks allegedly condemning racists and white supremacists—was once again implicitly racist and pro-Nazi, and explicitly supportive of illegal activity (that of the convicted sheriff), in addition to being mean-spirited toward anyone who questions or disagrees with anything he says or stands for, including a U.S. senator battling brain cancer.

Writing in today’s Washington Post (8/25/17), former longtime Republican senator John Danforth says this: “As has been true since our beginning, we Republicans are the party of Lincoln, the party of the Union. We believe in our founding principle [that of a united country]. We are proud of our illustrious history. We believe that we are an essential part of present-day American politics. Our country needs a responsibly conservative party. But our party has been corrupted by this hateful man, and it is now in peril. In honor of our past and in belief in our future, for the sake of our party and our nation, we Republicans must disassociate ourselves from Trump by expressing our opposition to his divisive tactics and by clearly and strongly insisting that he does not represent what it means to be a Republican” (emphasis added).

Mr. Danforth does not go far enough. Former Bush-speechwriter Michael Gerson, also in today’s Post, starts to go a bit further as he (like me above) calls out the real, non-teleprompter, Phoenix-side of Donald Trump: “Trump deserves a patent on the idea that political authenticity means spontaneity. So it was the real voice that we heard in Phoenix, attacking a man with brain cancer — Republican Sen. John McCain — without any wish for his recovery. The real voice defending a supporter who had been fired by CNN for writing ‘Sieg Heil’ on Twitter. The real voice making fun of a TV anchor’s height. The real voice again widening racial divisions by defending Confederate monuments as ‘our history and our heritage.’ (Instead of the royal ‘we,’ the white ‘we.’) It was the real voice expressing greater passion in criticizing journalists than white supremacists.”

Gerson’s next sentence is a stark but truthful one: “Trump dares us to take him at face value. His self-revelation comes unbidden, even involuntarily. And his transparency reveals a disordered personality” (emphasis added).

Gerson goes on to discuss some of Trump’s odd claims Tuesday night, then commenting as follows: “What if Trump really believes what he claims? Then he would be not deceptive, but deluded. A deluded man in charge of North Korean policy. A deluded man who could employ nuclear weapons at a moment’s notice (actually two to three minutes to order a launch)…. Trump is not merely acting unpresidential; he is erratic and grandiose” (emphasis added).

But even Gerson does not go far enough, concluding simply that “Trump’s version of reality appears to make another Republican legislative and political disaster inevitable. The unified control of House, Senate and presidency means little when the president lives in a reality of his own.”

Unfortunately, this cautious final paragraph is an anti-climactic, insufficient, and perhaps even illogical conclusion to the charge of presidential delusion and personality disorder. There is a time when caution is wise and prudent, a virtue. There is a time when caution becomes a vice. I don’t blame Gerson and Danforth for wanting to be prudent, but perhaps now prudence (in the sense of good judgment) requires something other than caution.

It seems to me, in light of the last two weeks, that many (and perhaps most) people in the U.S. now realize what some of us here and many around the world have thought all along but have been hesitant to say publicly: the current President is morally (and otherwise) unqualified for such an office. They—including Mr. Danforth and Mr. Gerson—intuitively know, in the words of the 25th Amendment, that he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” If that is true, unless he repents (meaning both confession of sin and radical behavioral change—and that is the only adequate word for what he needs to do, yet it is nearly impossible for a deluded and disordered person), it now falls to those who have blindly supported him, those who have worked with him and do work with him, the cautious critics, etc., if they have any integrity, to call for and find the quickest way to effect his removal from office. For the sake of African Americans and Jews. For the sake of refugees and immigrants. For the sake of the Republican party. For the sake of this country. For the sake of East Asia. For the sake of the world.

I suspect that Mr. Danforth and Mr. Gerson feel similarly, but caution prevents them from saying implicitly what their critiques imply.

I have no delusions that the current Vice President should actually be President, but perhaps he would at least stop being a puppet for the man who is currently his boss. We can pray as much.

I do not say any of this lightly, and I obviously do not expect everyone to agree, but I would hope that people would at least take these thoughts seriously. (Feel free to discuss this in a civil manner here—but only in a civil manner.)

 

*Facebook post of 8/23/17: Early in Fiddler on the Roof, the rabbi is asked if there is a blessing for the czar. He wisely answers, “Yes: May God bless him and keep him—far away from us.” There might be a similar appropriate blessing for Donald Trump: “May God bless him and keep him—far away from us, and far away from the nuclear codes.”

2 Responses to “When Caution does not Suffice: Reflections on the Current Presidency”

  1. Christine Palank says:

    Thank you for speaking and reiterating the many “cautious statements made by others. We need more leaders, in all realms of our lives to stop being silent. It saddens me to see America disrupted in hate and yet those who are his followers and voters will not give up their “win” for a the sake of a loving humanity and society at peace.

  2. MJG says:

    Thanks for posting, Christine.

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