“[President Trump’s] conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.” —Senator Mitt Romney, 1/2/2019
The Trump presidency made a deep descent in December. The departures of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly made it more difficult to pretend that the Boss Baby in the Oval Office is more Boss than Baby. That the American people cannot trust that the president’s foreign policy decisions aren’t influenced by Vladimir Putin is alarming, and I would like to voice my alarm about Trump’s behavior before proceeding to do nothing about it.
While technically I am filling Senator Orrin Hatch’s Senate seat, it is an honor to join the Speak Against Trump While Voting With Him Caucus, a group that was once lead by Jeff Flake from Arizona, a state also known as “Godless Utah.”
When I finally got to be my party’s nominee for president in 2012, my Republican party was both kinder and gentler than the Republican party of today. Though we spread racist conspiracy theories about Barack Obama, we had the courage to cloak it in rhetoric about personal responsibility and Jesus. Rather than hinge the entire government budget on a multi-billion dollar monument to racism cutting through family farms on the southern border, I proposed making American society so inhospitable to immigrants that undocumented people would simply opt to “self-deport.” If there’s one thing the conservative movement is about, it’s setting in motion disasters we can pretend not to have foreseen, whether its blowing up the deficit by giving tax breaks to millionaires or systematically destroying the planet so those millionaires can make their millions. President Trump’s lack of finesse when it comes to pretending that we do not understand the consequences of our actions is nothing short of disturbing, and—pardon my language—it’s giving away the game of our whole dang party.
To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. Many presidents had the good sense to distance their horrific deeds from their public personas. Nothing about President Barack Obama slow-jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon reads “the most deportations of any US president,” and unlike President Trump, he had the good sense to keep his covert drone war covert.
That the American people could look upon the late George H.W. Bush and see Mr. Rogers rather than Iran-Contra is a testament to his skills as a politician. George W. Bush’s charming rebrand as a painter painting portraits of people he sent to die under false pretenses shows just how thirsty Americans are for something that resembles compassion. Millions of people continue to eulogize President Reagan without once mentioning his complicity in proliferating the AIDS epidemic, and that is the kind of compartmentalization that once made America great.
A president owes it to his people not to tweet like a tootin’ a-hole, when he can set the tone of what’s acceptable behavior by appointing bigots to lifetime judgeships and sexual assaulters to the Supreme Court.
Words have meaning, which is why it is sufficient of me to write lofty op-eds such as these, while doing everything in my power not to hold the president accountable for his moves that offend me deeply. If the president were to accompany his spontaneous, misguided foreign policy moves with explanatory rhetoric, then they would be easier to forgive.
The character of the American president isn’t just scrutinized in America. The world is also watching. America has long been looked to for leadership. When that communist Franklin Delano Roosevelt joined World War II as soon as it affected us, he spoke of freedom and equality abroad, not of segregation and internment camps at home. Plus, unlike the president ushering children into his present-day internment camps, Roosevelt likely said “please” and “thank you” before locking people up because of their race.
The global community needs American leadership, and it is in America’s interest to provide it. If such American leadership requires me to take up the mantle as America’s leader, so help me Angel Moroni, I will see you in 2020.