Based on its current trajectory, history might capture the total significance of Donald Trump’s Presidency in a single three-word phrase, “He wasn’t Hillary.”
Perhaps that is all we should have expected given his inflated rhetoric and the Avogadro’s Number of campaign promises that gave his candidacy an air of P.T. Barnum:
“Although Barnum was also an author, publisher, philanthropist, and for some time a politician, he said of himself, ‘I am a showman by profession… and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me.’”
Although we had all hoped Trump would follow through, I think deep down we knew that he wouldn’t. Yet, he wasn’t Hillary and perhaps that is enough.
President Trump is now rapidly discarding campaign promises in a manner not unlike a thief shedding the loot after a failed burglary.
Swamped by the self-interest and self-preservation of a corrupt federal government, Trump may have already succumbed to its laissez-faire attitude toward the performance of duty, where the appearance, rather than the substance of fulfilling voter sentiment is a satisfactory outcome.
During the campaign, Trump said “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
In true Washington D.C. fashion, that 30-foot Mexican-financed concrete wall has now been politically transformed into a taxpayer-financed barrier resembling the chicken wire my father used in a futile attempt to protect his strawberry plants from the bunny rabbits.
If Americans are confused as to what is the “Trump Doctrine,” it appears to be determined by ratings, where national policy comes in the form of Tweets, easily changed or deleted according to what is favorably “trending.”
Ratings as a measurement of success emanates from the same false premise as inherited wealth is a measure of accomplishment. In any environment where money and social status comprise the currency of “competence,” vapidity can be easily mistaken for intellectual rigor.
As football coach Barry Switzer noted: “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”
There are reasons for what we are seeing.
President Trump needs affirmation like others need oxygen. He was sustained during the campaign by enthusiastic rallies and primary victories based entirely on his promises.
Now an inhabitant of the Beltway bubble, Trump has apparently adopted the traditional Republican Party recipe for obtaining affirmation, which is to ignore the voters and offer political capitulation to the Democrats in exchange for a few kind words in op-ed columns or an appearance on one of the Sunday morning talk shows.
If the Democrats, media and the lobbyist-controlled Republicans are collecting administration scalps, then Trump is handing them the knife, dismissing loyalists who are unpleasant reminders of campaign promises and aligning himself with those who are eager to make his tenure as chief executive inconsequential.
President Trump still has an opportunity to be more than just not being Hillary, but only by recognizing that he was elected, not for who he is or isn’t, but for what he said he would do, and then delivering.
Under present circumstances, pleasing the political establishment and representing the people are mutually exclusive endeavors.
Trump must choose between going with the flow or rising above it and to remember, as President, history will determine his final rating.
Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired US Army Reserve colonel, an IT command and control subject matter expert, trained in Arabic and Kurdish, and a veteran of Afghanistan, northern Iraq and a humanitarian mission to West Africa. He receives email at [email protected].