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Trump’s Unfitness For Office

(Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

I have been away from the keys all day, for a reason I’ll explain in a subsequent post. But I have to say something about this thing that our president tweeted this morning:

He pretty clearly knows he’s going to lose, and lose badly. The US is already greatly embarrassed before the world over our pathetic Covid-19 response. Today we learned that the economy contracted by over nine percent in the second quarter — an annualized rate of over 32 percent. That’s not entirely his fault, but he has done little or nothing to inspire confidence that he’s in charge of this crisis, and is capable of moving the numbers in a more positive direction. Hey, anything can happen between now and November, but it looks very bad for Trump. This morning’s tweet is a sign that he’s surrendering inside.

Of far more importance: think about how dangerous it is for a sitting American president to work to undermine faith in the upcoming election that he’s probably going to lose. It sets the stage for making the country ungovernable. If enough people really believe that the election results were faked (in the case of a Trump loss), the new government would have a terrible time trying to do its job. This really is a selfish act that shows contempt for the democracy he was elected to lead. Trump is unfit for office. He makes me miss the stability and competence of Richard Nixon.

I say that even though, as I had explained in this space many times, I believe a Biden presidency will bring with it a host of very serious problems, the worst of which (from my point of view) will be empowering the entire US Government’s executive branch with militant wokeness. The awfulness of Biden does not, however, negate the awfulness of Trump — and vice versa. I can’t bring myself to judge someone who votes either for Biden or for Trump, considering how rotten the alternative is. Yes, I believe Biden is personally a much better man than Trump. But we’re not just voting for a single man; we are voting for a party and the thousands of appointees throughout the federal government, including the judiciary, that come with his administration.

No matter who is elected in November, the next four years are going to be very bad for the United States, I’m convinced. If you’re a progressive, you might be justified in seeing the possibility of a recovery and backlash to punish all the Deplorables. That might look appealing to you, and encouraging, but let none of us forget that in Spain, between 1931 and the outbreak of civil war in 1936, the nascent Spanish republic destroyed itself through cycles of left-right vengeance when each side gained the political upper hand in Parliament. In our American case, there’s nothing we can do about it but prepare to ride it out. Trump had a phenomenal opportunity, and though he certainly faced hostile and clever enemies (as all presidents do), he blew that opportunity by governing badly. If he were only a tiny bit of the hard man his enemies think he is, wokeness would not be saturating US Attorneys offices in the Department of Justice.

Now we conservatives are left with the vital task of seeing matters as clearly as possible, so we can act with clarity and resolution, instead of on false hope.

Seeing things with clarity requires calling out this alarming presidential tweet as the danger to democracy that it is. We have all had to put up with a lot from Trump, but there is no defense of this. How can anyone see him as fit to hold the office after something like this? This is not just one more crazy thing he’s done. The man is trying to delegitimize the entire constitutional democracy to shield himself from the disgrace of losing re-election. Stephen Calabresi, a law professor who is a co-founder of the conservative Federalist Society, is scandalized by it. He writes:

I have voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980, including voting for Donald Trump in 2016. I wrote op-eds and a law review article protesting what I believe was an unconstitutional investigation by Robert Mueller. I also wrote an op-ed opposing President Trump’s impeachment.

But I am frankly appalled by the president’s recent tweet seeking to postpone the November election. Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats’ assertion that President Trump is a fascist. But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate.

Calabresi goes on:

President Trump needs to be told by every Republican in Congress that he cannot postpone the federal election. Doing so would be illegal, unconstitutional and without precedent in American history. Anyone who says otherwise should never be elected to Congress again.

To be precise, Trump wasn’t calling for a postponement of the election, only floating the question. But that was bad enough. The man is a degenerate political personality. He has the instincts, but not the capability to be an effective authoritarian. What kind of fascist can’t even make the trains run on time? Michael Brendan Dougherty writes today:

As he approaches the end of his first and maybe only term, Trump has changed very little about America’s foreign policy. He’s shifted some troops and materiel from NATO and domestic attitudes toward China have grown more hawkish on his watch. But the latter development was mostly a result of Chinese malfeasance and may have happened without him.

The racists no longer care about Trump. They wanted his campaign to be the beginning of larger and larger escalations of white hostility. But the demographic trajectory of the country is unchanged from before. Trump lost interest in a big beautiful wall, and his erstwhile white-nationalist fans now despise Trump. The religious dreamers have to contend with a Trumpified Supreme Court whose idea of textual interpretation holds out the Lyndon Baines Johnson administration as the champion of transgender rights in employment. They hoped Trump would be a tool of God who made the whole nation Christian; instead, he may very well make the Republican Party more secular.

In retrospect, it seems ridiculous that anyone put their faith in a president as weak as Trump, who can’t even turn infrastructure week into infrastructure projects, to alter the course of history.

MBD says that the crazy QAnon cult is what Trumpism has degenerated into. There’s something way beyond Trump driving QAnon (see here), but the key thing to believe is this: the willingness of people to believe things like QAnon is a flashing red light signaling radical political and cultural instability. Any regular reader of this blog knows that I write a lot about the threats from leftist ideological radicalism, which I believe to be much more dangerous because it has so powerfully captured the US elites and elite institutions. But we do not live in a binary, zero-sum world, in which the extremism of the left drains away extremism from the right, and vice versa. This is a very dangerous time.

One more thing about the embarrassing incompetence of the Trump government:

Late Monday night, President Trump and his son Donald Jr. retweeted video testimonials about the alleged effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine. The next day, the Daily Beast reported that one of the doctors in the video, Stella Immanuel, has several other rather unusual medical beliefs: that alien DNA is used in medical treatments, that scientists are trying to create a vaccine to make people secular, and that demons are responsible for a wide array of sexual and psychological ailments.

Of course none of those facts would be necessary to see that Immanuel is a quack. The claim that Trump circulated — that Immanuel has successfully treated hundreds of patients with hydroxychloroquine, despite overwhelming evidence that it is ineffective — is farcical on its face. Asked at a press conference yesterday about Immanuel’s bizarre demon-related claims, Trump insisted that he was only endorsing her allegedly successful treatments with hydroxychloroquine.

“I thought she was very impressive,” Trump said. “She said that she’s had tremendous success with hundreds of different patients.” That perhaps her beliefs about aliens and demons discredit her claims about hydroxychloroquine did not seem to occur to him.

I’m old enough to remember being in Washington as a young journalist, and reporting on the crackpottery of Clinton’s US Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. Man, she seems like Marie Curie compared to Dr. Stella Immanuel. If Trump loses in November, one silver lining as we prepare to endure the woke-ification of the executive branch is that at least conservatives will no longer feel obliged to defend, or at least to refrain from attacking, idiocy like the Stella Immanuel alien-demon-sex theories, and a president who, when faced with bad economic and political news, speculates publicly about suspending the election.

It’s so depressing. I have never been as concerned as I am now about Democratic Party rule, because they’ve never been so radical. But I also haven’t lost so much confidence in a Republican presidency since the end of the George W. Bush administration. Please spare me the shopworn “at least he fights” excuse. If he fights, then he fights like a barroom drunk swinging wildly and ineffectively. As MBD points out, he hasn’t accomplished much. Trump performs the role of a fighting president. His presidency is like professional wrestling: it only looks like combat.

UPDATE: This just out from the prominent conservative radio talker and co-founder of Red State:

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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