Is Trump that much worse than his predecessors?

My big mistake during the 2016 election campaign was in under-estimating the harm that Donald Trump might do as President.

Donald Trump

I thought that it might do less harm, from the standpoint of progressive reform, for an incompetent authoritarian right-winger such as Trump to take office and take the blame for the coming financial crash, than for a Democrat to take office, fail and open the way for more capable, far-sighted right-wing authoritarian in 2020.

I thought that when my Democratic friends spoke of how Donald Trump was going to destroy American democracy, they failed to recognize how far we had already strayed from democracy.

This “normal” that you speak of: When was that, and where is it to be found?  The Benghazi hearings? The drone war and the secret “kill list” that included American citizens?  The birther controversy and the “death panels”?  Potential vice president Sarah Palin?  The Iraq war and the “unknown unknowns”?  The Lewinsky scandal and the “meaning of is”?

Source: Alternet

In many important bad ways, the Trump is a continuation of the Obama and George W. Bush administrations.  He allows the drift toward military confrontation with Russia.  He continues the failing wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East.  He continues to staff his cabinet and key departments from Wall Street, especially Goldman Sachs.  He has little or nothing to offer working people.

The new bad thing about Trump is his attack on what his former adviser Steve Bannon called the “administrative state.”  It’s true that Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush talked as if government as such was the enemy, and made appointments without concern for their lack of qualification.  But the Trump administration has taken this to a new, much lower level.

Trump appointed former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy.  During the 2016 primary campaign, Perry had the DoE in mind as one of three departments he wanted to abolish, but couldn’t remember its name.

The DoE among other things assembles the country’s nuclear weapons, oversees the safety of nuclear plants and nuclear waste dumps and trains foreign countries’ inspectors that verify nuclear disarmament.  The health and safety of Americans depends on the DoE functioning well.

When Trump took office, the DoE arranged a briefing on all its programs, just as it had done for Obama and George W. Bush.  But the Trump representative wanted just one thing—a list of all employees who had attended conferences on climate change (presumably to arrange a purge list).

Other major government departments are the same.  We Americans depend on their ability to function in ways we don’t think about (for example, the Department of Agriculture’s meat inspections) and often don’t even know.

The Trump administration has systematically downgraded the ability of government to function, except for the military and the covert action agencies.  It is also downgrading the government’s scientific and data collection functions, to eliminate sources of objective information that could be used against him.

The resulting failure of government will be used as an argument to abolish key public services or turn them over to profit-seeking businesses.

I thought Trump’s ignorance and inexperience would limit his ability to do harm.  My experience of life should have told me different.  You don’t have to be intelligent or purposeful to do harm.  All you need to be is malicious.  The power of sociopaths is not that they are evil geniuses, but that they don’t observe the limits that normal people expect of each other.

Even liberals and progressives who despise President Trump may not fully understand the harm he is doing to government because he is doing so much harm that it is hard to focus on any one thing.  That would be true even without Trump’s ability to distract the attention of the press from issues and keep it focused on him personally..

What’s different about Trump is that he seems to operate without personal limits or consideration of consequences.  Perhaps this is part of his appeal.  Here is a man who has spent his life doing exactly what he wants, a man who has sex with beautiful models and sits on a golden toilet seat, a man who has ignored the law, a man who has ignored the consequences of his actions to others, and has gotten away with it.

Who would not, in some moods and moments, find that an appealing fantasy?  But who would want someone like that to in charge?

When I started this blog, I put up many posts critical of President Obama based on certain key issues.  With Trump it is hard to decide even where to begin.  I do not have the ability to take note of everything he does, nor the desire either, because that would not leave me time to write about anything else.  But even if I did, there would be so much material that hardly anybody could remember any one thing.


Why the Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming From Inside the White House by Michael Lewis for Vanity Fair.

Inside Trump’s Cruel Campaign Against the U.S.D.A.’s Scientists by Michael Lewis for Vanity Fair.

What Will Donald Trump Be Remembered For? by Tom Engelhardt. He makes a comprehensive list of possibilities before settling on just one.

A run-down of all the ways Trump is overseeing an all-out, under the radar attack on workers by Steven Hill for In These Times.

Donald Trump’s War on Workers by Paul Waldman for The Washington Post.

The Biggest Trump Scandal So Far by Branko Marcetic for Jacobin.  Maybe the worst and maybe not, but a good case study of the Trump administration in action.

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4 Responses to “Is Trump that much worse than his predecessors?”

  1. whungerford Says:

    What’s different about Trump is that he operated without personal limits or consideration of consequences. We might have anticipated that. But why do presumably more responsible officials stoop to accepting what he says and does?


  2. philebersole Says:

    The Civil Service laws, as intended, give civil servants a great deal of independence to do their jobs without political interference.

    The two Michael Lewis articles that I linked to shows how nonpartisan civil servants in the Department of Energy and Department of Agricultural plug away at doing vital jobs regardless of who is in power.

    But they can’t do their jobs if they don’t get enough funding to do these jobs. And the Trump administration, to an even greater degree than preceding Republican administrations, is starving all parts of government of funds except the military, the “intelligence community” and police agencies.


  3. Fred Says:

    Because Congress has completely abandoned its duty to decide if we declare war on someone, the fate of possibly even billions of people hangs on the character and judgement of one man.

    Have a nice day! 🙂


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