We’re all on the same team now.
As an American, I’m rooting for him.
These are the things that people say the day after the candidate they didn’t vote for was elected President of the United States. Not everyone. But those of us wishing to signal to the world that we are bigger than petty political conflicts. And that above all else, we are patriotic Americans. I said them November 9, 2016 at 11PM PST, when it became clear that Donald Trump was going to be the 45th president of the United States. I’d written a few dozen essays during the election about why I thought it was a bad idea. But I wanted people to know, that I believed that we were all in this together. His success, was our success.
We don’t really mean those things though. What we really mean is that we hope that they’re so ineffective that the policies they advocate for don’t take hold. And that crisis will pass quietly by us in the form of a short, boring and uneventful administration. Nothing gets fixed. But nothing really breaks either.
If we can’t have that, we’ll settle for the far more risky and exhausting version. Where policies take hold and are so clearly ineffective that the tide turns, opinion changes course and the people set it right through their next go at democratic process. Some damage may have been done. But not much. And we all learn a good lesson.
This is the stated advantage of democracy. It’s not efficient. But it gives us the chance to right wrongs.
It was clear, for any of us who paid attention to Citizen Trump for the 40 years he was in the public eye, that the former would be impossible under President Trump. Boring and quiet is not his way. And so, my hope, behind disingenuous “he’s my president too” claims, was for the latter. The risk, of course, being that we miss the signal that it’s time to walk away. And 45 does irreparable harm to domestic institutions and foreign policy.
Yesterday, James Mattis resigned his position as Secretary of Defense over how the President handled the decision to pull our troops out of Syria–reportedly with little or no consult from the DOD, announced via tweet from the President’s personal Twitter account.
“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues.” wrote Mattis in his resignation letter.
I served under Mattis while he was CENTCOM commander. And though I don’t believe we should continue a never ending war in Syria, Mattis’ quote above effectively articulates my primary frustration with President Trump’s posture towards the global community.
The signal is coming through clearly now.
The President has 17 active investigations related to him or organizations he was affiliated with. Not because of the deep state. Because it is the DOJ’s responsibility to pull on threads from those in power. And anyone paying attention over the last 40 years knew, Donald Trump had too many threads.
He’s lost the press. And it’s not because of a crippling hostile liberal bias, even if that bias exists. It’s because the press follows smoke to see if there’s fire. And Donald Trump is a chimney. He always has been. It’s a president’s job to manage a hostile press through change. Not try, in vain, to defeat it.
We are heading for a cyclical economic slow down and the response to the markets has been exacerbated by fears of volatile leadership. Threats to shut down the government over a border wall many Americans don’t care about. A trade war with China that is taxing American businesses and paying out more revenue than its taking to bail out farmers impacted by Chinese retaliation.
Top level cabinet positions have turned over in ugly, graceless fashion. Some have plead guilty to federal crimes. The president’s personal attorney pled guilty to a federal campaign finance felony to cover up the President’s extramarital affairs.
America is entering a time of a new world order that pits global adversaries like Russia and China against us in a new environment connected by the tracks laid by global commerce and technology. A world more complex but carrying the same risks that required the steady, trusted hand of Eisenhower to lead us through the dawn of intercontinental nuclear weapons.
A fair question to ask, is just how shaky a hand can we take?
Even the things I agree with like corporate tax reform, an end to military presence in Syria and some trade policy shifts are made harder to support because of the cloud of mistrust, personal behavior and style choices.
This is the inflection point. I’ve waited. And I’ve seen. And it’s time to admit, two years in, it’s exactly like we feared it would be.
It’s time to move on folks. If you’re still on the train, I’d like to hear why. Because I’m pretty good at passing the political Turing test and making at least a reasonable argument for the other side. I can’t here.