I’ve never seen a major newspaper do something like this.  In today’s Sunday front section, the first of a series –

Our Dishonest President

It was no secret during the campaign that Donald Trump was a narcissist and a demagogue who used fear and dishonesty to appeal to the worst in American voters. The Times called him unprepared and unsuited for the job he was seeking, and said his election would be a “catastrophe.”

Still, nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck. Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new president would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or that the people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office.

Instead, seventy-some days in — and with about 1,400 to go before his term is completed — it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced.

In a matter of weeks, President Trump has taken dozens of real-life steps that, if they are not reversed, will rip families apart, foul rivers and pollute the air, intensify the calamitous effects of climate change and profoundly weaken the system of American public education for all.

His attempt to de-insure millions of people who had finally received healthcare coverage and, along the way, enact a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has been put on hold for the moment. But he is proceeding with his efforts to defang the government’s regulatory agencies and bloat the Pentagon’s budget even as he supposedly retreats from the global stage.

What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.

In the days ahead, The Times editorial board will look more closely at the new president, with a special attention to three troubling traits:

1: Trump’s shocking lack of respect for those fundamental rules and institutions on which our government is based. Since Jan. 20, he has repeatedly disparaged and challenged those entities that have threatened his agenda, stoking public distrust of essential institutions in a way that undermines faith in American democracy. He has questioned the qualifications of judges and the integrity of their decisions, rather than acknowledging that even the president must submit to the rule of law. He has clashed with his own intelligence agencies, demeaned government workers and questioned the credibility of the electoral system and the Federal Reserve. He has lashed out at journalists, declaring them “enemies of the people,” rather than defending the importance of a critical, independent free press. His contempt for the rule of law and the norms of government are palpable.

2: His utter lack of regard for truth. Whether it is the easily disprovable boasts about the size of his inauguration crowd or his unsubstantiated assertion that Barack Obama bugged Trump Tower, the new president regularly muddies the waters of fact and fiction. It’s difficult to know whether he actually can’t distinguish the real from the unreal — or whether he intentionally conflates the two to befuddle voters, deflect criticism and undermine the very idea of objective truth. Whatever the explanation, he is encouraging Americans to reject facts, to disrespect science, documents, nonpartisanship and the mainstream media — and instead to simply take positions on the basis of ideology and preconceived notions. This is a recipe for a divided country in which differences grow deeper and rational compromise becomes impossible.

3: His scary willingness to repeat alt-right conspiracy theories, racist memes and crackpot, out-of-the-mainstream ideas. Again, it is not clear whether he believes them or merely uses them. But to cling to disproven “alternative” facts; to retweet racists; to make unverifiable or false statements about rigged elections and fraudulent voters; to buy into discredited conspiracy theories first floated on fringe websites and in supermarket tabloids — these are all of a piece with the Barack Obama birther claptrap that Trump was peddling years ago and which brought him to political prominence. It is deeply alarming that a president would lend the credibility of his office to ideas that have been rightly rejected by politicians from both major political parties.

Where will this end? Will Trump moderate his crazier campaign positions as time passes? Or will he provoke confrontation with Iran, North Korea or China, or disobey a judge’s order or order a soldier to violate the Constitution? Or, alternately, will the system itself — the Constitution, the courts, the permanent bureaucracy, the Congress, the Democrats, the marchers in the streets — protect us from him as he alienates more and more allies at home and abroad, steps on his own message and creates chaos at the expense of his ability to accomplish his goals? Already, Trump’s job approval rating has been hovering in the mid-30s, according to Gallup, a shockingly low level of support for a new president. And that was before his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, offered to cooperate last week with congressional investigators looking into the connection between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

But if it is to do so, those who oppose the new president’s reckless and heartless agenda must make their voices heard. Protesters must raise their banners. Voters must turn out for elections. Members of Congress — including and especially Republicans — must find the political courage to stand up to Trump. Courts must safeguard the Constitution. State legislators must pass laws to protect their citizens and their policies from federal meddling. All of us who are in the business of holding leaders accountable must redouble our efforts to defend the truth from his cynical assaults.

The United States is not a perfect country, and it has a great distance to go before it fully achieves its goals of liberty and equality. But preserving what works and defending the rules and values on which democracy depends are a shared responsibility. Everybody has a role to play in this drama.

This is the first in a series.

2 Comment

  1. Mark Spector says: Reply

    “Donald Trump” – God how that name sticks in my craw! I have searched for ways not to say his horrid name, not to see his ugly face, not to hear his twisted words, or feel the meanness that he spews night and day. There’s only so much poison I can tolerate at one time.
    And yet, this Sunday morning, before the newspaper, the t.v., or the internet have invaded my consciousness, I cannot avoid the thought that has plagued me since that bleak day in November, that this ugliest of Americans is collectively our creation, and a reflection of a side of the American character, abhorrent as it is, we cannot disown. How much did the separation between us, the mean-spirited us-and-them divisions, the polarization fueled by self-righteousness help create this monster or at the very least allow him to seize power?
    We can blame the press, but they were no different than they’ve been for decades. We can blame the blue-collared Republicans, who may pay the greatest price for their ignorance and gullibility, such an easy, large target, once-removed for so many of us. How about the pundits, the pollsters, the Democratic National Committee, all the other Democrats, the Independents, the young or the Green Party? What about all those who didn’t vote, the Electoral College, the Russians and the FBI? After a while it’s everyone but us and our immediate family (maybe) and our circle of friends, a circle that may now be smaller than we thought.
    If we were to look at America as a man we know, would we not advise him to see his demons as his own? Do we not need to do the same as a country, as a people, for the spirit of America to be reborn. We’re not going to change him or the cabal of corruption he’s made his cabinet. But we, the people, are better than this. Maybe only our better angels can look the demons in the eye and remember that the promised land of the American dream never was about white picket fences and two-car garages, but about the inalienable rights, freedom and the common good, those ideals we have fought and worked for as a young idealistic nation. So now it’s time to grow up and take responsibility for who we’ve become and the betrayal of that dream, still our destiny to fulfill. Though demons rule and run rampant through the halls of government, threatening so much we have built and so many of the most vulnerable among us, though their lies become the currency of the news, and their deeds leave the world in disbelief and fear, let us find the courage and compassion to bring those ideals back to life. This land belongs to you and me.

  2. I applaude the LA Times for the courage to put the truth out there, taking the lead. I only hope there are more journalists like you ready to step up to the plate. Thank You Dick for sharing

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