President Donald Trump promises to "Make America Great Again," but his words are nothing more than an advertising slogan. Rather, his actions since taking office are undoing decades of progress towards a better America and undermining the very core values enshrined its Constitution: liberty, equality, justice and democracy.
In the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." But under Trump all men are not created equal.
For instance, last week Trump directed the military to stop an Obama-era directive that allowed transgender individuals to be recruited into the armed forces. The order also bans the Department of Defense from providing medical treatment for transgender individuals currently serving in the military. In July Trump caught the military by surprise when he tweeted, "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgenders in the military would entail." But a 2016 Rand Corp study commissioned by the Defense Department concluded that letting transgender people serve would have "minimal impact" on readiness and healthcare costs. There are currently several thousand transgender people serving their country in the military.
Voting rights are also being assaulted by the Trump administration. Just weeks after winning the election but losing the popular vote, Trump took to Twitter to claim, "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." Trump assembled a commission in May to substantiate his false claims about voter fraud. Several years ago New York University's Brennan Center for Justice found, "examination after examination of voter fraud claims reveal fraud is very rare, voter impersonation is nearly nonexistent, and much of the problems associated with alleged fraud relates to unintentional mistakes by voters or election administrators." Why is the Trump administration intent on spending millions of taxpayer dollars in search of a problem that doesn't exist? The answer is voter suppression. They are determined to impose policies that will discourage or make it harder for millions of eligible Americans to vote, especially minorities and the elderly who tend to vote for Democrats.
Trump has used anti-immigrant rhetoric to fuel anger among his base supporters, especially against Hispanics and Muslims, the latter for whom he has issued a travel ban affecting six predominantly Muslim countries. Former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio regularly violated the rights of undocumented Hispanic immigrants, using racial profiling and inhumane treatment against them. Last month he was convicted of criminal contempt of court by a federal district court judge for failing to stop using these tactics. But crassly under the cover of Hurricane Harvey, on Friday President Trump issued a controversial pardon for Arpaio, an early Trump supporter, tweeting, "I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe!" The pardon received bipartisan condemnation, including from Arizona Senator John McCain, who said in a statement, "The president has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions." Alas, this may be just a precursor for pardons Trump will issue in the future for his loyalists and family members who are under investigation in the expanding Russia probe.
The president has gone to great lengths recently to explain his failure to attack white supremacists and the KKK, blaming the "fake media" for misrepresenting what he said. However, the president regularly whips up supporters at his rallies with attacks on the press. At a rally last week in Phoenix, the president leveled his latest assault, saying, "It's time to expose the crooked media deceptions...they're very dishonest people." He added, "The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news." Yet the remarks he says were misrepresented were delivered by him exactly as reported on television and viewed by millions of viewers. When Trump's back is against the wall he needs an enemy to lash out against, and the media is an easy target. But his rages against the news media are deeply concerning as they may have a chilling affect or worse on a free press.
Trump is clearly angry about his news coverage and frustrated with his lack of legislative success since taking office. He has tried to derail the many investigations underway into Russian interference in last November's election, and, according to the Washington Post, he has made more than 1,000 false or misleading claims over the past eight months. One of his biggest lies is that he has had one of the most successful presidencies in history. To the extent Trump has accomplished anything, regretfully it is to undermine civil rights, human rights, voting rights, and press freedoms.
Popular author Stephen King hit the nail on the head when he tweeted last month, "The news is real. The president is fake." But, sadly, Donald J. Trump is the president.