Trump’s Trompe L'oeil Will Be His Undoing

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Joshua Roberts / Reuters

“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I am able to do it.”

“President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told.” ― President Trump, Oct.16.

When Trump says this about President Obama or any of the preceding presidents not calling families of fallen soldiers, I am hurled back to his days of alleging Obama was not a citizen and his sick rationalization: “That’s what I was told.”

And he compounds the sickness by slinging the same mud at other presidents.

In his Oct. 16 Fact Checker column, The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler notes that while not all of President Obama’s phone calls to the families of fallen military personnel were announced, Obama was responsive and respectful in many public ways. According to Kessler:

In 2011, [Obama] flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware when 30 soldiers — including 22 Navy SEALs — died after their helicopter was hit by a rocket by Afghanistan. He met with the families there as the remains were delivered home.

Generally, former Obama aides said, the president wrote letters or made base visits in which he met with families. “I remember he did on occasion make calls and met Gold Star families at the White House and on his base visits,” said Benjamin Rhodes, a national security aide to Obama.

Sharon Belkofer, a Gold Star mother whose son died in 2010 in Afghanistan, told the Democratic National Convention in 2016 that she met Obama at Ft. Drum where “I cried all over his suit.”

In a column published in the Chicago Tribune on Aug. 3, 2016, former White House press secretary Dana Perino recalled one of President George W. Bush’s visits to Walter Reed in 2005. The full text of Perino’s account is extensive, but it should be read if just to prove how wrong President Trump is about his predecessors.

Senator John McCain, in Philadelphia Monday night to receive the Liberty Medal by the National Constitution Center, spoke directly to the president and those who support him.

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”

To which Trump countered on Tuesday, “Yeah, well I hear it. And people have to be careful because at some point I fight back,” Trump said. “I’m being very nice. I’m being very, very nice. But at some point I fight back, and it won’t be pretty.”

I have friends who are Trump supporters. These friends are good people who have sincere hopes that Trump will somehow rebuild what he is tearing down and create a better U.S.

I believe such thinking closes the doors to reasoned debate, compromise and long-term planning. I also believe that Trump acts with malice aforethought in some ways—fully intending to tear down that which others have labored lifetimes to build—and in other ways he acts out of spite, uninformed by truth, simply because he cannot, will not, refuses point blank to forgive any real or perceived slight. In “punching back,” he threatens the very foundations of our democracy.

The flaws in our system have little to do with an imaginary swamp. That is just a convenient two-dimensional image, lacking any depth—sort of like a tunnel painted by deceivers on the side of a mountain of serious issues. From a distance, it looks like a way through, but there is only solid stone behind it. We must not be fooled by Trump’s trompe l’oeil. If you want to get through the mountain so the nation can move ahead, you have to work at it... slogans and lies won’t do it. And it takes teamwork and all sorts of tools to get through.

Washington has the tools... the Congress has the tools... the Constitution gives us the tools. We don’t need to tear it down; we need to build with what we have, together, in concert, through planning and compromise.

Mr. Trump is selling snake oil, quick fixes, promises of rain in the midst of a legislative and judicial drought. To his base—people who feel marginalized financially, threatened racially, left out socially—what Trump is selling is what they’ve been led to think they want. And for all I know, the Congress and the courts may go along for a while.

But there will come a hard day of reckoning, when Trump’s base runs smack into that painting on the mountainside, like Wile E. Coyote who falls for his own trompe l’oeil.

When that happens, the Trump base will come out on the losing end of health care, come out owing taxes they were promised they wouldn’t have to pay, come out losing jobs that didn’t come back to hire them, come out to see how the rest of the world is perfectly happy to pass us by. To quote the president, “It won’t be pretty.” How right you will be, Mr. Trump.

That day will come in 2020, I think, though I wish it would be 2018. Trump and his core will beat up on us in the opening rounds, but I believe the nation as a whole will not go down, no matter what Trump wishes or how hard he hits. He will never hit hard enough to put John McCain on the mat; he will not hit hard enough to put freedom of speech on the mat; he will not hit hard enough to put America on the mat.

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