Friday, January 21, 2022

The Apprentice President

It is currently one o’clock in the morning. After being bombarded with another day of endless press releases and political analysis by commentators, many whom were simply annoyingly repetitious and obnoxiously speculative, I decided to take a break.

Like many Americans, I am disgruntled by the continued dissemination of information, misinformation and conjecture fueled by an exhaustive investigative process, an incessant stream of conflicting signals emulating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the outlandish competition for ratings and market share. I decided to turn to the late night shows for comic relief. Once again, I was pelted with a seemingly continuous flow of political satire relating to the events that had transpired just hours prior to their airing. I’m not saying the characterizations were inaccurate or the humor not amusing, but for me, I had reached my limit. A year of absurd muckraking and divisive campaigning succeeded by endless investigations and a relentless bantering and bickering was simply overbearing and depressing. Sadly, this activity will likely continue and be supplemented by a complete lack of political statesmanship, an overabundance of testosterone, outlandish showmanship and unremitting chaos, while little attention has been seriously focused on major reforms, escalating deficits and spiraling national debt.

Unable to sleep, I decided to crawl out of bed and write what most likely will be my last article on national or geopolitical subjects and events. (The sole exception being a piece I may write when our current president leaves office.)

When President Trump was a cadet at the New York Military Academy located in Cornwall on-the- Hudson, New York in the early sixties, he was considered by his friends to be bright, kind, considerate, non-judgmental, flamboyant, charismatic and extremely personable. He never swore, was courteous to women and best epitomized what one sought in a mentor and friend. He was a young man that most would have been proud to have as an older brother. He was confident, not arrogant; patient, not anxious; and understanding, not apathetic. Young Trump was an extraordinary young man and exemplary cadet.

Decades later, when President Trump appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1988, he seemed refined, articulate, personal and humorous. Although he told Oprah he probably wouldn’t run for president, some of his closest friends believed he would one day seek the nomination. At the time, most of his former acquaintances and childhood friends knew little of his personal exploits and escapades other than what was shown on television or written in magazines, newspapers and tabloids, which seemed to favor the young, brash, successful entrepreneur some referred to as a media sensation and the “Golden Boy of New York City.” But the media quickly turned against him when the economy, his net worth and marriage began to disintegrate and the Trump Empire seemed destined to collapse. Trump weathered the storm and exited the turmoil as a universal celebrity, far wiser, better prepared, and what most believed to be, the overseer of a far more economically sound empire.

When Trump sought the nomination for the presidency, most Americans favored a leader of action who would be straightforward and decisive. Voters wanted a political outsider who would shake-up Washington and rid the swamp of bureaucratic driftwood and sludge. They sought a protagonist who would eradicate backroom politics that spawned corruptness fostered by personal agendas and special interest groups. A near majority supported Trump because they believed he would dismantle the “rigged system,” be proactive, genuine and transparent, and, above all, he would guard the interests of all constituents.

During the presidential campaign, Trump’s caustic outspoken style, abrasive manner, aggressive demeanor, and condescending behavior stunned and intimidated his opposition. He unexpectedly unraveled their strategies, resulting in his winning the Republican nomination, garnering our nation’s electoral college and ascending to the office of president.

Since the election, things have not always gone the way many of his followers believed they would. The president has attempted to keep his word on certain agendas, but has deviated far from his promises on others. He has implemented numerous changes pledged during his candidacy, and, as promised, continues to be outspoken, defiant and somewhat unwavering. He has succeeded in eliminating numerous unessential barriers to competition, and in getting Congress to pass a massive new tax code statute. His administration is working to modify disproportional trade agreements, and it appears that his hard stance may bring North Korea to the negotiation table. He has also managed to drain a few incorrigible characters from “the swamp.”

Regrettably, President Trump has also stripped the environment of protective shields, chosen the regressive path of fossil fuel over alternative energies, is on the wrong side of the global warming debate, and has passed tax legislation that is not a true reform. He has taken a soft stance on the NRA and the procurement of assault weaponry and lifted a ban on the importing of big game trophies from abroad. In his attempt to “drain the swamp” he has either brought to his administration and inner sanctuary some who were existing members of the swamp he hoped to drain, and others who were either later dismissed because they were contaminated by the cesspool or apparently refused to join the cesspit.

Those who voted for Trump believed the new president would unite the country, represent the majority of his constituents, be far more open-minded, less abrasive, more polished, less disorderly, less partisan and more centrist, have been greatly disappointed and disheartened.

President Trump may have brought more luggage than he imagined or bargained for when he entered the White House. He also may have overestimated his power of persuasion to coerce Congress to subjugate to his will, as he had been accustomed to in the private business empire he crafted and appeared to effectively macro and microscopically manage. He also may have overestimated members of Congress’ ability to behave as statesmen. Having already established himself as a major celebrity, he also may have falsely believed once he became president, nearly all would become mesmerized by his magnetic persona and perception of reality.

Perhaps President Trump should have heeded former President Truman’s advice when he said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,” for most in our nation’s capital are not there to become authentic friends, especially to one they originally disfavored. Nor will they continue to highly regard one whom they deem unreliable and untrustworthy or one who opposes their individual agendas and those of their financial supporters.

At times, the president doesn’t seem to have a prudent understanding of the separation of powers between the three branches of government, for he appears to believe loyalty to the president supersedes judicial independence and allegiance to country. Admittedly, some former presidents interpreted this separation differently, but the intention of the first three articles of the constitution was to define the authority and function of each branch to “prevent the majority from ruling with an iron fist.”

Although President Trump seems to have a fundamental grasp of which major subjects need to be addressed and what items require reform, he often lacks clarity and a precise agenda of his own. And, to date, his “Art of the Deal” philosophical approach to negotiating has failed to impress or persuade Democrats to endorse the majority of his programs and his party’s unwavering agenda.

President Trump has a number of intelligent advisers and secretaries in his cabinet. However, it is not the gender inclusive, or the ethnic and economically diversified assemblage required to represent the interests of all Americans, including the disenfranchised and discontented he hoped to unify.

If what the news media says is true, the president often announces a new policy or strategy before informing key personnel within his cabinet. One would expect a former CEO to consult with his cabinet, seasoned representatives from both parties and key career department personnel before making dramatic changes and introducing sorely needed reforms, especially a president who expressed a desire to unify a divided country. He has admitted that he often talks to those in Mar-a-Lago to assess their opinions, which is not a realistic and true barometer of the thoughts and needs of most Americans. Asking the upper four or five percentile of the wealthiest Americans what they think is his best course of action is similar to asking the wolves how the hen house should be managed.

Most supporters understand and accept the president’s negotiating style of aiming high and later granting concessions to gain the upper hand for our nation and his administration. But his actions and tactics, at times, seem spontaneously impulsive. Although an occasional display of impromptu can keep adversaries confused and off-balance, constituents, allies and America’s enemies should never perceive this as standard behavior from the leader of the free world. They should never view the president as a man who lacks the ability to view the interests of his citizenship from a multitude of perspectives, or one willing to backtrack when his party or base oppose concepts, ideas or strategies that benefit most Americans.

It is irrational to expect a political novice (an apprentice) to act without error, especially when one considers the commitment and enormity of the responsibility required to lead a nation of over 340 million people. Since the great World Wars of the twentieth century, most administrations have been confronted by the same menacing rogue nations that currently threaten our existence. But few others were plagued by a similar series of unprecedented natural disasters experienced by our President Trump during his first year in office.

For a man of 71, he is incredibly energetic, impeccably methodical in dress, and talented. One can only imagine how focused, attentive and vigorous he could be if he used his ability more wisely and was not burdened with a seemingly endless barrage of disparaging distractions, many of his own making.

There is discontent and divisiveness in America. But regardless of personal feelings toward President Trump, every American should want him to be successful in negotiations with the leadership of belligerent regimes or problematic countries, for successful outcomes are in the best interest of all Americans. If successful in such negotiations, the outcome may very well be a result of his governance. However, lofty achievements are never the result of a sole individual, but a result of a concerted effort; the vowel “I” is not contained in the word “teamwork.”

The president also believes that chaos is good although, it is a philosophy many within the public and private sectors of the economy have yet to embrace. There is some credence to this philosophy, for randomness can have a sublime structured order, which spurns innovation and change. However, the byproduct of disorder can also result in regime change or revolution.

I don’t know what the Mueller investigation will turn up and if the president will be exonerated or implicated. For the sake of our country and the sanctity of the office, we expect the investigative and judicial process to be thorough and unbiased, and the results unequivocally validated. Regardless of the outcome, the behavior of our president and that of all elected and appointed officials should be beyond reproach, for they have been elected or appointed to serve and represent America with honor and integrity, and their behavior should set an example for all generations to respect, admire and emulate.

President Trump recently selected a new campaign chair to manage another run in 2020. Perhaps the president should be more focused on his current tenure rather than one in the unforeseeable future. Festering embitterment and contempt sent President Trump to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But, voters remain skeptical of his actions and appointed administration. In the upcoming midterm elections Americans remain determined to champion candidates who guard their interests, are willing to defy special interest groups and challenge the status quo. To expand his base during his remaining term in office, he must seriously question if he can realistically continue to thread the needle between reality star and leader of the free world while fulfilling lofty expectations that sent him to Washington. If the president can transcend from apprentice to universal, respected leader and in doing so, truly make “America great again,” and a country others admire and wish to emulate, if he seeks another term (which seems somewhat suspect, for many believe it is simply another distraction), he may just do so if he can escape the grasp of Mueller unscathed.

President Thomas Jefferson said, “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”

We live in a world of little privacy. A world where behavior and actions are fully scrutinized, where human activity can instantly be viewed, analyzed, interpreted, misread and criticized. As Americans and members of the civilized world, we need to be attentive, sincere, truthful, civil, generous and empathetic, for our behavior and work will be our eternal legacy. Let us hope our president and his administration and those within the other two branches of our government strive to meet these standards and heed the advice of Thomas Jefferson’s words, for our actions will indeed outlive the facade of perception and become the legacy that will endure.

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