Common Sense in an Age of Unreason
A tribute to a proud republic birthed from enlightened free-thinkers.
“Republican government is no other than government established and conducted for the interest of the public, as well individually as collectively.” – Thomas Paine (1995, p. 565)
March 19, 2017
On February 14, 1776, Thomas Paine authored an address to the inhabitants of America. He titled the document Common Sense, and its contents would motivate Americans to resist the usurpations of their natural, God given rights, by a monarch intent on violent abuses of power. The document called these inhabitants to do what was right, to reclaim their rights, and through reason build a government ruled by The People. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and officially adopted the Declaration of Independence. What followed was the Revolutionary War, and the creation of the greatest republic ever built by humankind. A republic built on the foundation of representative democracy; supported by the pillars of liberty, justice, and equality; and held aloft by a robust separation of powers to ensure that the despotism of the majority, or of a single authoritarian, could not erase what was built with the blood of our forefathers.
The republic weathered many storms over the last two centuries, and the wisdom of America’s Founding Fathers, enshrined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, ensured that it would survive. Today, America is facing a new storm, the likes of which it has not seen before, and a new address to the inhabitants of America must now be penned. How Americans resist this new storm – driven by the tempests of outright deceit, hate, and propaganda – will determine the very soul of this great republic, and it may ultimately decide whether we, The People, get to keep a representative democracy literally, or whether that representative democracy will exist only figuratively; turned into just another kleptocracy, a play thing of wealthy oligarchs, and orchestrated by men and women with little regard for the natural rights of humankind.
What was true then remains true today,
- The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances hath, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all Lovers of Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affections are interested. (Paine, 1995, p. 6)
People of good conscience, and influenced by reason and principle, must remain steadfast friends of this proud republic. It is through The People’s peaceful resistance of the corrupting influence of what appears to be a malignant narcissist, and that narcissist’s white nationalist driven agenda, that the soul of America might yet be saved. The pillars of liberty, justice, and equality must continue to stand if our republican form of self-governance is to survive. Thus, for the sake of the republic, I now pen Common Sense in an Age of Unreason.
Paine, T. (1995). Paine Collected writings: Common sense; the crisis; rights of man; the age of reason; pamphlets, articles, & letters. New York, New York: Literary Classics of the United States.
Design of American Government
“Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz. freedom and security. And however our eyes may be dazzled with show, or our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interest darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and of reason will say, it is right.” – Thomas Paine (1995, pp. 8-9)
March 20, 2017
Our representative democracy has withstood many storms due to its enlightened design. At the foundation of its design rests simplicity in the form of a document we call the Constitution. This document, in conjunction with another we call the Bill of Rights, establishes the arrangement of our federal system. This system is composed of checks and balances, separation of powers, rule of law, due process, and protection of individual rights from the whims of the majority. The purpose of our federal government is to provide for the freedom and security of The People. This is done using the principle of justice, which balances the principles of liberty and equality.
In order for a representative democracy to exist, its people must share, and be educated about, the values of justice, liberty, and equality. These are essential values that guide The People’s beliefs concerning personal liberty, individualism, equal opportunity, popular consent, free and fair elections, free expression, majority rule, free assembly, and the right to protest our government for redress of grievances (Burns, et al., 2004). These shared values foster – when The People are educated and the economy is good – a free and diverse citizenry to collaborate and arrive at consensus. These are the pillars of a civil democratic society, and of politics that are free from upheaval and violence. The People must never forget that politics is a polite word that civil societies give to denote a war of ideas. A war free from all the messy killing, destruction, mourning, and rebuilding that follows real wars. Politics is a merging of philosophy, science (trial and error), and art (with mastery needed for competence), which postulates that humankind has the ability to resolve our differences with the pen and dialogue, in lieu of using the sword and spear. Politics in a democracy allows citizens to have a peaceful transition of power from one political party to another political party.
America’s constitutional democracy separates the power of government into three equal branches; and establishes within the first amendment to the constitution that congress may not infringe on the freedom of the press. Thus, three equal branches of government, each with legitimate positional powers, were established, along with a watchdog in the form of the free press with no legitimate governmental power. The power of the free press rests on its credibility, in the form of prestige and expertise, in informing The People accurately about abuses in the three established branches of government. These branches of government include the legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislative branch is responsible for passing laws, the executive branch is responsible for enforcing laws, and the judicial branch is responsible for interpreting laws (Burns, et al., 2004). But, what happens when The People are not educated about American values? Or, if through targeted propaganda, The People are purposefully led astray from American values? Furthermore, consider what could happen if the executive branch did not share those values, and one or both of the remaining branches of government remained supine as the executive branch enforced laws and established policies in direct opposition to these American values? Consider, for just a moment, whether the founders of this great nation planned for such a contingency, or constitutional crisis, of representative democracy. Could America weather such a storm as the one described above? If not, would The People friendly to our republic be obligated to resist executive branch attempts to dismantle it?
Some may say that such a scenario could never happen because the founders established a check and balance to ensure only executives that valued American democracy could get elected: The Electoral College. The founders did not trust in the direct vote of The People when choosing an American president, so they established the Electoral College to ensure that populism could not overthrow the federal system of government. As Alexander Hamilton surmised:
- The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States. It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue. And this will be thought no inconsiderable recommendation of the Constitution, by those who are able to estimate the share which the executive in every government must necessarily have in its good or ill administration. Though we cannot acquiesce in the political heresy of the poet who says: "For forms of government let fools contest That which is best administered is best,'' yet we may safely pronounce, that the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration. – (Hamilton, 1788, para. 8)
The presidential election of 2016 appears to have proven Hamilton’s conjecture about the Electoral College to be wrong. Given this circumstance, we are once again left to postulate the ramifications to American democracy if a presidential candidate arises that does not value the American principles of democracy – or who is not endowed with the requisite qualifications for the office – were to get elected as president via populism. And, what could be the consequence if one or both of the remaining branches fail to, or refuse to, check the powers of the executive branch under such a circumstance? Before this question can be answered, we must first consider what the words, “the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications” means, and if the 2016 election produced just such a president. What is the evidence for such a claim, and where should people start in seeking it out?
Common Sense provides a road map among its pages, to the interested seeker of truth, about what the Founders’ considered to be vices of leadership; so much so, that they felt compelled by these perceived vices to declare independence from leaders possessing them.
- A person with involved interests cannot be trusted;
- A person unable to think clearly, using reason and science, is weak-minded;
- A prejudiced person will refuse to reason and is therefore not credible;
- A person should not have the heart of a coward;
- A person should not have the spirit of a sycophant;
- A person should not be motivated by pride or resentment;
- A person should not have a thirst for arbitrary power;
- A person should not use craft and subtlety to cheat others;
- A person should not be cruel, childish, or ridiculous in dealings with others; and
- A person should not be unwise, uncaring, and untrustworthy in decision making. – (Paine, 1995, p. 25-36)
It is therefore reasonable to conclude that a person would be considered to be “endowed” with the “requisite qualifications” of leadership if he or she possessed the opposite of these vices. That is, a person should possess the virtues of a good leader. He or she should be trusted, intelligent, reasonable, enlightened, credible, brave, honorable, collaborative, humble, forgiving, selfless, honest, kind, mature, sensible, wise, empathetic, and thoughtful. A good measure of these virtues should be present within a person in order to be considered qualified to lead a free people. Good character is born from these virtues. In other words, the person would have the correct temperament for the job; he or she would be endowed with the requisite qualifications. It stands to reason that a leader of The People should be held to a higher standard in regards to these attributes than a common citizen would be held. With these considerations in mind, let us begin our search in ascertaining some truth about the current occupant of the Office of the President.
Burns, J. M., Peltason, J. W., Cronin, T. E., Magleby, D. B., O'Brien, D. M., & Light, P. C. (2004). Government by the people (20th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Hamilton, A. (1788). The federalist papers: No. 68 - The mode of electing the president. New York, New York: J. and A. M. Lean.
Paine, T. (1995). Paine Collected writings: Common sense; the crisis; rights of man; the age of reason; pamphlets, articles, & letters. New York, New York: Literary Classics of the United States.
“Their plans of business are calculated by the hour and for the hour, and are uniform in nothing but the corruption which gives them birth.” – Thomas Paine (1995, p. 170)
March 25, 2017
The founders understood all too well that a person with unfettered self-interests could use the power of government to enact tyranny. In fact, they established a clause within the Constitution in order to limit the influence of self-interest on the Office of the President. The clause is known as the Emoluments Clause and can be found in Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8. It reads in full:
- No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.
The current occupant of the Office of the President appears to have entered the position flush with self-interest. In fact, the occupant has refused to divest himself from his myriad business interests spanning the world (Peterson-Withorn, 2017). This has caused ethics experts to warn that “a president is not permitted to receive cash and other benefits from foreign governments” and yet it appears that the current occupant’s business interests are providing him with revenues from around the world (Eisen, 2017). The occupant’s refusal to place his assets into a blind trust has enabled him to profit financially from his political position, and it appears to have placed him in violation of the Emoluments Clause from day one of his presidency (Stern, 2017). The current occupant’s viewpoint about his many conflicts of interest is “the law’s totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest,” which is not entirely true, ignores the fact that the Constitution supersedes federal law (specifically Title 18, Section 208 of the U.S. code), and does not exempt the president from getting the consent of congress before he can accept any emolument from a foreign power (Kessler & Lee, 2017).
As of the date of this writing, The Atlantic has compiled a non-inclusive list of the occupant’s known involved interests (the list is sure to grow as more time passes and investigative journalists continue to uncover more conflicts of interest). These interests include property in Azerbaijan, his tower penthouse, a resort in the Dominican Republic, a Chinese Trademark, his meetings at Mar-a-Lago, a Defense Department tower rental, the Red Cross ball, a D.C. labor dispute, an estate in Palm Beach, business expansion plans, a hotel in Vancouver, a reality television show, a pipeline, HUD grants, a golf course in Aberdeen, ties to New York real-estate, Indonesian politicians, an Emirati businessman, a vineyard in Virginia, a Las Vegas labor dispute, an event in Kuwait, certificates of divestiture, a Carrier deal, blind-trust issues, Fannie and Freddie investments, a phone call with Taiwan, his Deutsche Bank debt, his Secret Service detail, property in the country of Georgia, a phone call with Erdogan, a hotel in Washington D.C., an Argentinian office building, companies in Saudi Arabia, a British Wind Farm, Indian business partners, and an envoy from the Philippines (Venook, 2017; to read the full details of these conflicts of interest see The Atlantic article). Based on these facts, it appears the current occupant of the Office of President is a person with many involved interests. This is the first vice of leadership, and it presents the president with numerous conflicts that erode The People’s trust in his decision-making.
The ability to think clearly, using reason and logic based upon all available evidence, was important to our founders. After all, who would want a weak-minded fool to be the leader of the free world? This begs the question, does the current occupant of the Office of the President think clearly? Unfortunately, there is ample evidence to show that this may not be the case.
To begin, the current occupant appears to promote unfounded conspiracy theories as if they were based on real world facts. He has demonstrated behaviors, and voiced opinions, that promote, embrace, and spread these untruths with what appears to be little regard for the people he hurts in the process. In the past, he has alleged, all without any supporting evidence, that Hillary Clinton was somehow involved in the death of White House aide Vince Foster; that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States; that autism is caused by vaccines; that thousands of American Muslims celebrated the September 11th terrorist attacks; that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in a plot to murder President John F. Kennedy; and that Antonin Scalia was suffocated in his sleep with a pillow (Neely, 2016). His most recent, and unsubstantiated, claims include three million people voted illegally during the presidential election for Hillary Clinton, that President Barack Obama was the founder of ISIS; and his most damning accusation, that President Barack Obama wiretapped his phones (Baker & Haberman, 2017).
The current occupant even went so far as to allege that our ally, Britain, used its intelligence agency to assist President Obama with the wiretaps, and compared this unfounded claim with the very real wiretapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Blake, 2017). Of course, the wiretapping claim proved to be a source of immediate embarrassment for the Office of the President, and diminished its credibility around the world, when F.B.I. director James B. Comey testified before congress that there is no evidence to support the current occupant’s claim that President Obama wiretapped his phones, but that there is a current F.B.I. investigation into the occupant’s, and his campaign associates, contacts with Russian agents during the 2016 presidential election (Rosenberg, Huetteman, & Schmidt, 2017). This circumstance would be as funny as the current occupant’s claim that his presidential inauguration had the largest crowd ever, even though event photographs and other metrics indicated this statement was patently absurd and false, if it did not have the potential to be the largest act of treason against the United States since Benedict Arnold (Devega, 2017; Mason & Rampton, 2017).
As if these indications of weak-mindedness are not troubling enough, the current occupant’s other behaviors have alarmed psychology professionals to a degree that they are debating his mental health and stability (Caruso, 2017; McAdams, 2016; Psychology Today Editorial Staff, 2017; Willingham, 2017). In a letter to the editors of The New York Times, Dodes et al. (2017) write that the current occupant’s, “speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behavior suggest a profound inability to empathize. Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them” (para. 3). Many psychology professionals are claiming that he displays the traits of being a malignant narcissist (Hosie, 2017). The traits of a malignant narcissist have been used to describe a psychopath, or someone that willingly hurts and abuses others, and includes:
- Emotionless and self-centered thinking
- Cruel and ruthless behaviors designed to torture others emotionally, mentally, and physically
- Viewing other people as objects and doesn't care about others
- Taking excessive risks
- Having a huge ego and a grandiose sense of entitlement
- Blaming others and never taking responsibility for own behaviors and shortcomings
- Abnormal sex life, in which he or she often plays the role of a sadist (Gray, 2017)
As we continue to explore the vices of leadership, examples of the traits above will be seen in the current occupant of the Office of the President. It is important to note that the author of the criteria for diagnosing narcissistic personality disorder claims that diagnosing the current occupant with this disorder would be amateurish since he does not suffer from distress and impairment required for a mental disorder (Frances, 2017). Frances instead claims that the current occupant should be “denounced for his ignorance, incompetence, impulsivity and pursuit of dictatorial powers” (para. 4). But Frances appears to miss the point. It does not matter whether the current occupant can be classified as mentally ill since he does not suffer from distress and impairment, but whether his cognitions and behaviors represent a threat to The People he was elected to lead. After all, a billionaire has many resources at his disposal in order to fend off the distress and impairment that would accompany a malignant narcissist without those resources. An employee of most any company would be instantly terminated if he or she displayed similar behaviors to the current occupant of the Office of the President; and the leader of the free world should be held to higher standards than The People he represents. It appears that conditions for the second vice of leadership have also been met.
Baker, P., & Haberman, M. (2017, March 5). A conspiracy theory's journey from talk radio to Trump's Twitter. The New York Times. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/05/us/politics/trump-twitter-talk-radio-conspiracy-theory.html
Blake, A. (2017, March 17). President Trump's conspiracy theory diplomacy. The Washington Post. Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/03/17/donald-trumps-conspiracy-theory-diplomacy/
Caruso, C. (2017, February 15). Psychiatrists debate weighing in on Trump's mental health. Scientific American. Armonk, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/psychiatrists-debate-weighing-in-on-trumps-mental-health/
Devega, C. (2017, March 14). Intelligence expert Malcolm Nance on Trump scandal: "As close to Benedict Arnold as we're ever going to get". Salon. Canton, Massachusetts, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2017/03/14/intelligence-expert-malcolm-nance-on-trump-scandal-as-close-to-benedict-arnold-as-were-ever-going-to-get/
Dodes, L., Schachter, J., Radant, S., Schachter, J., Kerman, J., Seitelman, J., . . . Reichbart, R. (2017, February 13). To the editors of The New York Times. Beverly Hills, California, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.lancedodes.com/new-york-times-letter
Eisen, N. (2017, January 19). Ethics lawyers call Trump's business conflicts 'Nakedly Unconstitutional'. Oregon Public Broadcasting. United States of America: NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=510574687
Frances, A. (2017, February 14). An eminent psychiatrist demurs on Trump's mental state. The New York Times. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/opinion/an-eminent-psychiatrist-demurs-on-trumps-mental-state.html
Gray, L. (2017). Malignant narcissistic personality disorder: Definition & traits. Study.com. Mountain View, California, United States of America. Retrieved from http://study.com/academy/lesson/malignant-narcissism-personality-disorder-definition-traits.html#transcriptHeader
Hosie, R. (2017, January 30). 'Malignant narcissism': Donald Trump displays classic traits of mental illness, claim psychologists. Independent. London, United Kingdom. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/donald-trump-mental-illness-narcisissm-us-president-psychologists-inauguration-crowd-size-paranoia-a7552661.html
Kessler, G., & Lee, M. (2017, January 11). Fact check: Trump's claim that 'the president can't have a conflict of interest'. The Washington Post. Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2017/live-updates/trump-white-house/confirmation-hearings-trump-speaks-and-vote-a-rama-analysis-and-updates/fact-check-trumps-claim-that-the-president-cant-have-a-conflict-of-interest/
Mason, J., & Rampton, R. (2017, January 24). White House accuses media of playing down inauguration crowds. Reuters. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-media-idUSKBN15600I
McAdams, D. P. (2016, June). The mind of Donald Trump. The Atlantic. Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/the-mind-of-donald-trump/480771/
Neely, B. (2016, May 24). A guide to the many conspiracy theories Donald Trump has embraced. Oregon Public Broadcasting. United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2016/05/24/479331275/a-guide-to-the-many-conspiracy-theories-donald-trump-has-embraced
Paine, T. (1995). Paine Collected writings: Common sense; the crisis; rights of man; the age of reason; pamphlets, articles, & letters. New York, New York: Literary Classics of the United States.
Peterson-Withorn, C. (2017, January 11). Trump refuses to divest assets, passes control to sons. Forbes. Jersey City, New Jersey, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/chasewithorn/2017/01/11/donald-trump-will-hand-over-business/#6fd40d8760d7
Psychology Today Editorial Staff. (2017, January 31). Shrinks battle over diagnosing Donald Trump. Psychology Today. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brainstorm/201701/shrinks-battle-over-diagnosing-donald-trump
Rosenberg, M., Huetteman, E., & Schmidt, M. S. (2017, March 20). Comey confirms F.B.I. inquiry on Russia; Sees no evidence of wiretapping. The New York Times. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/us/politics/intelligence-committee-russia-donald-trump.html
Stern, M. J. (2017, January 4). High crimes and misdemeanors: Donald Trump appears determined to violate the Constitution on day one of his presidency. Slate. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/01/donald_trump_appears_determined_to_violate_the_constitution_on_day_one.html
Venook, J. (2017, March 24). Trump's interests vs. America's, hotel lease edition. The Atlantic. Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/03/donald-trump-conflicts-of-interests/508382/
Willingham, E. (2017, February 19). The Trump psych debate: Is it wrong to say he's mentally ill? Forbes. Jersey City, New Jersey, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2017/02/19/psychologist-calls-on-colleagues-to-sign-petition-for-trumps-removal/#51ed09a164f3
“An inquiry into the constitutional errors in the English form of government is at this time highly necessary, for as we are never in a proper condition of doing justice to others, while we continue under the influence of some leading partiality, so neither are we capable of doing it to ourselves while we remain fettered by any obstinate prejudice.” – Thomas Paine (1995, p. 11)
March 26, 2017
The current occupant of the Office of the President, repeatedly and shamefully, used prejudice in the form of racial and religious stereotyping, misogyny, and mocking people with disabilities during his presidential campaign (Wollaston, 2017). The occupant is “an incorrigible user of bigotry” when he can use a person’s minority, or out group status, to gain an advantage over another; and this strategy of exploitation appears to be the backbone of his Muslim ban, his character assassination of Latinos, his blaming blacks for most social ills, and his mocking of the disabled to draw attention to perceived weaknesses (Saletan, 2016, para. 3). In addition to the vile comments that spew forth from the occupant’s mouth, and on his Twitter feed, he has a long history of racism.
The occupant’s history of racism can be traced all the way back to 1973, when the United States Department of Justice took his family business to court for discriminatory practices in renting apartments in Brooklyn and Queens, New York (D'Antonio, 2016). As D’Antonio reports, the pattern of racism continued into 1989 when the occupant said in an interview, “A well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market...if I was starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I really do believe they have the actual advantage today.” This pattern of fueling the flames of minority resentment was continued when the occupant took out full-page newspaper ads demanding that the death penalty be returned to punish the Central Park five, a group of black and Latino teens accused of a rape. When these teens were eventually exonerated, many years later after being wrongfully convicted, the occupant refused to apologize for smearing the teens.
In 1991, the occupant was quoted in a book by John O’Donnell as saying, “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys wearing yarmulkes… Those are the only kind of people I want counting my money. Nobody else…Besides that, I tell you something else. I think that’s [sic] guy’s lazy. And it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks” (D'Antonio, 2016). This kind of racial insensitivity was repeated during a 1993 Congressional committee hearing, when the occupant testified that “They don’t look like Indians to me and they don’t look like Indians to Indians” to describe his competition, which just happened to be a casino operated by Indian tribes (D'Antonio, 2016). Of course, any astute citizen with access to the news should be fully aware of similar statements and behaviors coming from the occupant. Whether it was his insinuations that President Obama was only allowed into top schools due to affirmative action; his claim that Mexican immigrants are “criminals, drug dealers, rapists”; his Muslim bans; his disrespect of a judge with Mexican ancestry; his refusal to condemn white nationalists; or his retweets of white nationalist and Nazi propaganda (Kristof, 2016). All of these things point to his prejudices, but perhaps no evidence is as damning to his character than the people he has chosen to surround himself with. Many of these people are ardent white nationalists, and include the past chairman of a white nationalist propaganda website; a Senator with a history of supporting white nationalist policies; an anti-Muslim retired general with ties to Russia; an intellectual leader and speech writer for the alt-right movement; a member of the Order of Vitéz, which is an anti-Semitic organization that collaborated with the Nazi regime; and a defender of the pre-World War II anti-Semitic America First movement (Bouie, 2017; Devega, 2017a). A historical listing of some of the current occupant’s white nationalist supporters and connections can be found at Media Matters for America. In the words of George Washington, “Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ‘is better to be alone than in bad Company” (Foundations Magazine, 2017).
The current occupant of the Office of the President appears to have one dominant emotion: Fear. This fear has driven the occupant’s attitudes and policies about Mexican and Muslim immigrants, his support of torture, and his isolationist economic agenda. David Brooks described this fear driven agenda best. He said, “We have a word for people who are dominated by fear. We call them cowards” (2017, para. 10). This fear has fueled much of the vile rhetoric that the current occupant has used to describe minorities, feminists, Muslims, and the LGBTQ community. When he is surrounded by a friendly audience, one not inhibited by political correctness, he gains bravery and uses his rhetoric to promote his stereotypical thinking. However, his cowardice shows, and his bravery melts, when he is in the same room as the people he likes to demonize. Peter Beinart was one of the first people to notice this form of cowardice, writing about the occupant, “It’s harder to speak bluntly and nastily about people when they’re staring you in the face. It’s also harder because when you actually listen to them, they often defy your stereotypes. Up close, their grievances become harder to dismiss” (2016, para. 9). Cowards thrive when they can dehumanize the other, but when faced with the other’s humanity – similar to a cockroach when a light is turned on – the coward must flee back into the shadows and darkness in order to feel safe.
The occupant’s cowardice is on full display for all to witness, almost daily. Perhaps his most cowardly moments come in his inability to accept responsibility for his own words and deeds (Devega, 2017b). The man has an oversized ego, tries to disguise his racism and sexism, and lies to cover-up his own deficiencies (Beckel, 2016). The current occupant of the Office of the President never runs out of fingers to point at others (Buchanan & Yourish, 2017). Frankly, the buck will never stop with him. The inability to accept an adult level of responsibility and accountability is the playground of braggarts and bullies; offering loud talk, in lieu of real courage, is cowardice (Rubin, 2016).
Beckel, B. (2016, September 22). Hillary should debate Trump's manhood and cowardice. The Hill. Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/presidential-campaign/297162-hillary-should-debate-trumps-manhood-and-cowardice
Beinart, P. (2016, September 5). The cowardice of Donald Trump. The Atlantic. Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/09/the-cowardice-of-donald-trump/498704/
Bouie, J. (2017, February 6). Government by white nationalism is upon us. Slate. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/cover_story/2017/02/government_by_white_nationalism_is_upon_us.html
Brooks, D. (2017, January 27). The politics of cowardice. The New York Times. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/opinion/the-politics-of-cowardice.html
Buchanan, L., & Yourish, K. (2017, March 24). The health care bill has failed. Let the finger pointing begin. The New York Times. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/03/24/us/politics/the-health-care-blame-game.html
D'Antonio, M. (2016, June 7). Is Donald Trump racist? Here's what the record shows. Fortune. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2016/06/07/donald-trump-racism-quotes/
Devega, C. (2017a, February 14). Donald Trump's white nationalist "genius bar": Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Michael "Decius" Anton and beyond. Salon. San Francisco, California, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2017/02/14/donald-trumps-white-nationalist-genius-bar-steve-bannon-stephen-miller-michael-decius-anton-and-beyond/
Devega, C. (2017b, February 28). Profile in cowardice: Donald Trump will take no responsibility for the wave of hate crimes he has inspired. Salon. San Francisco, California, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2017/02/28/profile-in-cowardice-donald-trump-will-take-no-responsibility-for-the-wave-of-hate-crimes-he-has-inspired/
Foundations Magazine. (2017). George Washington's rules of civility & decent behavior in company and conversation. Retrieved from Foundations: Ideas to build your life on: http://www.foundationsmag.com/civility.html
Kristof, N. (2016, July 23). Is Donald Trump a racist? The New York Times. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/24/opinion/sunday/is-donald-trump-a-racist.html
Rubin, J. (2016, February 16). Behind all the antics, Donald Trump is a coward. The Washington Post. Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2016/02/16/behind-all-the-antics-donald-trump-is-a-coward/
Saletan, W. (2016, June 3). Mexicans, Muslims, Cubans, Blacks: Donald Trump is a serial exploiter of prejudice. Slate. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/06/donald_trump_is_a_serial_exploiter_of_prejudice.html
Wollaston, S. (2017, January 29). Trump is trading on prejudice - and if May is a true friend she'll tell him. The Guardian. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/29/donald-trump-prejudice-theresa-may-muslim-travel-ban-womens-rights-westminster
“In the early ages of the world, according to the scripture chronology, there were no kings; the consequence of which was there were no wars; it is the pride of kings which throw mankind into confusion.” – Thomas Paine (1995, p. 12)
April 2, 2017
The current occupant of the Office of the President is driven by the spirit of a sycophant. His ego appears to allow no other kind of spirit to exist. The occupant’s big ego and thin skin have been noticed and written about by many people (Collinson, 2017). His thin skin appears to be broken by even the most insignificant disagreement, which generally results in the occupant lashing out with his Twitter account to attack the person that voiced his or her disagreement (Quigley, 2017). He likes to surround himself with people that agree with him, and it appears to be for this reason that he surrounds himself with sycophants. Unfortunately, this desire to keep sycophants close to him provides a very small circle of trusted advisors, most of whom are family or friends, and this creates an open culture of government corruption (Editorial Board, 2017).
The occupant’s desire to surround himself with sycophants is so ridiculous that it has become the butt of comedians’ jokes. Unlike Thomas Paine in 1776, today we have access to multimedia. The benefit of using multimedia is it allows us to experience the ridiculousness of the sycophants’ defense of the occupant’s most “ludicrous and dangerous pronouncements” in their own words (Maher, 2017). Unfortunately, as Maher suggests, these sycophants enable the occupant by creating a world of illusion around him. It also creates a similar ethical quandary to the Nazi soldiers who used the defense, “I was only following orders” to justify their World War II atrocities. However, as Maher correctly points out, the excuse of “I was just doing my job” is no more of a defense for immoral and unethical acts then when it was first used after World War II.
Lastly, on the topic of the spirit of a sycophant, the current occupant of the Office of the President is a sycophant himself. He showers praise on those who agree with him, and vehemently and maliciously attacks those who don’t agree with him (Stephens, 2017). This vice appears to identify the occupant’s lack of a moral center (Hohmann, 2017). He appears willing to say or do anything for people that agree with him. The danger of this vice becomes readily apparent when you consider how foreign countries could use it to their own advantage; such as Russia, and the occupant’s willingness to sell out our American interests in favor of Russia’s interests, in part, because Vladimir Putin compliments him and his disastrous policies (Rubin, 2017).
Pride & Resentment
The current occupant of the Office of the President is well known for his pride. Whether it is the compulsive promotion of his own name, his desire to be surrounded by gold, or his inability to admit when he is wrong and apologize to those that he has hurt; these things are all indications of a person with too much pride (Kluger, 2015). Having too much pride can be a vice. In fact, a person with too much pride can be said to be acting with hubris and arrogance, and these are two traits that can quickly get a person into trouble (Hensch, 2015). And, when that person with too much pride occupies the Office of the President, it can lead to disaster for The People. The danger to The People is clearly seen when China, a world superpower, feels obliged to tell the occupant that “pride goes before a fall” in its party-controlled newspaper (Phillips, 2016). This is a clear warning from China that it is willing to meet the occupant’s pride with military might, and that the occupant should not allow his arrogance to overplay his hand in world affairs. Pride is especially dangerous when found in a world leader because it breeds conflict, and conflict can quickly escalate into a war (Gerson, 2016).
As for resentment, perhaps no place has the occupant’s resentment been communicated more clearly than in his own inauguration address to The People. In his address, he had the audacity to portray the United States as a beaten and forsaken country filled with nothing but carnage (Davidson, 2017). These are words that insult the very foundation of American values, the greatness of our forebears in birthing and fostering a proud republic, and a direct insult to The People, especially The People who did not support the occupant in his bid for the presidency. The occupant’s words, born from his resentments, were meant to further divide this great nation, and to pit brother against brother, and sister against sister. A viler inauguration address could not be found in the history of this great nation.
However, the poison the occupant spewed upon The People at his inauguration was by design. It is the same poison he used to foment rage among his supporters, and birth a new populism of resentment within America. A repugnant form of populism based on an unfair economic system that benefits only the wealthy; a hatred of minorities, intellectuals, liberals, and elites; a disgust with the media; and a distrust of foreigners (The Economist, 2016a). His message was meant to resonate with many of his supporters, and to continue to stoke their deep seated racial resentments (The Economist, 2016b). The price to representative democracies when a leader uses fear and resentment to stoke populism cannot be understated. Populism is a strategy, not an ideology, and it has been historically used by leaders around the world to constrain the will of The People, not to liberate it (de la Torre, 2016). The occupant’s use of fear and resentment, directed towards a large swath of The People he has sworn to protect and defend, is a harbinger of American authoritarianism (Fisher & Taub, 2017). The People must be prepared to resist it, and to resist the so-called leaders that would foment hate, fear, and resentment among their own citizens.
Collinson, S. (2017, January 25). President Donald Trump's thin skin. CNN Politics. Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/24/politics/trump-legitimacy-voter-fraud-inauguration-crowd/index.html
Davidson, A. (2017, January 30). Bitterness and resentment at Trump's inauguration. The New Yorker. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/bitterness-and-resentment-at-trumps-inauguration
de la Torre, C. (2016, December 15). Will democracy survive Trump's populism? Latin America may tell us. The New York Times. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/15/opinion/will-democracy-survive-trumps-populism-latin-america-may-tell-us.html
Editorial Board. (2017, April 1). Pick your favorite ethics offender. The New York Times. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/01/opinion/sunday/pick-your-favorite-ethics-offender.html
Fisher, M., & Taub, A. (2017, April 1). How does populism turn authoritarian? Venezuela is a case in point. The New York Times. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/01/world/americas/venezuela-populism-authoritarianism.html
Gerson, M. (2016, January 25). Donald Trump's dangerous politics of pride. The Washington Post. Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/donald-trumps-troubling-politics-of-pride/2016/01/25/def2078a-c39c-11e5-a4aa-f25866ba0dc6_story.html
Hensch, M. (2015, September 23). Don Henley: Trump has 'too much pride'. The Hill. Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/254710-don-henley-trump-has-too-much-pride
Hohmann, J. (2017, January 26). The daily 202: Is President Trump surrendering America's moral high ground? The Washington Post. Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/01/26/daily-202-is-president-trump-surrendering-america-s-moral-high-ground/588967e9e9b69b432bc7e08e/
Kluger, J. (2015, August 11). The truth about Donald Trump's narcissism. Time. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from http://time.com/3992363/trump-narcissism/
Maher, B. (Performer). (2017, March 31). New Rule: Trump's Enablers. Real Time with Bill Maher, Hollywood, California, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVavyvMoe8o&t=1s
Phillips, T. (2016, December 12). Chinese state tabloid warns Donald Trump: 'Pride goes before a fall'. The Guardian. London, United Kingdom. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/13/china-state-media-warn-donald-trump-pride-goes-before-a-fall
Quigley, A. (2017, February 4). The 23 people, places and things Donald Trump has attacked on Twitter as president. Politico. Arlington, Virginia, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-twitter-attacks-president-234620
Rubin, J. (2017, January 4). Republicans ignore Trump's Russia sycophancy at their peril [Updated]. The Washington Post. Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2017/01/04/republicans-ignore-trumps-russia-sycophancy-at-their-peril/
Stephens, B. (2017, February 26). Don't dismiss President Trump's attacks on the media as mere stupidity. Time. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from http://time.com/4675860/donald-trump-fake-news-attacks/
The Economist. (2016a, November 12). The Trump era. The Economist. Chicago, Illinois, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21709951-his-victory-threatens-old-certainties-about-america-and-its-role-world-what-will-take
The Economist. (2016b, September 13). How deplorable are Trump supporters? The Economist. Chicago, Illinois, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2016/09/daily-chart-8
“And as he hath shewn himself such an inveterate enemy to liberty, and discovered such a thirst for arbitrary power; is he, or is he not, a proper man to say to these colonies, ‘You shall make no laws but what I please.’” – Thomas Paine (1995, p. 29)
April 8, 2017
The current occupant of the Office of the President has repeatedly voiced his preference and support for arbitrary power. After all, he believes, and in his own words, “I alone can fix it” (Today, 2016).
Such thinking is not the thinking of politicians that support representative democracy. Instead, this is the kind of thinking one expects from authoritarians and dictators. Danielle Allen (2016) compiled a short list of the occupant’s stated preferences for arbitrary and unchecked power during his campaign. This list included:
- Support for torture, which is recognized as a war crime by international and US laws;
- Killing of innocents, children, and families of suspected terrorists;
- Violating the freedom of association for Muslim Americans;
- Violating the freedom of religion for Muslim Americans by supporting a government registry of Islamists;
- Violating the freedom of the press by opening up libel laws so that he can restrict free speech that is not supportive of his agenda;
- He praises leaders known to massacre their own citizens, such as China in Tiananmen Square;
- He encourages unlawful violence against and the roughing up of protesters, and bemoans that these people cannot be carried out on stretchers like they could in the good old days;
- He directly quotes the father of fascism, Mussolini;
- And, he has a habit of deal-making and self-praise that appears to benefit his interests over The People’s interests.
The occupant’s thirst for arbitrary power appears to only be matched by his desire to silence his critics. As Dara Lind (2016) points out, the occupant’s pettiness, vindictiveness, and history show that he is willing to use his riches and power against his critics. One of his favorite weapons appears to be using the court system to mire less affluent people in costly legal battles. He appears to also maintain an enemies list, or blacklist, of people he feels has wronged him. Most recently, Lind reports that the occupant has:
- Threatened to sue an artist that painted a nude portrait of him;
- Threatened to use the power of the government to investigate the business holdings of Jeff Bezos, who is the owner of the Washington Post, which has been critical of the occupant;
- And, he has made repeated statements to ruin the careers of outspoken politicians.
Since the election, the occupant now has the full power of the United States to strike back against his enemies ten times harder than they struck him, which is his stated method of reciprocating against any perceived attack against his reputation. The occupant’s preference for arbitrary power has been on full display for the world to see since the election.
The occupant has used his position to upend government norms, and has interjected personal relationships into the seat of power in an unrestrained manner. His attitude appears to be that his, and his family’s, conflicts of interest are above the law (Carey, 2017). To mask these conflicts, the occupant appears to use erratic, chaotic, and heartless policies to disrupt the news cycle and refocus the conversation away from his abuses of power (Frank, 2017). However, his tactics are proving to be less effective with international news sources. His use of arbitrary power has been compared to establishing a sectarian state, and as setting a wicked, vicious, racist, and cruel precedent similar to Nazi, fascist, illiberal, and other immoral regimes of history (Fisk, 2017). Time will tell how far his preference for arbitrary power will lead the United States astray if Congress continues to allow him to operate with unchecked conflicts of interest.
Our founders knew that one way to measure a person’s character was to see how he or she treated others. A person with a penchant for cheating others was viewed as not having the temperament for leadership. Unfortunately, the current occupant of the Office of the President appears to have a long history of cheating others. The list of scandals includes (Graham, 2017):
- Numerous sexual-assault allegations;
- Beauty pageant scandals;
- Racial housing discrimination;
- Mafia ties;
- A fake University;
- Intimidation of tenants;
- Multiple bankruptcies;
- Exploiting undocumented workers;
- Alleged marital rape;
- Breaking casino rules;
- Antitrust violations;
- Suspect condo hotel business dealings;
- Defending alleged campaign staffer misconduct;
- Suing journalists for libel for reporting factual stories;
- Refusing to pay contractors and his own workers;
- A disreputable institute;
- Purchasing his own books with campaign donor money;
- Undocumented models;
- Running a foundation that may have been used for self-dealing;
- And, business involvement in Cuba despite an active US embargo.
The details about each of these scandals is too much to review in this narrative, but the reader is encouraged to follow the reference below to the source documents. The evidence of cheating others is overwhelming, and can only lead an astute observer of facts to conclude that the current occupant has met the standard for possessing this vice of leadership.
Allen, D. (2016, March 7). Donald Trump’s thirst for arbitrary power. The Washington Post. Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/donald-trumps-thirst-for-arbitrary-power/2016/03/07/505129bc-e3a3-11e5-a6f3-21ccdbc5f74e_story.html
Carey, H. F. (2017, January 29). Sultan Donald Trump? How the President places himself above the law. Newsweek. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/sultan-donald-trump-president-above-law-548680
Donald Trump’s Dark, Fiery RNC Speech: ‘I Alone Can Fix’ America | TODAY (2016). [Video]. United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pnmMxbEjdc
Fisk, R. (2017, January 28). Donald Trump's arbitrary, cruel ban on refugees from Muslim countries sets a chilling precedent. Independent. London, United Kingdom. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/donald-trump-refugee-ban-muslim-countries-christians-welcomerobert-fisk-a7550941.html
Frank, A. T. (2017, January 31). Donald Trump's secret theory of power. Vanity Fair. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/01/donald-trump-secret-theory-of-power
Graham, D. A. (2017, January 23). The many scandals of Donald Trump: A cheat sheet. The Atlantic. Washington , District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/donald-trump-scandals/474726/
Lind, D. (2016, October 31). How President Donald Trump could ruin his enemies’ lives. Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.vox.com/2016/8/26/12639588/donald-trump-executive-power
Cruel, Childish, and Ridiculous
“Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.” – Thomas Paine (1995, p. 23)
April 9, 2017
Our founders freed themselves from a tyrant in order to establish a republic free from authoritarian cruelty. A cruel leader is not a leader at all, but a monster. It appears that The People may have elected just such a monster. Friedersdorf (2016) completed an investigative report on the current occupant of the Office of the President, and was left with the following impression, “He willfully causes pain and distress to others. And he repeats this public behavior so frequently that it’s fair to call it a character trait. Any single example would be off-putting but forgivable. Being shown many examples across many years should make any decent person recoil in disgust” (para. 1). The examples of the occupant’s cruelty that were cited include:
- He invited the former mistress of a political candidate’s husband to be present at a debate in order to humiliate the candidate;
- He takes pleasure in tearing down other people emotionally in order to puff up his own ego;
- He publicly mocked the appearance of a political opponent’s wife;
- He made fun of a political ally’s weight in front of a crowd;
- He publicly rates the appearance of women on a scale from 1 to 10 in order to shame them;
- He humiliated his first wife by purposely making his cheating on her a news story, and made it a point to mock her sexual expertise and her breast implants;
- He withdrew his promised medical benefits from his nephew’s infant child, who suffered from cerebral palsy, because he was angry with the nephew;
- He mocked a war hero for being captured and tortured by the enemy;
- And, he called a female performer a slob with a fat ugly face on national television.
These are just a few of the examples of the occupant’s cruelty before the election. The occupant’s history of cruelty was so bad it left Friedersdorf (2016) with the following conclusion, “Giving a cruel man power and expecting that he won’t use it to inflict cruelty is madness” (para. 24). As it turns out, Friedersdorf was correct. The occupant has been in office now less than three months and his cruel streak has been on display for all the world to see. Perhaps nothing has been crueler than his overtly bigoted Muslim bans, which have rightly been suspended by federal courts for violating the US constitution (Burns, 2017; Liptak, 2017). After all, what could be crueler than instituting a bigoted travel ban that actively hurts innocent people, including infants, for no other reason than to play to his anti-Muslim constituents (Williams, 2017).
An entire novel could be written about all of the occupant’s childish and immature behavior. He has acted so much like a child that it appears to be his predominant character trait, at least if one is to believe his constant Twitter feeds. His immature behavior has been so bad that it caused one publication to publicly ask our 70-year-old toddler in chief to “Grow the F*ck Up” (Beck, 2017). Beck illustrates some of the occupant’s most serious childish behaviors in her article. Such as:
- Talking about his penis on stage during a presidential debate;
- Constant name calling;
- Caring only about winning and being admired;
- A black and white worldview where those that praise him are good and those that criticize him are bad;
- Being obsessed with the popular vote count, which he lost;
- Lying and using government resources in order to cover up his lies;
- An unhealthy fixation over his small inauguration crowd size, especially when compared to President Obama’s much larger inauguration crowd size;
- Lashing out about television show ratings;
- Using a national prayer breakfast to insult a television show host;
- Using Black History Month as a platform to complain about how unfair the media is to him;
- His constant Twitter attacks against people that he perceives as being mean to him;
- And, his inability to rise above his own ego and insecurities to become a leader of The People.
The occupant’s cruelty, constant lying, and childishness mark him as a remarkably ridiculous person. So much so, that his short tenure has been called “one of the most ridiculous presidencies I’ve ever seen” (Hensch, 2017, para. 2). His ridiculousness is amplified by his complete and total lack of credibility due to his constant lies, half-truths, spreading of misinformation, bizarre statements, and support for alternative facts (Marie Claire, 2017). As Zach Epstein (2017) points out, “We all make false claims from time to time. We all exaggerate the truth. Sometimes, we blatantly lie. Of course, we’re not the president of the United States, and we don’t lie constantly, dozens of times each day, in full view of the public eye” (para. 1). This is an astute observation, and a good place to begin a discussion about how the vice of being untrustworthy makes a person unfit to lead The People.
Unwise, Uncaring, and Untrustworthy
The current occupant of the Office of the President lies so often that the Washington Post started tracking his lies. At the time of this writing, the occupant has only been in office for 80 days, and the Washington Post’s 100 days of Trump claims fact checker was updated to day 77 of his tenure. In just those 77 days, the occupant has made 367 false or misleading claims (Washington Post, 2017). That is an astounding average of almost 5 false or misleading claims made to the American people daily. The current occupant of the Office of the President appears to have no shame about telling lies to The People on an almost daily basis.
It is not wisdom, but folly for a leader to lie so freely. Some hallmarks of good leaders are that they are trustworthy, honest, and caring towards their subordinates. A person who so freely behaves with all the vices discussed in this online pamphlet is often called a narcissistic sociopath, and dealing with narcissists has been equated to dealing with a six-year-old child (Ashmun, 1999). No one in his or her right mind would believe that it is a good idea to place a six-year-old in charge of the United States, and yet, here the country sits. For all intents and purposes, the leader of the free world behaves with the mannerisms and apparent mentality of a six-year-old child.
The People must continue to resist the occupant if they hope to maintain their republic. The reason is simple, narcissists cannot be trusted to establish mutually beneficial relationships with others. They are generally self-serving and egotistical by design, and they do not care if others get hurt through their actions. Narcissists create victims, not relationships, and they are adept at making themselves look attractive to their supporters, and it is only later that these supporters discover that the narcissist is a fraud (Seltzer, 2014).
The People are governed by a leader who appears incapable of honestly caring about their interests over his own interests. The situation our grand republic finds itself in will be a harbinger of worse things to come if the occupant and his agenda are not resisted. He is eroding the very foundations of our republican form of representative democracy.
Ashmun, J. M. (1999). Now we are six. In memoriam Joanna Ashmun 1948-2009. Retrieved from http://www.halcyon.com/jmashmun/npd/six.html
Beck, L. (2017, February 8). Grow the f*ck up, Mr. President: A 70-year-old toddler is leading this country, and this is a serious problem. Cosmopolitan. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a8669498/donald-trump-child-grow-up/
Burns, A. (2017, March 15). 2 Federal judges rule against Trump's latest travel ban. The New York Times. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/15/us/politics/trump-travel-ban.html
Epstein, Z. (2017, February 17). Trump's claims are so ridiculous, not even Fox News can take it anymore. BGR. The Woodlands, Texas, United States of America. Retrieved from http://bgr.com/2017/02/17/donald-trump-news-today-fox-news-attack/
Friedersdorf, C. (2016, September 26). Donald Trump's cruel streak. The Atlantic. Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/09/donald-trumps-cruel-streak/501554/
Hensch, M. (2017, April 3). Larry King: Trump among 'most ridiculous' presidents. The Hill. Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/327121-larry-king-trump-among-most-ridiculous-presidents
Liptak, A. (2017, February 9). Court refuses to reinstate travel ban, dealing Trump another legal loss. The New York Times. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/09/us/politics/appeals-court-trump-travel-ban.html
Marie Claire. (2017, March 16). Yes, the President of the United States really has said this. Marie Claire. London, United Kingdom. Retrieved from http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/entertainment/people/donald-trump-quotes-57213
Seltzer, L. F. (2014, April 23). The vampire's bite: Victims of narcissists speak out. Psychology Today. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201404/the-vampire-s-bite-victims-narcissists-speak-out
Washington Post. (2017, April 9). 100 days of Trump claims. The Washington Post. Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/trump-claims/
Williams, K. (2017, February 3). Iranian infant hoping for OSHU surgery banned from entering U.S. The Oregonian. Portland, Oregon, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2017/02/iranian_infant_scheduled_for_s.html
Leadership Reflections After 100 Days
“Can we but leave posterity with a settled form of government, an independent constitution of it’s [sic] own, the purchase at any price will be cheap. But to expend millions for the sake of getting a few vile acts repealed, and routing the present ministry only, is unworthy the charge, and is using posterity with the utmost cruelty; because it is leaving them the great work to do, and a debt upon their backs, from which, they derive no advantage. Such a thought is unworthy a man of honor, and is the true characteristic of a narrow heart and a pedling [sic] politician.” – Thomas Paine (1995, p. 37)
April 30, 2017
The current occupant of the Office of the President has now been in power for his first 100 days. In that time, The People of good conscience have determined that the occupant does not possess the temperament to be president, and, in fact, possesses every vice of a non-leader. To wit, the current occupant appears to have:
- Many involved interests and cannot be trusted;
- An inability to think clearly, use reason or science, and is weak-minded;
- Many prejudices and is not a credible person;
- A heart filled with cowardice;
- A sycophant’s spirit;
- Many motivations derived from pride and resentments;
- A thirst for arbitrary power;
- Used craft and subtlety to cheat many other people;
- A cruel, childish, and ridiculous manner of dealing with other people; and,
- An unwise, uncaring, and untrustworthy method of making decisions.
The occupant appears to be a purely transactional manager, and possesses no virtue that would qualify him as a transformational leader. By all accounts, America’s new nightmare of leadership has been an early disaster. David Remnick sums up the dispiriting nature of the occupant’s leadership deficits on our great republic.
- The urge to normalize [the occupant’s] adolescent outbursts, his flagrant incompetence and dishonesty—to wish it all away, if only for a news cycle or two—is connected to the fear of what fresh hell might come next. Every day brings another outrage or embarrassment: the dressing down of the Australian Prime Minister or a shoutout for the “amazing job” that Frederick Douglass is doing. One day NATO is “obsolete”; the next it is “no longer obsolete.” The Chinese are “grand champions” of currency manipulation; then they are not. When Julian Assange is benefitting [the occupant’s] campaign, it’s “I love WikiLeaks!”; now, with the Presidency won, the Justice Department is preparing criminal charges against him. (2017, para. 6)
The occupant has managed to have the worst 100 days of any president since William Henry Harrison (who died a month into his presidency); he has mastered incompetence, being a bully, and the falsehoods of a charlatan; he continues to betray his supporters, and they continue to support his vile behaviors regardless of the personal consequences his policies will bring them; he has systematically gutted the concept of ethical governance; he continues to demonize minorities; he has insulted America’s most important allies; he is instigating a potential nuclear conflict with North Korea; and the evidence of collusion between the occupant’s campaign team and Russia continues to mount (Kristof, 2017). By no sane account can this level of incompetence be deemed a success for Americans. It appears, that the United States is being spared the worst of the occupant’s demogagury due to his sheer incompetence, inexperience, and the forsight of our founders in creating an independent judiciary. If any one of these three things were not present then it is likely the amount of cruelty imposed upon a large segment of the American population would be greater than the sum of all the occupant’s small acts of abasement.
It is the accumulation of small abasements that prompted my selection of this letter’s opening quotation from Thomas Paine. The occupant’s proposals, to include his tax plan (if a few incompetently written bullets can be called a plan), amount to a boon for the wealthiest Americans, while saddling the majority of Americans, the poor and middle-class, with unprecedented debt (Irwin, 2017). The economic proposal will remove much of the social safety net that poor and middle-class Americans rely on to give them a chance at fulfilling the American dream, while lavishing even more wealth upon those who need it less. To propose a plan that would put so much debt on our posterity, and that will leave them with no advantage, is the utmost in cruelty and dishonor. It shows the very depth of the occupant’s heartlessness for The People he is sworn to protect and defend. His economic plan may be the death blow that finally removes The People from our democratic republic, and creates a republic for oligarchs, plutocrats, and a vigorous kleptocracy.
It is at this point that it would be good to reflect upon history, and compare the occupant with the world’s most infamous demagogue, Hitler. Much can be learned from historical comparisons, and this is what makes them valuable. Several similarities can be found between these two men as they sought political power.
- Both asked for unquestioning loyalty from their supporters;
- Both promised to bring law and order, a sense of purpose, and a renewed nationalistic belief to their supporters;
- Both saw themselves as saviors of their people and the middle-class;
- Both surrounded themselves with cameramen to establish an image for adoring crowds;
- Both spread fear to stoke populist resentments, and turned campaign events into carnival like affairs;
- Both expected their followers to follow them blindly without consideration for detailed policies, and without concerns for The People their policies would victimize;
- Both were extreme right-wing agitators whose appearances have been carefully stage managed;
- Both courted the crowd for self-fulfillment and satisfaction, and both denounced minorities and fueled racial fears and anti-Semitism;
- Both demonstrated an all or nothing mentality when it comes to choices and solutions;
- Both imitated mannerisms of military leaders to impress people with lower rank and station;
- Both belonged to minor political groups that overtook conservative political movements for their own personal gain;
- Both exploited economic conditions to gain power, and used economic models that would exacerbate a poor economy in order to agitate their supporters’ resentments;
- Both expressed a desire to destroy the current state of government;
- Both were duplicitous, and told The People one thing, while actually doing another thing behind the scenes;
- Both looked to the past as a vision of the way things should be today;
- Both hated to work, spent their time traveling after their elections to get renewed energy from their supporters at continued campaign style events, and left the work of daily governing to their sycophants;
- Both advanced the values of power, order, and solemnity over their countries’ time honored values;
- Both were proud of their intolerance of other ideas and political ideologies, and they smeared any person or group that voiced opposition to their plans for dismantling the existing government; and,
- Both men, neither one fit to lead a free people, came into power due to their demagoguery.(Fest & Herrendoerfer, 1977)
At this time, this is where most of the historical comparisons end. The occupant shares similarities with Hitler, but he is no Hitler. For instance, Hitler practiced for over a decade to become an astute politician. He became a master of his craft. Hitler used his political mastery in speeches to heal sharp political wounds of his opposition, and to successfully infiltrate the German government and undermine it from within. He convinced his enemies that he was their ally, before he had his sycophants stick daggers in his enemies’ backs. The current occupant of the Office of the President has appeared to be a highly ineffective and incompetent politician to date. However, the occupant is likely to learn over time. It should not be forgotten that Hitler the demagogue did not become Hitler of history until after he had been in power for nearly a decade.
There is one final similarity between these two demagogues that must be considered. Both perceived progressive thought as a degenerate philosophy that preached equality, liberty, and justice (Fest & Herrendoerfer, 1977). These ideals stand in stark opposition to the demagogues’ preferred values of power, order, and solemnity. A demagogue can keep his supporters in the dark, and following blindly, so long as they do not question his actions, or look deeper into his motivations and misdeeds in office, and this is why the values of power, order, and solemnity are preached above all else. The United States, however, was founded as a progressive republic and its birth came from the liberal and enlightened values enshrined within equality, liberty, and justice. Thomas Jefferson highlighted the value of American progressivism when he wrote:
- I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors. It is this preposterous idea which has lately deluged Europe in blood. Their monarchs, instead of wisely yielding to the gradual change of circumstances, of favoring progressive accommodation to progressive improvement, have clung to old abuses, entrenched themselves behind steady habits, and obliged their subjects to seek through blood and violence rash and ruinous innovations, which, had they been referred to the peaceful deliberations and collected wisdom of the nation, would have been put into acceptable and salutary forms. Let us follow no such examples, nor weakly believe that one generation is not as capable as another of taking care of itself, and of ordering its own affairs. (Jefferson, 1816)
If The People maintain these time-honored, and cherished progressive values, then we may prevent the occupant from turning from just another demagogue, into another politician that victimized the world’s inhabitants to such a degree that his name will live on in infamy for all time.
It is now our time to ensure the historical comparisons do not continue to mount. It is now our time to continue to resist. It is now our time to ensure our republic remains a government for and by The People, as our forefathers envisioned, and for which they spilled blood to birth and maintain.
Fest, J., & Herrendoerfer, C. (Directors). (1977). Hitler, a Career [Motion Picture].
Irwin, N. (2017, April 26). Winners and losers in the Trump tax plan. The New York Times. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/26/upshot/winners-and-losers-in-the-trump-tax-plan.html
Jefferson, T. (1816). Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1816. Washington: Library of Congress. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/mtj1.049_0255_0262/
Kristof, N. (2017, April 29). Lessons from 100 days of President Trump. The New York Times. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/29/opinion/sunday/lessons-from-100-days-of-president-trump.html
Remnick, D. (2017, May 1). A hundred days of Trump. The New Yorker. New York, New York, United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/05/01/a-hundred-days-of-trump
“Hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It's not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.” – Barack Obama, 44th POTUS
January 1, 2018
The current occupant of the Office of the President has now been in power for a full year. In that time, The People have watched in horror as the occupant assaults all our most cherished democratic values, norms, and institutions. The occupant continues to verbally assault and bully his constituents via Twitter; and he assaults truth, facts, and decency on a daily basis by telling demonstrably false and misleading statements, and he flagrantly lies with the ease of a man devoid of any moral compass. The amount of outrages and indecencies that The People have had to endure over the last year are so many that time will not allow for a good accounting of them all.
The People have sat and watched in horror, while a complicit, Republican controlled, congress sits and does nothing to stop the occupant’s assault on a free press, the rule of law, and on every agency of the Federal government. The People have watched in horror as the occupant politicizes the rule of law, pardoned a corrupt law officer that had openly enacted unconstitutional policies, and attacks the honorable public servants within the FBI and CIA. While the occupant acts without any integrity himself, The People have watched in horror as he impugns the honor and integrity of the FBI officers who are bringing the criminals surrounding the occupant to justice. It is now clear that the occupant’s campaign team had numerous contacts with agents of the Russian government in the hopes of gaining aid to defeat his political opponent during the election, and it is clear that the occupant’s attack on the FBI is done in an attempt to discredit their investigation into his alleged collusion with Russia.
If the occupant is not a Russian agent it would be hard to tell the difference. The People have watched as the occupant fills Federal positions with unqualified people, in many instances with people that oppose the very missions of the agency they now lead, and with incompetent selections that have ties with white supremacists. These selections have had untold consequences for the heath of these vital institutions of democracy, and The People they are supposed to serve. The People watched in horror as the occupant surrounded himself with advisers with ties to white nationalism, white supremacy, neo-Nazism, and outright Nazis. The occupant’s sympathies toward these people even extended to supporting neo-Nazis and Nazis marching through our cities, and in one instance included a neo-Nazi running down and murdering a pedestrian with his car. The occupant even supported a white nationalist running for Senate who was also an alleged child sex predator.
The People have watched in horror as the occupant tried to take away their healthcare, and enacted one of the most regressive tax policies in history. This is just one more instance of the occupant’s self-dealing while in office. No one really knows for sure how much money the occupant will make under the new tax structure since he has still not released his tax returns, but it is clear that he, his family, and his billionaire buddies received the lion’s share of the tax cuts and advantages built into the new law. All of this built into a bill that was also weaponized to harm The People that his white nationalist supporters detest: liberals, academics, veterans, teachers, minorities, and the poor.
The good news is the last year also witnessed a resurgence of The People joining in the resistance. The People have awoken and they truly understand the dangers that the occupant poses to the American way of life. Good women and men have become more politically active, and are showing their displeasure at the polls. Removing complicit Republican politicians from power and replacing them with progressives that will act to check the occupant’s power. The People have hope that 2018 will be a wave election built on the disgust of the occupant’s assault on our most cherished norms, and that enough progressives will reclaim power in congress to effectively hold the occupant to account for his misdeeds.
Please, if you are concerned about the health and future of our democratic republic, then take action now. A good place to start is at https://swingleft.org/ .
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to Leonard K. Dunn. All Rights Reserved.