The Eunuch Presidency

Call him dickless Don.

On the campaign trail and at his rallies, Donald Trump fired up crowds with displays of tough talk and bravado.   When a demonstrator disrupted a rally, he exhorted his supporters to “get him out of here”, or talked about how in the “old days” they’d simply rough protestors up.   Drooling masses of people eagerly overlooked the complete absence of any articulated policy on any issue just to hear him use his tag line, “You’re fired!”.   He promised to change the very way the government functioned from “Day One” and promised to shred NAFTA and other trade treaties, the Iran nuclear deal and get rid of Obamacare in a heartbeat.   He’d force other countries to renegotiate treaties and would show no mercy in getting deals that would favor the U.S..  And he’d show those so-called NATO allies that the U.S. wasn’t going to have their backs anymore unless they anted up.   He’d be a man of action, not talk – tough, strong and unbeatable.

Eh, not so much. As many critics realized, Trump never had any real plans in place for anything, and had no coherent set of policies to pursue or enact.   Not only didn’t he have an alternative to Obamacare ready, he never offered one, leaving it to the House and Senate to come up with something despite the eight years they had never been able to deliver on that often-made promise.  When House Republicans presented to him their own proposal for a healthcare bill, he was a pushover, because at the end of the day, Trump didn’t really care what was in the health care bill, he just wanted to sign one and claim a win.   Although he promised people – people who sadly actually believed him – that he’d produce a health care bill that was better and cheaper than Obamacare, the reality was that Trump didn’t grasp either what was in the Affordable Care Act as enacted, and didn’t understand the importance or the effect of the horrendous alternatives that emerged from the House, essentially castrating his ability to lead on the subject.

Or, as it’s becoming obvious, on pretty much any subject. Comically illiterate in discussing details of policy, he retreats to empty bragging about what a great brain he has, yet that brain seems incapable of operating anything more complex than a Twitter feed or a remote control tuned to Fox News.  His national security advisers have been forced to literally whittle down his daily intelligence briefings to a one page set of bullet points, and use as many pictures and charts as they can.   Trump appears to be completely illiterate on all matters of policy, and has repeatedly found out that it is impossible to either negotiate or lead from a position of abject ignorance.  Yet he has no impetus to change that sorry state.

A man bereft of his own ideas cannot reasonably hope to realistically set an agenda or be a force to enact policy. Clueless to the workings of the legislative branch, he let party stalwarts (whom he derided on the campaign trail) sweat the details, and seemed befuddled to find that even with a GOP majority in both houses of Congress, he couldn’t control his own fractured party.

When it came to real substantive issues, such as the Paris Climate Accord, whether to stick with the Iran nuclear deal, how to address the issue of “Dreamers” and how to go about the dismantling of Obamacare from within, he basically let Congress deal with the issues, or, just as frequently, took incoherent actions, the consequences of which he clearly doesn’t understand, merely because they would appease his aptly-named “base.”

Just as pathetically, he has more flip-flops in his record than you’ll find in a souvenir shop on the Atlantic City boardwalk.   He’s vacillated on whether he supported a compromise reached in mid-October between Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray to stabilize the Obamacare markets and keep the program from being cut off from millions of low-income people by authorizing the payments (which Trump had just ended by executive order) to health insurers for two years in exchange for granting states greater flexibility in implementing the ACA.  First, Trump supported the compromise. Then, eleven minutes later, he opposed it, after incurring the wrath of the far right. His position is still up in the air, and anyone’s guess.

He’s been equally wishy-washy on the Paris climate accord. First, in early June, he announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the voluntary goals set by the agreement, implying that the goals were both unfair and mandatory. Whether that was just a lie or something he really thought is, once again, anyone’s guess.  This left the U.S. one of only three countries in the entire world that stayed out of the agreement, the other two being Syria and Nicaragua;  since then, Nicaragua has even signed on, leaving the U.S. and Syria alone in sitting out the agreement – and both with ostensible madmen in charge. The move reinforced the “America First” theme of Trump’s third-grade level campaign, and more relevantly, aligned him with the fossil fuel industry that had backed him and played a large role in staffing significant segments of his administration. States have since rebelled and signaled their intention to abide by the accord, while the few voices of reason surrounding the president have urged him to refrain from making the nation a global pariah.  He demanded renegotiation of the accord, and the other participants refused;  now there are signs that he might be willing to re-enter the accord.  Impressive.

He’s also wavered on whether to extend the DACA program pushed by Obama that protects from deportation some 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children.  Trump has threatened to send them to the country of their parents’ origin, places many of them have never seen, or barely know. Then, facing backlash not only from the population but by many members of his own party, he made an ostensible deal with Democrats  Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to extend their stay in exchange for tighter border security – only to back off, once again, in the face of far right opposition.  Those 800,000 “Dreamers” are left hanging, with their permits to remain here expiring in March of 2018.  He has failed to come up with any proposed solution at all.  It is completely unclear if he will support anyone’s proposals.

So much vacillation on domestic and foreign policies confuses other nations’ leaders as well as U.S. citizens and politicians, and reeks of indecision and incompetence. Without consistency, he has lost credibility with House and Senate Republican caucuses, because his own party doesn’t know where he stands, and knows that where he stands today may not be where he is tomorrow. They are moving on without him, and many are privately frustrated but still willing to tolerate anything to hand the rich their tax cuts.

Although he plays a ruthless executioner in his reality show, he’s a straight-up pussy when it comes to staff turnover in his administration. He sat on the fence about Michael Flynn, failing to fire him  even after a warning by the Justice Department that Flynn had been compromised by the Russians and had lied to the vice president about it, and only taking action once the story broke publicly.  Then came the revolving door.  Priebus out, Spicer out, Bannon out, Scaramucci out, Tom Price out, and the list can clearly be expected to go on and on and on.  He has appointed eminently unqualified people to lead agencies, or even worse, people who are actively opposed to the public service functions those agencies are supposed to serve, utterly selling out anyone who believed that a billionaire could be a populist or that he would really “drain the swamp.”  But time after time, the actual firings have been done by someone else, while Trump in essence hid behind a shrub in the Rose Garden.  He should change his tagline to “someone please tell him he’s fired for me.”  For someone who cultivates a tough guy image, he is surprisingly weak and ineffectual as the head of an organization.  One can only assume that running a Russian money laundering operation is like running any other Laundromat – it practically runs itself!

Despite his bluster, Trump has all the earmarks of comprehensive weakness on most fronts. Although he has autocratic tendencies, he lacks the personal strength of history’s most nefarious autocrats, who are typically iron-fisted men of strong will and personal power for all their other failings.   As it has turned out, Trump lacks the wit to seize power, and if he ever did he might not have any clue what to do with it, like the dog who finally caught the car.  The people he has installed at certain agencies, such as Scott Pruitt and Jeff Sessions are far more insidious and dangerous, but these are traits of theirs, not Trump’s.  Instead, America is stuck with a president who is essentially an observer in his own government, a paper tiger with nothing to offer of substance, who has essentially been reduced to a pen waiting for legislation to sign.

For a man who promised the world, he has revealed himself to be hapless, ineffective, and completely out of his league. It’s time for America to accept there will be no #winning on his watch.