By Hugh Bowden
After more than two centuries, the United States suddenly is learning that our Founding Fathers and subsequent editions of the U.S. Congress may have vested in our president powers that go beyond those that should be allowed of any chief executive. To be fair, both the Founding Fathers and those members of Congress presumed that, where the presidency is concerned, the office would be occupied by honorable men and — someday — women. Sadly, perhaps catastrophically, that is no longer is the case.
President Donald Trump is a blatant, consistent liar. That’s a provable fact. There also is ever-increasing evidence that he is a threat, perhaps the primary threat, to our democracy. But under our Constitution, there appears to be little anyone can do, short of impeachment, to control his lying or any other despicable or even treasonous behavior. We seemingly cannot force him to show his tax returns and reveal his financial obligations, or make him observe historical diplomatic norms or respect longstanding U.S. obligations, or even to defend the country against an attack on our sovereignty by another government.
Trump has shown, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he cannot be trusted with our nation’s national security. Most recently, the concept of personal honor seemed completely foreign to him as he stood beside Vladimir Putin, president of a country that has shown itself to be an outright enemy of our nation, and publicly, for all the world to see, sided with Putin and against almost the entire array of U.S. intelligence agencies. Then, almost 24 hours later and in the wake of widespread condemnation, Trump made a pitifully transparent attempt to redeem himself by claiming he simply misspoke and used the wrong word. Are we really to believe that a man who adores being the center of attention would mistakenly align himself with Putin — a man he has been unwilling to criticize for the past 18 months — with a global audience looking on? That is simply nonsense. But in the face of widespread disbelief, Trump has continued to be on the offensive, appealing only to his base. And the base once again has embraced him with open arms, giving Trump full backing as he puts his need to massage his massive ego ahead of the interests of our country.
Trump supporters are simply unwilling to confront reality. Their man can lie, alienate allies, cozy up to brutal despots and thumb his nose at American traditions of more than 200 years with impunity. The survival of our democracy seems meaningless to Trump and to his toadies. If Fox News tells them he’s great, that’s good enough for them. Forgive me if I don’t understand willful ignorance.
It is simply astounding that informed Senate Republicans, including our own Susan Collins, seemingly lack the courage to challenge Trump, simply because he has hoodwinked more than one-third of the American population into assuming — wrongly — that he is safeguarding our country’s future in his own secretive way. How can it be that they have not sounded the alarm that Trump and Putin met for more than two hours without a single observer, other than their respective translators? Who knows what commitments may have been made by Trump in the name of the United States? Collins and her colleagues, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, seem willing to allow the security of this country to be compromised. They apparently have no clue what it means to put statesmanship ahead of partisanship. It’s inconceivable that Collins isn’t aware of the courage demonstrated by one of her predecessors, Margaret Chase Smith, who stood up against a Senate demagogue at a time when our country faced a dire threat. And yet, Collins will not step into the breach and call out this pathetic excuse for a president and his media lackeys at Fox News. She, and almost every other Republican senator, seems willing to excuse Trump for anything and everything, up to and including possibly treasonous behavior. Could it be that they are the just flat-out scared of the Republican base which, as Trump himself once asserted, would stand behind him even if he murdered someone in the middle of Times Square? In this writer’s opinion, they are cowards one and all.
Trump supporters like to point to the economy as the overriding positive in the Trump administration, making everything else insignificant. But when it comes to personal incomes, the facts don’t look so great. The $323 increase in annual earnings for U.S. workers is a long way from the Trump-Republican promise of $4,000 to $9,000. That $323 won’t go very far in paying down the $1 trillion in additional debt resulting from the tax cuts.
Trump tells his toadies what they want to hear. And they seem to liken his every utterance to Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. The powers of the presidency are in terribly dangerous hands. Democrats, you damn well better get your act together.
Hugh Bowden is retired from a lifelong career as a journalist and political observer. He lives in Ellsworth.