A Soup SandwichPosted: May 17, 2017
With increasing frequency, nearly daily, we as a nation wake up to yet another incredible self-created crisis in the Trump Administration. People that care that our nation’s leader is becoming something of a punch line around the world debate whether President Trump’s actions, statements, and yes, tweets are part of a larger plan or simply the reflection of a man with little to no intellectual curiosity, the attention span of a young child, and who is in way over his head. I am increasingly falling into the latter category.
In my day the military term for his administration would be that it is a soup sandwich. The term means exactly what the imagery suggests, something so confused and messy that it cannot be salvaged.
The litany of recent events are well-known. Whether it is his casual revelations to the Russians of highly critical intelligence, his thinly veiled threats to former FBI Director Comey, his stated reason for firing Mr. Comey because of the “Russian thing”, or the possibility that he tried to stop the FBI investigation of the Russian meddling and specifically Lt General Michael Flynn’s possible involvement with the Russians, his actions have shown a president and an administration that have lost their way. Put more bluntly, look in the dictionary for “soup sandwich” and you will see a picture of the president.
Note again that all of the crises that the White House staff have dealt with thus far are all self-created by the president. This does not bode well for handling the inevitable national security crisis or domestic tragedy on the horizon that will test our ability as a nation to deal with all that comes our way.
Most legal scholars and Constitutional law experts point out that nothing that we know about thus far concerning the president’s actions is illegal. Unethical and/or immoral, perhaps, but not illegal. This is very troubling. As Dana Milbank ably points out in a recent opinion piece, just because it is legal, does not mean that it is right. Or as we used to say, just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean that it is a good idea. The basic point is that President Trump knows no boundaries, has no self-control and therefore has the ability to do great damage to our nation, whether deliberate or out of ignorance. As Mr. Milbank points out in his troubling piece, the president is within his rights — legally — to do all of the things that we know about. But the assumption for all modern presidents is that a president would not do all of those things without the proper justifications and explanations. In crafting the Constitution, the Founding Fathers assumed that the chief executive would be virtuous , guided by honor, and exhibit self-restraint. Scholars point out that the Constitution gives many powers to the president, specifically and inherently. The checks and balances that we rely upon cannot stop the president from wreaking havoc in the short-term. Although the ultimate power rests with the Congress — impeachment — and the courts — ruling certain presidential actions unconstitutional — it takes time and political capital to bring those counter balancing powers to bear. In the meantime, significant and even irreparable damage can be done to our nation. With President Trump we have a chief executive that seems to be lacking the knowledge to understand the limits and responsibilities of the presidency combined with unchecked impulsivity that can easily lead to damaging actions and decisions.
Look at President Trump’s background. His success as a businessman by most accounts was not so much because of his personal knowledge and ability. It was more about branding. He sold the Trump Brand to investors and let others actually build the real property. Recently, few of his Trump buildings were actually Trump projects, he merely sold his name and promotional abilities for use by those doing the work. He became famous due to his time as a television reality star. Even today he talks about “ratings” for press conferences and speeches. The pop psychoanalysis could go on and on, but in every instance, it appears that his personality is ill-suited to lead the greatest nation on earth. To me, for example, he related the very highly classified information to the Russian Foreign Minister (information that will probably result in lives lost, and certainly the loss of an important avenue of intelligence) not because he wanted to help the Russians. I think he did it because he was showing off and wanted to impress his visitors. Remember this is the guy that in the midst of the ceremony “celebrating” the House passing Trumpcare, stopped his speech to turn around and ask “How am I doing? Am I doing OK? Hey, I’m president. I’m president. Can you believe it?” Well, no, I can’t believe it. But it is true.
I hear the “I word” — impeachment — bandied about a lot recently. From what we know now, we are not there yet. I also worry that under the current divisive political atmosphere in our country that an impeachment act and subsequent trial would be very bad for our nation. We might not recover from that trauma for many years. Therefore any impeachment proceedings must be based on clear violations of the law, should there be any.
The other proposal that floats around from time to time is that the 25th Amendment can be used to remove him from office. This amendment pertains to the succession to the presidency should the president be unable to fulfill his duties. The relevant section of the amendment in this case is Section Four which provides a procedure for the Vice President and such other “principal officers of the executive departments” (meaning the Cabinet) to declare the president unfit for duty. Should the president contest that declaration, it goes to a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate. This too would be a long drawn out procedure that could seriously divide our country should the president resist the take-over attempt. It seems unlikely in any event that Vice-president Pence and the Trump appointed Cabinet would invoke this avenue of removal, barring some obvious and unassailable problem with the president.
Finally, President Trump could resign. Many pundits and others think this is the most likely scenario for the current president to leave office. President Trump himself said that
“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier. I like to work, so that’s not a problem, but this is actually more work and while I had very little privacy in my old life because, you know, I’ve been famous for a long time, I really, this is – this is much less privacy than I’ve ever seen before.”
None-the-less, I doubt very much that the president has any intention of resigning. He likes the attention and being on the “inside” — people have to pay attention to him and he likes that.
Potentially compounding President Trump’s negative impact on the nation is the dilemma many of his top advisers are facing. It is a classic scenario. The president continually throws good, hard-working and upright people under the bus. They go out and defend his actions in, I hope, good faith only to have him personally provide a completely different rationale for his actions. This can only go on for so long before people start to ponder resigning. This is the dilemma such good people face — resign and save my reputation and integrity or stay and try to change things because they could really be a lot worse if no one of significant knowledge and competence is left to try to hold him in check?
I fear that most people consider the recent events as “typical” Washington politics. That’s too bad. This is not typical and it is not normal. And it isn’t “sour grapes” that the Democrats lost the presidency.
Many continue to state that as a nation we should give the guy a chance. He’s only been in office about four months. Give him time. I tried. Sorry, but I do not think that anything is going to cause President Trump to change.
For the Republican majority on Capital Hill I can only say, “Clean up on aisle seven. Soup sandwich in progress.” The Republican agenda depends on a functioning presidency. The deal with the devil is almost gone as more and more of the president’s actions take away from the legislature’s ability to legislate. Clean up the soup sandwich through comprehensive and bipartisan investigations. Find out what actually happened, or did not happen, and get it into the public domain. Use a little Clorox on the clean up of the soup sandwich.
If it turns out there is nothing there involving the Russians or other problems then so much the better. If there is something, hold all involved accountable. The good news/bad news may be that there is nothing there. The good news is that people will not go to jail and the integrity of the system may be restored. The bad news is that we will still be left with a soup sandwich.