Expectations, Shortfalls, And The American Presidency [Opinion]

White House during winter.
Win McNamee / Getty Images

When Donald Trump assumed office in January, there was an overwhelming belief amongst his supporters that he’d be a vehicle for change, an agent of welcomed reform that adeptly ushered in a new era of government responsiveness. For those who cast ballots against him in November of 2016, a desperate desire existed, one which manifested in the hope that Trump could round the proverbial corner, turning from boisterous populist to restrained statesman.

Week after week, month after month, the president meanders—if not stumbles—his way through executing the duties of the single most important job in the world. As if we’re living in some sort of “Bizarro World”, headlines from the Onion have become eerily difficult to discern from reality. We’ve entered a realm in which the contrived drama of television showmanship has melded with real-world governance, almost viscerally reducing the nation’s collective morale.

Each day, Americans wake up and turn on the national news, or peruse the newspaper, only to be made sickeningly abreast of the latest grating controversy or senseless gaffe. So consistent is the non-stop avalanche of utterly revolting drivel emanating from Pennsylvania Avenue, that for a vast majority of the American populace, our hallmark sentiment of optimism has devolved into abject despondency.

Recently, CBS News reported that George W. Bush remarked that Trump doesn’t “know what it means to be president”. According to data provided by Gallup, nearly two-thirds of the nation might be inclined to agree with the assessment of the former president.

Former presidents gather.
All five living former presidents gather in support of Hurricane Harvey relief. [Image by Rick Kern/Getty Images] Rick Kern / Getty Images

In just shy of a year, and without the imposition of a calamitous external crisis, Trump’s approval rating has dropped 13 points, to a meager 33 percent. Over that same period of time, and with his own party controlling the federal government, the president has yet to secure the passage of a single piece of his legislative agenda. Thus far, the Trump administration’s only true success is taking credit for the relative health of the economy, which in an interview with CNBC, former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew noted was largely the product of his presidential predecessor.

We can adjust and tune out the president’s unrelenting shameless self-promotion. We can often brush off any notions that one can be the “world’s greatest deal maker” without having inked any lasting deals. By default, we assume that despite having attended the “best schools”, he’s generally ill-informed on a plethora of critical policy issues. To that end, we once placed great faith in the strength of America’s guiding institutions, believing them to be largely immune to short-term shock. However, we’ve painfully learned that even reinforced concrete is vulnerable to the repeated bludgeoning of sledgehammers.

Trump flanked by his advisory staff.
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Senior Adviser Steve Bannon surround President Trump during a phone call to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in January. [Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images] Drew Angerer / Getty Images

We can’t accept an administrative thought process that knowingly infected the federal government with the malignant toxicity of Bannon, Scaramucci, and Flynn. We can’t condone the elevation of individuals such as Kushner, Ross, and Sessions, who demonstrate an unflinching loyalty to dishonesty and contempt for their peers in Congress. We cannot live with cabinet members like Perry and Pruitt, individuals so blinded by the whims of special interests that they’ll readily abandon safeguarding the greater good.

To an extent, we can tolerate character flaws which take the form of narcissism, bluster, and a misplaced sense of grandiosity, but we cannot tolerate the acute dangers invited by poor judgment.

[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]