You can always tell when it’s Friday in the U.S. Trump announces he’s throwing another one of his “great” advisors out of the White House and onto the Washington, D.C. scrapheap. This past Friday it was his trusted friend and chief strategist Steve Bannon. The divide between Trump’s rhetoric that the White House is a “well-oiled machine” and the reality that the White House is in upheaval, again, is ever widening, with no end in sight.
Many people are rejoicing with the expulsion of Bannon from Trump’s inner circle. And, while this may be good for America, I am very concerned that Trump’s inability to keep his closest advisors in attendance could lead to a further weakening of America’s standing in the world politique. The Washington Post has been keeping a running tabulation of White House resignations, firings and withdrawn nominations during Trump’s first seven months in office. The list is now three pages long, and we aren’t even to the end of August yet. It’s almost as if more people have left the Trump administration than open positions have been filled. This is probably unprecedented in American presidential history. Sometimes, making history is not a good thing.
In addition to the weekly Friday purging at the White House, numerous Trump compatriots who were serving on commissions and committees have offered their resignations from those committees. Last week, following Trump’s blaming the victim in Charlottesville, Va. for being killed by a white supremacist, members of Trump’s Manufacturing Council and the Strategy & Policy Forum left their seats in protest of Trump’s response to the Charlottesville domestic terrorist assault. Of course, Trump being Trump, he put out a statement that he was disbanding the two advisory panels “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople…” The problem for Trump was that the resignations preceded the release of his statement. This belated release of Trump’s attempt to save face, only served as further evidence of a White House in disarray.
The resignations of corporate CEOs from Trump’s business advisory groups were not the only defections in the nation’s Capital last week. Trump’s inappropriate response to the neo-Nazi white supremacist attack on American citizens resulted in the appointees to The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities to resign en masse from that committee. The members stated in no uncertain terms that, “We cannot sit idly by…without speaking out against your words and actions…Elevating any group that threatens and discriminates on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, disability…is un-American.” The now former members went on to say, “Your words and actions push us all further away from the freedoms we are guaranteed…Your values are not American values. We are better than this…we call on you to resign your office, too.”
When Trump was running for president, he constantly said that he was going to run the country like he ran his businesses. He said that he would “Make America Great Again.” I have to admit, Trump was right about running the country like he did his businesses. As he did as a “great” businessman, by filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection six times, he is in the process of bankrupting American values and destroying the foundations of our Constitution. The most recent example of Trump’s attempt to trample on our rights is the Attorney General’s request for information on anyone who visited disruptj20.org. The Justice Department is demanding that the website-hosting company DreamHost turn over the IP addresses of the 1.3 million visitors to disruptj20.org. This is an unprecedented attack on the First Amendment right to free speech. To many of us, it appears that Trump wants to form his own “Enemies List” (shades of Richard Nixon and Joe McCarthy) of anyone who is considered anti-Trump. At the rate he’s going, Trump’s Enemies List will include all the CEOs who resigned this week, all the members of the Arts & Humanities Committee and almost every member of Congress and 80 percent of Americans.
The Friday night purges of West Wing staff, the mass defections of commission members, the resignations of top administration officials, the attempt to create an “Enemies List,” and the failure to denounce the white supremacist attack in Charlottesville for what it was, an act of domestic terrorism, are causing Trump to further isolate himself from reality. As he shrinks his circle of “trusted” and “great” advisors to only a handful of people who will, no doubt, be fearful of “speaking truth to power,” our country will suffer the consequences. We have already ceded our leadership role in the global effort to combat climate change to China and India. We have alienated our allies like Great Britain, France, and Germany to the point that we will no longer be consulted on international issues such as the refugee crisis and fair trade agreements. After Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, resigned in July, he told The New York Times that he worries that the U.S. is “close to a laughingstock” when it comes to holding other countries to ethical standards. I am afraid that we are no longer “close” but are already there. Political cartoonists, both here and abroad, are having a field day at Trump’s, and thus, our expense.
But, what is even worse than being the unflattering subject of political cartoonists and the butt of comedians’ jokes, is the division that is taking place in the United States. Trump’s words and actions, both now and during his campaign, have caused the racial divide in America to grow larger and more violent. Instead of taking actions to unite us, Trump seems intent on making America not “Great Again” but two countries again. A hundred and fifty years after the Civil War supposedly ended the attempt to divide the United States into two separate countries, and slaves were emancipated, we are still fighting that war. And, our chief executive would rather fan the tiki torch flames of division than act as a leader and work to unite us. I can only hope that Trump heeds the words of the Arts & Humanities Committee’s former members to “resign your office” if you are unable or unwilling to uphold your patriotic oath of office “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” If Trump can’t take the honorable way out and resign, then we must prevail on Congress to act. After all, if they can impeach a president for fibbing about an extra-marital sexual escapade, they certainly can impeach a president for failure to uphold his oath of office.