As all of you know, I think – no, I’m actually certain – that George W. Bush was the worst president in history. The main reason his presidency was so bad was because he simply wasn’t up for the job. Listening to his speeches made my skin crawl because I could tell he didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, so he was faking it.
And look what happened during a Bush presidency. We went from the best economy we’d seen since the 1960s to the worst downturn since the Great Depression. We invaded and broke two countries and destabilized the Middle East region to an extent previously believed impossible. The Bushies ran humongous deficits and funneled as much taxpayer money as possible to friendly “investors.” (That is actually a word Bush used to describe donors once.) Pretty much every federal agency was rendered inoperable, despite the fact that the stupidest tax cuts in history and the cost of the wars led to budget deficits that were unlike anything we have ever seen before or since.
But the one thing I will give Bush is that he had some semblance of a heart. Not a big, or even a real, one, but he could fake it. Though he did stupid shit, he was at least capable of feigning empathy. What I mean by that is, even though he was sending military people to two ridiculous wars and he took steps to make sure the public didn’t find out how many were dying or being maimed and he did nothing to hold his cronies accountable when soldiers died in showers, he was at least capable of faking “saying the right thing.” For example, he did very verbally assure Muslims that we were not at war with them and he at least pretended to give a shit about the people of New Orleans post-Katrina. In other words, while Bush seemed to have no soul, you got a sense that he had seen empathy once and found himself able to mimic it to some degree.
Now, imagine a president who is less competent than Bush (Bush at least had his daddy’s advisors to help him “look” more competent than he was), but who lacks even the slightest bit of empathy, to the point that he is absolutely incapable of expressing even fake sorrow to someone in the course of his job. That is Donald Trump. We, quite literally, have a man running for President of the United States, the highest-profile public servant in the world, no less, who seems incapable of empathizing with anyone.
This is a guy who doesn’t think twice before suggesting that the Mexican government is sending murderers and rapists over here to terrorize us and then thinks that Tweeting an image of him eating a taco salad on Cinco de Mayo makes things better for them. This is someone who thinks that a picture of him eating a KFC Original Recipe chicken thigh with a silver knife and fork while sitting at a table on his private plane makes him look like a “regular guy.” This is a guy who sees a Black man at a rally and points to him saying, “Look at my African-American” and who thinks that rich Black people appearing on The Apprentice is sufficient to show how non-racist he is.
Put simply, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that Trump has had zero contact with People of Color who weren’t already rich and his only contact with “regular people” is at his rallies, and only from a safe distance.
This is also a guy who is only capable of seeing dollar signs in everything. He goes heavily into debt and then declares bankruptcy like he is changing socks. He actually treats bankruptcy as a business strategy, even though the action is avoidance of payment. He has been involved in thousands of lawsuits, most of which consisted of him attempting to get out of paying for a service that someone performed. He has no concept that the people who do the work for him have families that depend on the money he pays.
Most importantly, this is a guy who has thin skin, an inflated ego and who holds onto grudges as if he was still in middle school. He calls people “fat” and “ugly,” he insults anyone who doesn’t like him and he sues people at the drop of a hat. When the former ghostwriter of “The Art of the Deal,” Tony Schwartz, told the truth about him, the first thing he did was have his lawyer file a cease and desist letter.
And do we need as President a guy who has spent more than a week trashing a Gold Star family; the family of a fallen American hero who gave his life to save others on a battlefield that should never have existed, but for the incompetence of his Republican predecessor. He has used that man’s death and the grief of his family in an attempt to make political gains, which is unseemly enough, but he is so tone-deaf, he doesn’t seem to even realize that his continued Khan-bashing is actually making him look much worse. He thinks that, because thousands of people gave him money last month and a lot of people show up at his rallies, his campaign is doing great. When he’s asked almost any question about policy, he cites a poll. This is not a man who wants the most important and consequential job in the country, this is a guy who wants desperately for people to like him.
This is a guy whose temperament doesn’t permit him to see reality outside of his own skin. Whether we can blame him or his upbringing is irrelevant. This is a guy who has obviously been sheltered from the real world for his entire life and has been raised in a virtual bubble. He has only known the life of someone who is very rich and he has never been exposed to what “regular people” have to do on a daily basis.
Consider his answers to questions about sexual harassment. He truly believes that people who suffer from harassment can simply “change careers” or “change jobs” if it happens, and he believes that the victim of the sexual harassment “should have” somehow not let it happen. This is not someone who deals with reality on a daily basis. He has never been exposed to a world in which having a job was in any way important, and for whom losing a job was in any way consequential.
One of the key jobs of any president has to do with his or her ability to empathize with everyone they come in contact with, as well as those who need help from far away. In order for a president to do their job, they have to be able to know the right thing to do in a variety of situations. They have to act in the best interests of the people involved. Donald Trump seems incapable of that. Again, I don’t think it’s his fault. He’s never wanted for anything in his life. He has spent his entire life looking out of windows at the tops of buildings and going from place to place in limos and private planes. He has never had to “mingle” with the “great unwashed,” which is actually how he seems to think about us.
In the wake of the Khan debacle, imagine, if you will, that a soldier is killed while on duty while he is (gulp) president. It doesn’t matter if it’s due to service overseas in a war or doing maneuvers at a domestic base or post, calling that family is the hardest call any president will ever have to make. Can you even imagine Trump making that call? What if the family he calls is emotional and decides to blame him, even momentarily? Can anyone truly imagine Trump just blowing that off and keeping an even and empathic tone with them? One of the hardest things for anyone to learn is to not take it personally when people yell at them during emotional times. Sometimes, you’re not the target, you just happen to be the nearest ear. Trump has never learned that. Megyn Kelly asks a tough question and he immediately takes it personally and becomes defensive. And what the hell could Rosie O’Donnell have ever done to him to make him hate her so much. She would pretty much have to kill a close relative to make me hate her that much. Has he not heard that it’s possible to simply ignore people you don’t like? Has he really never learned that constantly trashing other people doesn’t make them look bad, it makes you look bad. The people who like Marco Rubio don’t think less of him because Trump called him “Little Marco,” they think less of Trump. But he doesn’t notice. It’s that damn bubble.
What happens when he has to meet with a foreign leader who thinks he’s a joke, which is likely to be many of them, if not most. Can anyone imagine him not starting World War III? And while most people are half-joking when they talk about him launching nukes at someone who hates him, I’m not joking when I say, it’s a real possibility. I mean, we actually have precedent for this, when Bush Jr. invaded Iraq because Saddam dissed his daddy. Can anyone truthfully imagine us avoiding a war or five with someone with someone with Trump’s temperament in charge?
I have to admit, I’m getting a little tired of the people who are trying to diagnose Trump’s possible “mental illness.” That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about using current behavior to predict future behavior. This is a thin-skinned, self-centered man who thinks that working hard and becoming a billionaire while stiffing others is an example of “sacrifice.” This is a man who seems incapable of accepting criticism and moving on from it and his responses are usually reflective of his personal hurt feelings, which is not a basis for an adult relationship with others. And the President of the United States has to develop relationships with thousands of people and groups; he or she doesn’t get to delegate those relationships to others because he or she is the ultimate representative of the American people. The President is the top diplomat, the top negotiator for the government, the Commander-in-Chief and the less-official “Leader of the Free World.” It is necessary for the American President to place the good of the American people – ALL American people – ahead of his own ego. Does anyone really think Donald J Trump has the ability to do that? He certainly doesn’t based on recent behavior. We can’t afford to find out.