Over the weekend I heard somebody run with the ‘give the guy some time’ defense of Comrade Trump. You’ve surely heard this. “Sure, he’s made some dumb moves, but the bottom line is he’s only been on the job a few months. What do you expect?”
That’s a good question. No, wait…it’s a really stupid question. What do we expect? The guy is the goddamn President of These United States. We shouldn’t have to be concerned about whether he meets some minimal tolerable standard. This isn’t Pass/Fail, for fuck’s sake. But sadly, that’s where we are as a nation. We’re actually forced to ask if Donald J. Trump is capable of meeting the bottom line.
The bottom line. It’s about as perfect an expression of a concept as you could ever want. It literally refers to the final profit and loss figure of any enterprise, which is located on the bottom line on an accounting page. Even the term bottom is absolutely perfect. It’s derived from a Proto-Germanic root word, buthm, meaning the ground, earth, soil, the lowest level. There is nothing below the bottom.
So, bottom line — what’s the very least we expect from the President of These United States? What are the minimal set of behaviors and beliefs we reckon are acceptable from the person who runs the United States government? A few things immediately come to mind.
A certain degree of honesty. Nobody expects POTUS to be perfectly honest about everything. There are things that, for security reasons, need to be kept secret. We’re all adults; we know this. We may not always like it, but we understand the need for incidental presidential fibbing. Hell, most of us are even okay with the occasional bald-faced presidential lie IF it’s in the best interest of the nation. But at the same time we expect the president NOT to lie casually. Or frequently. Or blatantly.
Comrade Trump violates that expectation. He lies easily, he lies often, and he lies brazenly — even if the lie is obvious. The scope of the lie doesn’t seem to matter; he lies just as easily about issues of national importance as he does about trivial crap. He’s not just indifferent to the truth; he so indifferent to it that we’re forced to wonder if he’s even aware he’s lying.
That’s unacceptable. As citizens, we have a legitimate expectation that our president isn’t a habitual liar. The leaders of other nations share that expectation. When it comes to matters of trade or security — not to mention times of international crisis — other national leaders need to be able to trust that the U.S. president isn’t lying his ass off. At this point, nobody can fully trust Comrade Trump will deal honestly with…well, with anybody.
A basic grasp of how the U.S. government functions. Yeah, government is complex. No single person can be expected to understand every facet of every organization and agency that comprises the U.S. government. But as citizens, we expect the president to have a working knowledge of how our government is supposed to operate.
Comrade Trump violates those expectations. If you google Trump doesn’t you get the following predictive searches:
understand executive orders
understand checks and balances
understand separation of powers
Okay, executive orders are maybe a tad confusing, but the concepts of checks and balances and separation of powers? That’s basic stuff. The first three articles of the U.S. Constitution are devoted to it. You know — three branches of government: the executive, the legislative, the judiciary. None of them is superior to the others, each operates independently, but are held in check by the other two. For example, POTUS can negotiate treaties, but the Senate has to approve them. Congress can make laws, but the courts determine if those laws are constitutional. The courts can send folks to jail, but POTUS has the power to pardon them. POTUS can propose a budget, but Congress decides whether to fund it. Basic stuff, like I said. American kids learn this in middle school or earlier. But they’re a mystery to Comrade Trump.
That’s unacceptable. As citizens, we have a legitimate expectation that the president should be as familiar with this stuff as your average fifteen year old kid. It’s ridiculous that Comrade Trump has to be periodically reminded what the president can and cannot do. He’s NOT the king — he’s not even the CEO of America Inc. — he’s just the guy who temporarily occupies the office.
An elementary notion of decorum. I’m not talking about whether he knows what fork is for the salad. I’m talking about preserving and maintaining the dignity of the office of the President of These United States. In the words of Joe Biden (who, let’s face it, wasn’t always the most decorous and dignified person in the room), it’s a big fucking deal. We expect our president NOT to be a jerk in public. When the president is out and about with his wife, he should be polite to her. It’s none of our business whether or not he loves his wife, but it IS our business that he treats her with respect. When visiting officials and dignitaries arrive at the White House, he should be polite to them. It doesn’t matter if he likes or dislikes Angela Merkel. She’s the Chancellor of Germany — shake her damned hand. As citizens, we have a legitimate expectation that our president doesn’t disgrace the nation, doesn’t embarrass the citizenry, doesn’t wantonly insult others. It’s not asking too much to expect the president to comport himself a degree of restraint and a certain amount of grace.
Comrade Trump violates those expectations. He’s consistently rude and boorish — to his wife, to his staff, to visiting dignitaries and diplomats, to his predecessors, and to others in general. He’s quick to ridicule folks he disagrees with, to insult his detractors, to disparage anyone he feels is in any way inferior, and to malign anybody he sees as any sort of threat. At the same time, he compliments authoritarian figures and tyrants. He praises Russia’s Putin, Duterte of the Philippines, Turkey’s Erdogan — but he calls President Obama “a bad (or sick) guy” and accused him of “trying to destroy Israel” and being “the worst president in U.S. history” as well as being “weak” and “insane”.
That’s unacceptable. As citizens we deserve a president who isn’t a continuous source of shame and embarrassment. We deserve to be represented by a person who treats others with a modicum of respect. We deserve a president who is self-confident and mature enough to respond to slights and insults with restraint and sensibility. We deserve a president who isn’t a flaming asshole.
So, here’s the bottom line then. We expect the president to be moderately honest, to be as conversant with the basic functions of the government as a middle school student, and not to be a jerk. We expect him not to pout, not to whine, not to blame others, and not to have tantrums. We expect him NOT to behave like a spoiled child acting out at the Burger King.
Bottom line — we expect the President of These United States to act like a fucking adult.