I recently met CBC Radio news anchor Laurence Wall in shul. We were just leaving after Shabbat services and got into a conversation about Donald Trump’s start as U.S. president. We were two news guys trying to make sense of our rapidly changing times. The pace of change can make you dizzy.
Conversations like that are going on everywhere and many lead to a scary uneasiness about a president who does not seem to have a firm grip on the ship of state. There are as many reasons to be fearful as there are trouble spots in the world.
After years of seeing politicians at their best and at their worst, I have learned the difference. The key is nuance and subtlety, and getting both of them right. It is about grace under pressure. It is about straight-laced thoughtfulness and prudence.
Being on the right or the left has nothing to do with it. Politics should have nothing to do with it. Democracies are designed for people who don’t agree with each other. Respect and decency are supposed to make winners and losers work together to whatever degree possible until the next election when the people decide if they want change.
It was obvious many months ago that lack of respect and decency were at play with Donald Trump, but no one could have imagined the fallout from his bull-in-a-china-shop mentality. It is so omnipresent in everything he says and does. There is no relief. No let up. He so seldom stops being himself.
There are many Trump defenders who say he is just being who he was all through the campaign, and they maintain he is being honest and consistent as president. But then you have to wonder about the people who say that. Is a brash, impulsive, quick-tempered bully really what they want?
Perhaps the most important lesson of the election for the so-called elites – people like me who thought they knew better – is the steadily growing number of people in the United States, as well as in other western democracies, who, socially and economically, have fallen so far behind that their anger is no longer controllable. No longer do they believe in traditional ways of looking at political solutions.
With social media linking all these unhappy and angry people together, there is a new force that is gobbling up the world as we knew it. So much is on the table. The risks are enormous.
When the president of United States makes crucial decisions without consulting non-elected experts in government, you have to realize how volatile this way of governing is. I am sure Trump knows all about hotels, but he is no expert on at least 95 per cent of what crosses his desk.
His immigration and refugee policies are designed, he says, to keep America safe. And, every time I hear him say that, I get frightened. The more he loudly proclaims his policies will make America safer, there are any number of trained terrorists, or potential lone wolf terrorists, who would love to prove him wrong. It is like an open invitation to do evil, just to show you can. Embarrassing a boastful, over-confidant president would be ‘huge.’
Being thin-skinned is not a good trait for a leader. Most learn not to be because they have to be above the little things. But there is nothing to indicate that Trump can or even wants to.
He is so unpredictable that the hope he will change to better suit the needs of his country, and our world, is quickly slipping away.
There is something in the air, something swirling about that is so unsettling. Fictional movies and books have been produced about conspiracies bringing dangerously unfit people to the Oval Office. “The Manchurian Candidate” comes to mind. This could be the real thing with or without a Russian conspiracy.
Human beings try hard not to think the worst. We are taught from an early age to think the best of people and to move forward believing everything will work out in the end.
But ‘The Donald’ is now president of the United States – and that is just plain scary.