So Donald Trump suffered his first legislative loss as the nation’s leader. Did he take any responsibility for the defeat of the health care bill? No. He let House Speaker Paul Ryan do that — which, in part, was Ryan’s proper response. After all, Ryan and his leadership team should have known well in advance that the bill was unwinnable among the far right of his own party, and that appeasing them would only create a bubble of dissent among the moderates and madden the party liberals. But Trump did more than simply deny any responsibility for the failure of his signal legislative promise, made months and months ago; he assigned the loss to the Democrats, just as Trump assigns failures of any kind to other actors and never to himself. I think this is because his mind is a flawed prism through which the blended light of reason, trust, rightness of purpose, and personal accountability cannot enter without being corrupted, distorted, and discolored.
Donald Trump’s prism of decision-making, when exposed to the clear white light of public need, does not yield a robust spectrum of ideas and possibilities. It does not even issue beams of shades of gray, where some compromise is possible. Donald Trump’s prism only casts black and bleak shadows on the wall of the cave of denial he has fashioned for himself. In this shadowy cave, Trump sees only his world and no other world, his point of view and no other point of view. He refuses to embrace the reality that there are Americans unlike himself outside the cave, people with needs beyond his limousine’s darkened windows, people living lives of quiet desperation far below his penthouse on 5th Avenue, or gazing through the gates of the White House or Mar-a-Lago. Trump eschews the common man and woman, unless they can be of some use to his own selfish goals.
Well, welcome to Washington, D.C., Mr. Trump. This may not look like much of a town to you, but this is America’s city. It is not really a shining city on a hill, but it is a city nonetheless dedicated to the proposition that all Americans deserve fair and equal representation. Of late, that proposition has taken some body blows. I admit—after living here for more than six decades, and working as an employee of the people for nearly four of those decades—I have seen the capital do a better job of representation and fairness. We’ve had our share of shady officials—from presidents to members of both chambers of Congress. And we’ve had our share of political division that threatened—even carried out—government shutdowns and great pain to the citizenry. But, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, “Here, sir, the people govern.” The people, Mr. Trump. The people. The same people President Lincoln referred to in the Gettysburg address, “…of the people, by the people, for the people.”
We are not a nation full of sheep to be sheared, Mr. Trump. Disabuse yourself of that notion and you may begin to make some progress in Washington where the citizens of America deserve better than a leader who attempts to rule through lies, disinformation, prevarication, dissembling, artless legerdemain, and willful ignorance of the most basic processes. What happened to you on Friday, Mr. Trump, was a classic example of personal hubris trying and failing to overcome political will.
It was an also an example of your failure know what a constituent is, to understand and appreciate that the moment you won the election, you became the leader not just of your supporters, but of all of us. Listen to members of Congress who pushed back against the health care bill, Mr. Trump. The experienced ones—the ones who know their districts; not just the far-right-wingers who mimic their PACs—know that every one of their constituents has a prism through which they view the success or failure of their Congressman or Senator at the local level. Those prisms don’t just break the light of legislation into red or blue beams—they cast the full spectrum of issues directly into the lives, the jobs, and the pocketbooks of every citizen. You don’t know those constituents, Mr. Trump, because you’ve never had any. Not one. Unlike every other modern president from JFK onward, you have never stood for any elective office. And all your posturing, posing, bravado and blustering does not gain you one whit of understanding of who the average American is, what we need, or what we expect from a leader. Frankly, you scare the hell out of a lot of us with all that you don’t know and apparently don’t care to know about what matters to us—at home, locally and globally.
You may have come away from your campaign rallies with the impression that you would be loved and followed unconditionally simply because of the reactions you got to certain words and phrases designed to ensnare the gullible or the desperate, the dissatisfied or disaffected people in those crowds. God knows you have drilled those words and phrases into your White House staff who parrot them at every convenient microphone. But that strategy is running on fumes now, Mr. Trump. You saw that on Friday. Words and phrases, threats and bluffs, carry only so much energy, and eventually that energy dissipates and entropy takes over, thinning out your improbable promises, your vague and uninformed notions of government, and your credibility.
Unlike many critics who say you’re too old at 70 to change, I don’t believe your reluctance to accept the reality of the presidency is due to age; I think you simply don’t want to get it. You don’t want to discard your darkened prism for a clear one that spreads the full colors of the American way of life across your cave wall. You’re afraid of what you’ll see. You’re afraid to come out of the cave of shades and shadows. How sad. I pity you, Mr. Trump.
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