Donald Trump is an inappropriate president and has not delivered anything more than a Potemkin Presidency.
Grigori Potemkin erected phony portable settlements along the Dnieper River to deceive Czarina Catherine the Great that her reign was creating prosperity. After she passed, the structures would be disassembled and re-assembled further along her route to lengthen the delusion.
Likewise, Trump’s tenure has been a faux string of executive orders that cannot be enforced, tweets without substantiation, photo opportunities about health care and other laws that won’t pass, and a few rallies spouting unattainable promises to bolster his ego and support.
Last week, Trump trampled through Europe and the Middle East and this week he said the U.S. would pull out of the Paris climate agreement and negotiate a better deal.
Both are vintage Trump moves: he believes his foreign trip was a triumph when it wasn’t and, as for Paris, he won’t get a new deal and the global deal, and the movement, behind it won’t end.
(By the way, polling shows that only 42 percent of Brits, 43 percent of Australians, 45 percent of Americans and 51 percent of Canadians support the climate deal.)
The Paris announcement drew huge criticism from inside and outside the United States. America’s foremost technology entrepreneur Elon Musk quit two councils he was appointed to by the president and others voiced grave concerns. Several governors and mayors stated they will abide by the climate agreement even if Washington won’t.
(Here in Canada, the government stands by its Paris agreement decision, but the country may actually benefit if more oil pipelines can be built to the U.S.)
This latest flap, like others, will be transitory and represents a mere distraction from the reality that markets and attention will continue to focus on Trump’s psychological and managerial ineptitude, criminal and Congressional investigations, and governmental gridlock that will prevent tax cuts or anything.
The Potemkin Presidency is now becoming obvious to many. Astute market player Jim Cramer of CNBC advised investors this week to keep and buy stocks immune from the reality that “Trump can’t get anything done”.
And the gig seems to be up with voters too.
For the first time in history, polls show the vice president is more well-liked than the president. “According to a recent Fox News Poll, 42 percent of voters approve of Pence, while 43 percent disapprove. Fifty-three percent of voters disapprove of Trump, while 40 percent approve,” wrote Newsweek.
As Trump tramples his turf, Pence has all but disappeared and remains untainted by the Russian or obstruction of justice scandals involving the firing of the FBI director. By contrast, Trump is lawyering up because of the serious threats against him.
If Trump is criminally charged, or his regime found to have been in collusion with the Russians, Vice President Pence may be forced to take action. He, along with the vote of a simple majority of the Trump cabinet, can force the president to resign immediately for being unable to carry out his duties, under the 25th amendment to the constitution.
A full impeachment by Congress is not required if most of the cabinet believes the president is unable to do the job, physically, psychologically, or legally.
This week, the first shoe falls when on Thursday June 9 former FBI Director James Comey will testify about his firing by the president. He is expected to confirm that Trump fired him only because he refused to scrap the Russian probes. And that will be damning.
But Trump will respond by doubling-down on his behavior. That will mean more incendiary tweets, more attacks on enemies and the media, and the launch of a campaign-style tour of rallies in the rustbelt to push his new “I’m the victim of a witch hunt” narrative.
None of this will work if he’s found to be guilty. And if he isn’t, his presidency won’t work because of his character flaws and the flaws in the American presidential system. The U.S. Constitution is 230 years old and has created a system that is dysfunctional.
Checks and balances have become open warfare and the Supreme Court decision in 2010 has worsened the situation by allowing vested interests, foreigners, and wealthy donors to buy politicians and dictate agendas.
This decision, called Citizens United, bypasses the two-party system and replaces it with dozens of factions, both right and left, who advance their own individual, regional, or ideological agendas. There is no party discipline nor any interest in consensus building and compromise. This means policies can be created and abandoned on the fly by presidents with fixed terms irrespective of mid-terms.
The result of all this is that the United States today has a head of state who doesn’t care about discourse or compromise, who has shown disdain for institutions and treaties and statesmanship, and who has become the first presidential lame duck at the beginning of his term instead of at the end.
First published National Post.