Fellow Patriot: The voluntary financial generosity of supporters like you keeps our hard-hitting analysis coming. Please support the 2022 Year-End Campaign today. Thank you for your support! —Nate Jackson, Managing Editor

Jonah Goldberg / January 22, 2020

Our Nation Is Paying for Trump’s Refusal to Be Presidential

I’ve long argued that Donald Trump’s presidency will end poorly because he’s a person of bad character.

I’ve long argued that Donald Trump’s presidency will end poorly because he’s a person of bad character. I still think that’s true, though I very much doubt the impeachment trial now underway will result in his removal. Regardless of its outcome, his impeachment illustrates the damage bad character can do to the presidency, the culture and the constitutional order.

In monarchies and other systems built around one-man (or one-woman) rule, the leader’s quirks, obsessions or inadequacies cease to be any of those things, instead becoming fashionable attributes of greatness. Bad jokes that emerge from his or her mouth become hilarious; rudeness, strength. Mispronunciations become fashionable locution. The story of Castilian Spaniards replacing the “s” sound with a “th” sound (“therveza” instead of cerveza) to accommodate King Ferdinand’s lisp is myth, alas (or “alath”). But the moral of the story stands.

We’ve seen something similar happen to large swaths of the GOP. Because Trump is unteachable about how the presidency and our constitutional system are supposed to work, politicians and media figures have dropped their long-held views on foreign policy, the national debt, trade and even the need for basic civility in order to get in sync with the president.

Arizona Sen. Martha McSally’s outburst on Thursday is just the latest example. When asked by a CNN reporter whether she’d support allowing witnesses at the impeachment trial, this once sober-minded politician called him a “liberal hack,” creating a viral social media moment perfectly suited for cable news preening and digital fundraising.

A new book by Washington Post reporters, “A Very Stable Genius,” recounts in alarming detail how early members of the Trump administration struggled to teach the president the rudiments of the job of commander in chief, only to be rebuffed as “dopes and babies” because they didn’t see our international alliances and military assets as an opportunity to turn a profit. Two years later, he’s surrounded by a coterie happy to let Trump be Trump.

The impeachment drama itself stems from the fact that no one can convince the president that the presidency is more than the whims, desires and ambitions of the person occupying the job.

Unfortunately, the responses from Democrats, much of the media and opponents of the president, although emotionally understandable, have often compounded the damage.

My American Enterprise Institute colleague Yuval Levin has written tellingly about the Trump era: “My rule of thumb … is that every scandal will proceed in whatever way is maximally damaging to public confidence in our core institutions. Each twist and turn and revelation will give everyone on all sides of our politics … just enough reason to believe that their side is in the right, the other side knows it but is corrupt, and the only way to get justice is to recognize that there is no alternative to stretching the norms and rules of our politics a little in this particular case.”

The Washington establishment’s rush to get ahead of the evidence on Trump’s unproven collusion with Russia; the constant exhortation that the only reasons someone might agree with Trump policies are racism, cultism or indebtedness to Vladimir Putin; and the often-voiced determination to impeach Trump before impeachable offenses had materialized might sound like brave resistance to those already converted. But to the unconverted, such rhetoric sounds like evidence of bad faith, warranting more bad faith in response.

Our problems with partisanship and polarization predate Trump’s election, but his presidency has been gasoline on a fire. Trump could have avoided impeachment countless times. Most obviously, he could have not done what he obviously did vis-a-vis Ukraine. Or he could have admitted his error, apologized and taken the steam out of the impeachment train’s boilers.

Instead, because of his low character, he opted to stand by his claims that his actions were “perfect.” As a result, Republicans must now further deform their character to accommodate his and scramble to protect themselves from hearing the truth at his impeachment trial, on the accurate but embarrassing pretext that the Democrats didn’t expose the truth the right way.

Trump could have avoided impeachment had he governed, from the start, as a servant of all Americans, whether they voted for him or not. But that option was no option at all, because his character would not allow it. Now we are plunging further into dysfunction because the presidency was never designed for a man who could not comprehend what it means to be presidential.

© 2020 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC

Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

★ PUBLIUS ★

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2022 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.