The Year of Living Dangerously

After one year in office, Trump has proven he’s incapable of being president.


By Peter Fenn, Opinion Contributor | Jan. 18, 2018, at 4:00 p.m.

The Year of Living Dangerously

Yes, we are one year in and, using the trite phrase, it seems like an eternity. But before I provide my view, I urge the readers of U.S. News and World Report to take a moment and look at the entire editorial page of today’s New York Times devoted to Trump supporters.

It is a well-chosen collection of defenders of Donald Trump. The Times has provided a real sense of why many support him, even those who may question some of his behavior. They all make strong arguments from various points of view. As a Democrat, I don’t agree with their arguments on a whole host of issues but they are argued respectfully and well. By turning over the entire editorial page, the Times has elevated the public debate and contributed to a civil dialogue much needed after this past year.

It is more than difficult for me to accept the Trump agenda on taxes, immigration, race and civil liberties, health care, the environment and energy policy, Iran, Korea, NATO, you name the issue. In my view, he is digging so many holes that it will take a rational, reasonable, pragmatic administration and Congress many years to undo the damage.

But we can argue and have disagreements about the policy choices.

The fundamental problem that has become more and more clear as this very long year has unfolded is that we have a president who is not really a president. Donald J. Trump is uncontrollable, unhinged, undisciplined and as his chief of staff, General Kelly, describedhim yesterday, “uninformed.”

According to CNN, we know from polling that he is the least popular of the last nine presidents at this stage in his presidency. We know that this hasn’t changed much from the campaign. We also know that this is the most polarizing approval rating dating back to the 1950s. And according to a Pew Research Center poll last August, only 16 percentlike his conduct as president. I can’t imagine it has improved much since then.

We saw in the New York Times letters from Trump supporters and other sources that there is a real concern from many about his tweets, his statements on race, his “shithole” comments, his continuing “un-presidential” behavior. The Wolff book, the leaks from former and current aides, the daily barrage, the continuation of nasty rhetoric and name calling directed at political adversaries (and sometimes friends!) is getting more than old. The public is growing tired of his average of 5.6 lies a day and his reliance on “alternative facts.”

His constant boasting and his efforts to boost his own ego seem to know no bounds. By calling himself a “stable genius” he becomes a laughing stock. Much like the late Sen. William Scott of Virginia when he called a press conference in the 70s to deny he was the dumbest member of Congress! The article on Scott, written by legendary journalist Nina Totenberg, appeared in a small publication and the press conference gave it national prominence. Much like Trump, Scott threatened to sue for libel but decided against it because he thought he would lose. This was not unlike Trump’s silly, legal machinations over the publication of the Wolff book, “Fire and Fury,” which of course also backfired.

Many felt that Trump, once he was inaugurated, once he occupied the White House and sat behind the Oval Office desk, he would transition, understand the gravity of the office and “be” a president. He would not lounge for hours in the morning and evening watching Fox News, calling friends, and beating it out of town to play golf day after day. Many thought he would read briefing papers, that he would absorb the history of his office by occasionally reading a book and he would assemble a group of competent, knowledgeable advisers. After a year, it is hard to come to the conclusion, as many sensed during the campaign, that he has the temperament to be an effective, competent, knowledgeable president.

Donald Trump has not exceeded expectations, rather his demeanor and his approach over this past year has only raised more questions. Yes, it has only been one year, a year of living dangerously.