Michael Maiello's picture

    The Gravity of the Office Cannot Change Character

    The terrifying power of the presidency was supposed to have tempered the judgment and actions fo Donald Trump, the way I think we all kind of imagine it would temper all of our worst traits, were we to somehow find ourselves in the Oval Office. I assume we all dream about it a little bit.  Oh, the wonderful things we might do.

    This afternoon, Trump has scheduled a press conference to sign legislation that he believes will improve medical services for U.S. veterans.  I have not studied up on this issue at all.  If I take him at his word, he has managed to streamline the care process so that veterans who cannot be immediate served by Veteran's Administration staff can seek private care and be reimbursed for it.  Assuming the legislation does what Trump says it does, I'd say it's something he should be proud of and I would not criticize him for scheduling a low key victory lap press conference about it.

    But, as they say, life moves pretty fast.

    Racists descended on Charlottesville, Virginia and American citizens clashed in the streets.  Far worse, James Alex Fields Jr. used his car to attack a crowd of protesters in much the same manner as various spree killers (some linked to ISIS, attacking anybody present and at least one to Europe's far right, attacking Muslims) have done in Europe.

    In the town of the campus of the university founded by Thomas Jefferson, we had citizens coming to blows over existential issues for America and this included a vehicle assault patterned on multiple terrorist attacks in Europe, most of which had been quite specifically and harshly condemned by Trump.

    Which brings us back to Trump, who greeted the nation with platitudes about loving and respecting each other, while trying to imply the problems were on all sides and not Nazis driving cars into groups of kids on the street, and then quickly changed the subject to his victory lap for the V.A. legislation.

    This is one of those moments where the gravity of the presidency might move an individual to forego their legislative victory lap, even if it is well earned.  You extend some kind remarks to the veterans assembles, shake their hands, turn back to the podium, and address the nation in real terms.

    He couldn't even interrupt his own show.

    He will never be changed by the office.  He will not be tempered or humbled or even informed. I think that probably all the presidents except Trump will be able to say they left office wiser than they were when they got into it.  All of them.  Carter built an enduring legacy.  Reagan was maybe too old for bold post-office pursuits, but conducted himself well. George HW managed not to even criticize the man who took the second term he thought he deserved. Bill built his foundation, which oddly became a political liability even though it's done good in the world. Even W somehow emerged an expressive painter.   We don't know what Obama will do next, but he has already demonstrated post-office grace and humility.  I can at least say, of all the presidents in my life, that they seem to have grown as people for having done the job.

    But Trump is outright refusing to be made bigger or better or even smarter. That's our leadership.

    Here's a random Tweet I found that shows why it matters:



    I agree with all you say, but it's even worse. The office will make this man worse. Every President of my lifetime has not grown wiser in office. I was born under Richard Nixon.

    Trump's character is so weak that it could not even bear up under the burden of being extremely rich and shielded from all consequences. Even when he was coddled and sheltered by his wealth, he could not take it, and the mere pressure of being alive twisted him into grotesque public behavior.

    Now he's under the enormous, crushing pressure of the Presidency, and the even worse pressure FEMA Presidency going badly. Even a person of strong and solid character might buckle under that pressure. And Trump can't sit in his Fifth Avenue penthouse without being symptomatic. 

    He is going to get worse. So much worse.

    Trump has no credibility when it comes to issues of race. His political push towards the Presidency began with . birtherism. His first speech labeled Mexicans "rapists". Steve Bannon is a senior advisor. Jeff Sessions is AG. Sessions supports voter suppression, limiting immigration (including legal immigration), and making affirmative action for white people. No one in their right mind expects anything of significance from the DOJ in the Charlottesville investigation. The state of Virginia will have to spearhead the legal case. The problem is that Trump is able to assemble a cast of enablers.

    There's an old cliche we all know: Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. I've never believed that to be true. Power allows a person to more fully manifest who they are how ever much they have good or evil attributes. As Doc Cleveland pointed out he will get worse as the stress or the burdens of office will cause a person to reach for the behaviors most intrinsic to their nature. No Trump will not change, except to more fully manifest the man he has been all his life. He won't be humble faced with the responsibility of the power he holds. He won't even acknowledge the awesome responsibility of the office. He'll make no effort to inform himself about the decisions he'll need to make. He won't even acknowledge that he needs to inform himself before he makes a decision. He'll always respond with braggadocio and bellicosity in word and deed. And that's the thing most of us are afraid of the next four years.

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