Oped: This guy's supposed to make us great again?
It is becoming increasingly apparent that Donald Trump bluffed his way through the presidential campaign.
He really didn't have a clue what it would take to run the country. But making it up as he went, he vowed to fix everything from immigration and health care to infrastructure and the tax system. At the same time, he said he'd increase defense spending and build a multibillion-dollar wall to keep us safe from immigrants.
He sold the snake oil, and enough Americans bought it — particularly in the Midwest — to see him into the Oval Office despite the fact it was obvious he failed the qualifying test on almost every level, including temperamentally.
"Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated," he said the other day, confirming a remarkable lack of understanding, particularly for a businessman, of one of the nation's thorniest issues. His lack of competence is particularly troubling as the war heats up over the GOP's determination to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. One must wonder whether he has even read the bill that became the law popularly known as Obamacare. Probably not, as he is reported to read very little.
Now it seems he is being sold by some around him on universal health care, which the nation has largely avoided for decades because it is seen, whether accurately or not, as inordinately expensive, inefficient, and socialistic, if not downright communistic. Clearly, a quick repeal of the ACA is not in Trump's tarot cards, with conservative members of his own party in Congress seeking a total annihilation of the program and Democrats opposing most of the replacement proposals. Also, it didn't help that industry groups representing everyone from doctors to hospitals to seniors find the latest plans unsuitable.
More disturbing perhaps is that at times, his obvious narcissistic tendencies have gotten out of control to the point that his mental stability could be called into question. That may seem harsh. But his unsubstantiated wiretapping claims and other distortions appear out of the norm, especially for a person of his rank. To accuse his predecessor in the White House of tapping his phones in the Trump Towers without offering a shred of evidence is beyond rational. In addition to unequivocal denials by Barack Obama, the entire present and past intelligence from the CIA to the FBI say it isn't true.
Trump's leading advisors tried valiantly to back him up without much success. It must have been embarrassing for them, but then again, after a pattern of this kind of strange behavior, they must be getting used to it. Either they need their jobs (after all, he is the guy who used to go on television and tell people they were fired), or they are convinced he knows something they don't.
One keeps hoping that he will reach some sort of reasonable equilibrium, but every time it seems he is on the verge of calming down, an early morning Twitter post appears to jar one out of that illusion. He can't seem to resist taking positions or making statements that undercut his own legitimacy.
"I love WikiLeaks," he said during the campaign when leaks targeted Hillary Clinton. One can only wonder what he thinks now that the intelligence apparatus his administration oversees suddenly has become a WikiLeaks' victim. The president has been curiously silent about the damage done to the nation's security by the latest revelations about the CIA's eavesdropping abilities.
Perhaps, but just perhaps, the nitty-gritty of the daily search for enough money to support his ambitious initiatives — a hugely difficult task without wrecking the Treasury more than it already is — and his remaking government through executive orders will keep him so busy he won't have time to embarrass himself or his office with almost unimaginable utterings, allegations and nonsense. But that has not been his method of operation most of his adult life.
The betting probably should be that this is a president who believes in his own infallibility to the point of concern and is incapable of change despite his pledge to make over the lives of the rest of us.
— Dan Thomasson is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers.