Our new president has only been in office for a couple of days more than a week and he is already proving to be the amateur that I feared he would be. He made a number of promises during his campaign which were often ill considered and the boasts of someone who doesn’t fully understand the job of chief executive of a powerful nation. Sadly former presidents Bush and Obama vastly increased the use of executive actions during their terms and thus opened the door for the kind of wholesale orders that Trump signed this week. Perhaps the most egregious thing that has happened in our recent history is the easing of the system of checks and balances through the backdoor tactic that President Trump used so thoughtlessly last week. We certainly may have issues with some or all of the pronouncements that Trump set into action but we should in reality be more concerned with the trend of unilateral decision making by one person that has become more and more fashionable in the past several years. While we may have agreed with the decisions of our former presidents we should always be wary of putting too much power into the hands of a single individual. Our Founding Fathers understood this all too well and now we are witnessing the problems with the reckless use of the power of the presidential pen. We all should have cringed when President Obama told us that if Congress would not act he would instead use his pen to get his wishes. Now we are facing the prospect of enduring four years of rashly considered executive orders and the ensuing chaos that they may engender.
There is so much to be said about the actions that President Trump took last week but I will focus on his temporary ban on immigration and travel to the United States by individuals from six primarily Muslim countries. It is obvious that the president and some of his close aides authored the pronouncements in haste in order to demonstrate that President Trump is a man of action, someone who doesn’t waste time in getting things done. While this might at first glance sound reasonable enough to his supporters it neglects the very necessary step of considering unforeseen consequences of a decision that must be part and parcel of the process. This takes more than a few hours or even a few days and requires feedback even from those who oppose the move. Their ideas are just as important in fashioning a fair and effective order as those from enthusiastic advocates. All of the questions and difficulties should have been openly addressed long before any type of order was signed.
Another problem with this particular order is that it seems to have been done without properly informing the very people who are taxed with its enforcement, leading to unwarranted confusion. By the end of the weekend it was apparent that multiple mistakes had been made that need never have happened. The roll out should have been delayed long enough to include opportunities for everyone to prepare for its enforcement and to note potential concerns and problems that might occur. To suddenly spring such a dramatic change on even those who already had visas and were in transit to our country is unjust. To realize after the fact that the directive was unclear in how to deal with those who already hold green cards was indicative of a lack of adequate planning. All in all it demonstrated that the president is still very much a rookie.
Perhaps President Trump’s most egregious habit is an inability to admit mistakes. This is a fatal flaw and one that I fear he will not be able to overcome since it appears to be an unshakeable aspect of his character or lack of it. Again and again he insists on lying when the truth is so obvious. This weekend he actually seemed to think that we would buy his argument that the confusion at the nation’s airports was caused not by the impact of his executive order regarding his temporary ban of people from certain countries but a computer problem with Delta Airlines. This type of juvenile behavior is unbecoming to his office and an embarrassment. It calls everything that he does into question. He tells us that he is here to work with all of us but then insults anyone who disagrees with him and asks us to suspend reality with his silly excuses when things don’t go as he had planned.
it may be somewhat true that many of the reactions to President Trump’s latest foray into imposing his beliefs onto the nation may have been somewhat hyperbolic, hysterical and hypocritical but it is easy to understand why they so fear his actions. He has been remiss in demonstrating the calm deliberation that is needed for his office. Frankly he is in fact scarring many people. We need to feel secure that he will not involve us in any actions that will be harmful to our democracy and our freedoms. Sadly he has mostly exhibited a profoundly erratic temperament that is far from being reassuring. While bluster may be appropriate in some situations a true leader needs to know when to curb such tendencies. Thus far he has not given us any indications that he knows how to do that.
On this date in history we were saddened by the explosion of the Challenger as it carried our astronauts into space. Then President Reagan demonstrated how to strike a tone that would resonate with the American people as he spoke so sincerely and eloquently of the tremendous sense of sadness that we were all feeling. Mr. Trump needs to begin to develop a connection with all of us. He should have prefaced this executive order by speaking directly to we the people. He might have quietly and rationally provided us with the reasoning behind his thinking. He had the opportunity to include us in the deliberations by asking for our input before he put the new policy into effect. He might have learned from us and gained our respect if only he had explained the timeline and what his ultimate intentions are. Instead he continued to boast in tweets that his is a great plan that is going well and to ignore the concerns that so many have.
The fact is that Donald Trump is not the first president to create a temporary ban of travel and immigration from specific countries. Jimmy Carter prevented Iranians from coming here during the height of the hostage situation and more recently President Obama instituted a six month ban for Iraqis. Presidents sometimes have to do such things. We might have been more open to this executive order had there been more of a sense of thoughtfulness and less of a feeling that it was going to happen regardless of what we think simply because Trump won.
I would caution President Trump, Congress, the Supreme Court and the American people to curb their rhetoric and tribal instincts and begin to rationally dialogue with one another or our beautiful democracy is in danger of being torn asunder. We have to rediscover who we are as a people. It will take great courage to work out our problems. Now more than ever we need leaders who are less concerned about party lines and reelections and more driven by love of country. We are all watching and hoping for evidence that we still have guardians of democracy in our midst.