A Broken System

Anyone with any intelligence can see through Donald Trump’s words as just bluster and bullshit.

Not to say that he doesn’t make an occasional valid point that we wouldn’t normally hear from most career politicians, precisely because he isn’t one.  For instance, I appreciated his pulling-back-the-curtain admission that, as a businessman, he has made campaign contributions to whichever candidate asked him, but when Trump wanted something that particular politician could provide, Trump made no bones about calling on said politician to get it:  “They are there for me,” he said.  “And that’s a broken system.”  True that, Donald.  It is certainly the case that that one of the few (only?) items in the “pro” column for a Trump candidacy is the fact that he cannot be bought because he doesn’t need the money.  But if that’s his greatest selling point, then he shouldn’t be running for president – he should run for Congress or some local political post where he could actually propose and establish law and policy.

He could never be president.  That’s just ridiculous.

An American president is a figurehead.  The president’s stated role as “the leader of the free world”, when considered within the system of U.S. government, is really an illusion.  An American president does not have the ability to unilaterally do anything to effect change in law and policy in this country.  The U.S. government was designed to be a system of checks and balances for precisely that reason:  so no single branch could exert absolute power.  This is a prime example of how ignorant Donald Trump is of how his own government works – the government of which he thinks he can be elected chief executive.  The executive branch of the U.S. government may enforce the law, but it doesn’t make the law.

The real job of a U.S. president is to be the spokesperson for a united nation, particularly in interactions with other figureheads from other nations.   A president shouldn’t be above his (or her) fellow citizens; a president should be a representative of and for them.  He (or she) should be a real person who feels the same joys and pains as the rest of us.  The president is the face of America, the person we put forward as the exemplar of our best selves to the rest of the world.  And he (or she) should reflect the diversity of America, not just be of the mature-white-Christian guy variety.

That is one of the reasons why I think Obama has been the best president in my lifetime – because he meets all those criteria.  (See “OK POLITICS”, 6/30/15.)  He is a true statesman who takes the right tone in all situations, who has a sense of humor but can also be angry and serious and sympathetic, as when he has had to greet the families of people who have lost their lives in mass shootings.

I read an article about Obama the other day that reiterated a lot of the points I’ve made about him, including how, while a U.S. president has “some significant powers” (including being commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces, appointing judges and entering into treaties with foreign governments), “[e]xcept in rare cases, a President cannot do anything if Congress stands in the way.”  And in the case of the Congress that has been Obama’s nemesis from the start of his tenure, “Congress has blocked President Obama at almost every turn.”  (K.J. McElrath, “Barack Obama:  Not Perfect But Certainly One of the Better Presidents Ever:  The Facts”,  The Ring of Fire website, 12/25/15, http://trofire.com/2015/12/25/barack-hussein-obama-not-perfect-but-certainly-one-of-the-better-presidents-ever-the-facts)  (The author of that article also makes the point that Obama has faced his congressional opposition “with grace and finesse” and concludes that “Mr. Obama has class,” all of which Trump sorely lacks.)

The Donald is delusional if he thinks he’d do any better trying to get his ridiculous policy points across, despite being an admittedly successful businessman who has managed to emerge from multiple bankruptcies to bully and glad-hand people into making lucrative deals with him for many years.  Congress would throw up blockades more insurmountable in scope than even his envisioned “Trump Wall” on the Mexican border.  Forget about getting Mexico to pay for it (hah!); how could he possibly make it happen against the wishes of the Congress – especially a Democrat-led congress –  and the majority of the American people?  Does he think he can impose his will like a self-professed dictator?

Can you even imagine Donald Trump – blowhard, unapologetic, narcissistic Donald Trump, with his ignorance and lack of impulse control – being part of a world economic summit?  The way he talks about what he’s “gonna do” when he’s elected president makes him sound like he models himself after Vladimir Putin (who Trump has admitted he would “probably get along with . . . very well”), not FDR or even JFK or any great American statesman, past or present.  The Donald just doesn’t get it.

Ach, I’ve already wasted too much time and space talking about him.  What amazes me is how he has managed to bamboozle so many people into taking him seriously.  My daughter’s great grandmother (of whom I am actually quite fond) is a big Donald fan, touting his genius to anyone who will listen.  His strongest base seems to be among white supremacists and the elderly.  But he does offer an outsider’s perspective, and we are all – ALL OF US – sick and tired of the political system as it is currently configured, with those with money and power controlling their puppet congresspeople and judges and lower-echelon lawmakers at every level, and the politicians themselves spending more time stumping on campaigns to get MORE funds from those rich folks than they actually spend doing the jobs for which they have worked so hard to get elected.

Why do people want to become politicians in the first place?  (I’ve wondered this before – see “Random Thoughts on Election Day 2015”, 11/4/15.)  I have to believe that perks and prestige are big drivers, because, as famously spouted in a movie from the ‘80s, “greed  is good” (and I fear it always will be seen that way by a large segment of humankind).  Consider two recent legal scandals involving long-serving New York State congressmen that were decided in the courts within a few days of one another:  Former New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (a Republican from Long Island) pulling political strings to get his slacker son high-paying positions as a “consultant” with crony donors; and another New York State legislator, Sheldon Silver (a Democrat from Manhattan – political corruption seemingly has no party affiliation), convicted of fraud, extortion and money-laundering in connection with trading political favors for personal gain and then lying about it  Both guilty.  And now, amazingly, both are putting in claims for their $90,000-a-year pensions.  It will only be at the discretion of the judges in their respective cases as to whether these pensions will be subject to forfeiture – yet another travesty that the voting public tsk-tsks but doesn’t seem to take into consideration at election time.  Look at the U.S. congressman from Staten Island, Michael Grimm, who was actually voted back into office in 2014 despite being under indictment for (and eventually convicted of) tax fraud (not to mention threatening, on camera, to throw a reporter over a balcony)!

The system is indeed broken, but how to fix it?  Campaign reform?  Taking all money out of politics?  Who will be brave enough – and convincing enough – to shake up the status quo?  What will it take?  And please don’t say Donald Trump, despite his rare rational thoughts on this one matter.

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