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Meltdown

One shudders at the thought that this man, prone to flying off the handle, controls the launch codes for the world’s most powerful nuclear weapons arsenal. Kim Jong-un’s tin can missiles are nothing compared to what Donald Trump may decide to launch in a moment of sheer madness.

It turns out that when Hillary Clinton, during the campaign, warned voters Trump did not have the temperament to be president of the most powerful nation on earth, she was being kind.

The Economist this week is more to the point. The prestigious magazine concluded, after the fallout from the violence at Charlottesville, “Donald Trump is politically inept, morally barren and temperamentally unfit for office.”

The magazine, epitome of British restraint, was not denouncing the American president. It was stating a fact. There is enough evidence to support that.

Just when everyone thought the Trump White House went through its absolutely worst week, another one doubly bad comes along. In the seven months this relatively young presidency has been in office, every day seems distressed.

Trump, under investigation for possible collusion with the Russians, just went on and on. He insulted leaders of other nations, pulled out of the Paris climate accords, demeaned more nations than anyone bothered to count and nearly came to nuclear blows with North Korea, whose leader is probably the only one who matches him in erratic behavior and wild rants.

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Then Charlottesville happened. Counter-protestors objecting to the message of hate greeted a rally by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Skirmishes broke out. One neo-Nazi rammed his vehicle into a crowd, killing one young woman and injuring dozens of others.

Saturday last week, Donald Trump addressed the incident, putting the blame on “both sides.” Those remarks, suggesting a moral equivalence between the purveyors of hate and the defenders of equality, drew outrage everywhere.

In an attempt at damage control, White House staffers prepared a speech that denounced the neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Trump read that speech reluctantly and unconvincingly on Monday.

Then on Tuesday, during an event where he was supposed to unveil his infrastructure plan, Trump just went off the rails.  He returned to his Saturday message, ranted against the plan to take down statues honoring leaders of the Confederacy and beat up on mainstream media for making such a big thing about what happened.

Trapped in his narcissism, Trump could not have imagined the consequences of what he said. There was outrage everywhere over his failure to condemn racially motivated hate groups.

Months ago, Trump assembled the most legendary CEOs of America’s greatest corporations to serve on his advisory panels. That was as much an act of vanity: Trump enjoyed being surrounded by successful businessmen. In the aftermath of his latest rant, however, the CEOs felt compelled to resign from those advisory panels.

After the first wave of resignations, Trump denigrated the deserting CEOs, accusing them of grandstanding and bragging there were many more in line willing to serve. When the resignations continued and the businessmen were on the verge of dissolving the panels, Trump stole the thunder from them and disbanded the panels himself.

This is all unprecedented. CEOs of major corporations are the most apolitical of Americans. They look at their profit lines and do not speak to the nation’s soul. This time they did.

In addition, the chiefs of the US armed services, issued separate statements condemning the neo-Nazis and the white supremacists. This, too, is unprecedented.

For a moment, there were rumors that senior White House staffers were poised to resign as well. At this writing, none had done so.

Senior politicians from within the Republican Party issued statements denouncing the equivocal position Trump has taken. The American President angrily hit back at many of them.

He was frantically burning all his political bridges, one analyst put it. Without the political support of those Trump attacked, the American president could not carry out his policy agenda. The future is bleak. All we could expect is continuing political recrimination in Washington while the whole country slides into another sordid episode of racial violence.

The rest of the world can only stand aghast, watching the Trump presidency go into an irreversible meltdown. Under Trump, America has taken an isolationist path. Now that presidency itself is deeply and hopelessly isolated.

Trump sees himself the center of the universe. Now that universe is imploding. 

There is no indication Donald Trump understands the role of the presidency in holding his nation together. He has no clue about the role America plays in the world, providing the rest of us leadership in asserting the values that define modern civility.

The man is barely literate. Trump himself confesses he read none of the biographies of past presidents. He has no demonstrable moral compass and no indication of any profound conviction. He has no vision, no empathy and no ethical mooring. All his life he simply amassed wealth by bullying others.

Trump, in a word, brings the American presidency to new depths. Not even Richard Nixon dared to burrow anywhere near where Trump is now.

Trump’s ghostwriter for his best-selling Art of the Deal, predicts that the beleaguered president will soon resign. Given all he has inflicted on his country, that might yet be the most merciful thing Trump could do.

Unfortunately, a failure in presidential leadership in the US will adversely affect the rest of the world. We see the first indications of that in the skidding stock markets in the wake of Trump’s bizarre utterances after Charlottesville.

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