Thank you, Linda W. You are the author of the first Letter to the Editor of my short writing career! I’m sincerely moved by the fact that someone is reading my column besides my wife. Also, thanks to you, I have changed my byline. Linda questioned my centrist bona fides, so let me explain.
On a variety of specific issues – abortion, gun control, entitlement reform, fiscal responsibility, a balanced budget amendment, tax policy, capital punishment, Israel and others – my views are much more consistent with traditional orthodox conservatism than anything else. My fantasy candidate for president is John Kasich. Unfortunately, that will remain a fantasy, because the GOP has morphed from a party of conservatives into the Cult of Trump, which translates into an extreme right-wing populist party that has abandoned anything resembling traditional conservative orthodoxy.
But Linda W. is correct. I despise Donald Trump. As a New Yorker approximately the same age as Trump, I have known him to be a thoroughly despicable human being throughout his entire public career, for the past 45 years or more. I support a few of his policies, but no one as consistently amoral and dishonest as Trump can ever be trusted, except by either a hopelessly naïve political neophyte or a fool. The man is evil. Linda, I’m in very good company and I can, upon request, refer you to a dozen or more traditional conservative pundits who share my “Never Trump” views.
This brings me to what may be the strangest week in the strangest presidency of my lifetime. It began with the president firing his DHS secretary because she refused to break the law at his direction. She wasn’t cruel enough for the Trump/Miller policy of deterrence through cruelty, even after enforcing the cruelest policies at the border in anyone’s memory. Her exit was quickly followed by a purge (worthy of Stalin) of the entire DHS leadership. Firing the entire leadership of the department responsible for border security in the midst of a border security/humanitarian crisis may not seem – to most rational folks – like any way to run a government. Or does it? I guess if you belong to the “Alice through the Looking Glass Cult of Trump World” it does. As if this wasn’t strange enough, by the end of the week, we learned that our president, the man ultimately responsible for implementing and enforcing the law, asked the new acting DHS secretary, Kevin McAleenan, to break the law, promising to pardon him if he complies! This begs an obvious question. How can we demonize illegal border crossers as criminals breaking the law, when our president is the Law-Breaker-in-Chief?
Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up! Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. Mid-week, we learned that Trump/Miller twice considered dumping the overflow of asylum seekers into Democratic-dominated “sanctuary” cities as political retribution for opposing the Trump/Miller draconian illegal policies, even his own appointees resisted. Just when we breathed a sigh of relief because we assumed in a rare moment of sanity the policy was rejected, Trump once again pulled the rug out from under his own administration and congressional party, tweeting and publicly announcing that this incredibly stupid certainly illegal idea would be implemented. As of this writing, that appears to be his plan. By the time you read this, however, it is entirely possible that Trump will back down before blowback for the umpteenth time, claiming he never said what he is on the record saying. In a world where truth has no currency and where his supporters consciously close their eyes to Trump’s serial lying, there is no political price for lying, and that’s what Trump does best. The worst part of all of this is the absence of any legitimate policy. Instead of honoring the fact that all of this touches real human lives in very real ways, Trump intends to bully his way, using vulnerable, desperate people as human pawns to wreak revenge on political enemies. Welcome to Trump-style reality TV government.
Let’s be clear. I am an extreme centrist and I’m NOT in favor of admitting all these migrants and granting them asylum. I am in favor, however, of treating them humanely while detaining them legally for adjudication of their claims and establishing a more efficient system for doing that. A normal president would have and could have negotiated with Congress to change the law and fund the resources to make that happen. But, Trump is not a normal president.
This same week, Attorney General Barr, in testimony before a Senate committee and absent of any evidence he was prepared to share, mused that our own intelligence community, the folks specifically charged with protecting America from espionage, spied on the Trump campaign. Yes, he used the word spy! Upon questioning, he softened his speculation somewhat, but not before giving Trump more fuel to control the narrative regarding the Mueller investigation, lying that he had been exonerated, which even Barr’s memo specifically denied, and accusing Barr’s own DOJ colleagues of treason. Until this week, I have given Barr the benefit of the doubt. Now, I am not so sure if he is the competent, dedicated public servant I had hoped for and expected, or just another Trump stooge in a cabinet of Trump stooges. I guess we’ll find out when he releases the Mueller Report. Will it be so completely redacted as to render it useless, or will it be as transparent as possible as Barr promised?
This suggests another question. Is it possible that Trump’s bluster of escalating the policy confrontation over the migrant families and Barr’s foolish public musings from a normally circumspect, disciplined man are a conscious strategy to control the public narrative before the release of what may be damaging information in the Mueller Report?
Yes, Linda W., I am assuredly an extreme centrist. I am a dedicated institutionalist and traditionalist. I prefer compromise and incrementalism to radical change. I am deeply religious. While no specific religious doctrine should be codified into law, I firmly believe all laws, law enforcement and governance must be grounded in morality. The Trump presidency and Trump himself, in all these areas, stand for the exact opposite. Frankly and sadly, I don’t see how one can be a centrist, a traditionalist, and support Donald Trump. It’s like being a meat-eating vegetarian!