We Can Learn from Donald Trump

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Donald Trump is inept, unqualified, egotistical, immature, mendacious, petty, ignorant, illiterate, bombastic, improvisational, indecent, shameless, vindictive, mortifying, dangerous, selfish, cruel, disloyal, undignified. Need I go on? Regardless, I do not want him to be impeached. I want him to run for a second term and be soundly trounced, forced to leave the White House through the very democratic process he has worked diligently to undermine. Besides, “he’s just not worth it,” as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has said.

I do think, however, that Donald Trump has taught us some valuable lessons.  Inadvertently, of course, but important nevertheless. Trump came to Washington vowing to shake up things, and shake them up he has. And not just in Washington.  And not necessarily for the better. What we need to do, even before he’s gone, is examine how he got away with that ostensible shake-up and learn from it. After all, if we do not learn from our history, we are condemned to repeat it.

His campaign was certainly unconventional. He refused to release his tax returns, claiming that they were being audited. Thus, he became the first candidate in 40 years to refuse to honor a long-standing tradition. Not a law. Just a tradition. Perhaps it should become a law. Perhaps then we would save ourselves plenty of inconvenience if we knew about a candidate’s financial chicanery right up front.

Speaking of which – ever heard of the emoluments clause of the Constitution before Donald Trump became president? I didn’t think so.  Anyway, understanding human nature and its potential corruptibility, the Founding Fathers anticipated the possibility that personal greed would supersede public duty in government officials. Hence the emoluments clause, which forbids said officials from accepting payments and gifts from foreign governments or individual United States. So far, the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia have brought court challenges, alleging that, because his D.C. hotel does business with both foreign embassies and state officials, Donald Trump is violating the emoluments clause. Just down the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, by the way. And that doesn’t even include the properties he owns around the world or the ones to which he has licensed his name. If we had Trump’s tax returns, we could answer our questions about his business dealings and conflicts of interest.

He insinuated himself into just about every talk show, calling in and getting free air time. Why weren’t the other candidates calling?  Perhaps they should.  Why were the program hosts answering the phone every time he called? Perhaps they shouldn’t.  Perhaps there should be an FCC regulation concerning free air time for candidates during presidential campaigns.

He was rude and insulting to the other candidates. Okay, that may be expected during a campaign, but ad hominem attacks reveal important truths about the person who’s lobbing them.  Perhaps voters should pay more attention. Though we can’t legislate for that, perhaps we can teach civics and debate, and educate a more informed electorate who, perhaps, won’t tolerate name-calling masquerading as intelligence.

What wasn’t expected was Trump mocking a reporter with special needs, insulting Pope Francis, and reducing John McCain’s 5 ½ years as a prisoner of war to a snarky, “I like people who weren’t captured.”

This from a man with numerous deferments because of bone spurs who proudly claimed that avoiding STDs in the 1970s was his own personal Vietnam.

This from a man who, when given a Purple Heart by a veteran at a campaign rally, first asked if it was real, and then announced, “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart.  This was much easier.”  The Purple Heart is awarded to soldiers who have been wounded or killed in action.  Bones spurs do not make Donald Trump medal-worthy nor will this Purple Heart teach Trump about honor, sacrifice, and humility. I can’t help but wonder what Lt. Col. Louis Dorfman was thinking when he handed it over.

Trump said things on the Access Hollywood tape that sickened many of us but should have sickened all of us.  Instead, he was elected president of the United States.

We definitely can’t legislate for decency, but we can vote against lewd, crude, rude behavior.

Did we expect the snarkiness to deteriorate into demagoguery? Maybe not from Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio.  But, unless we were living under a rock somewhere or weren’t even listening when he began his campaign, how can any of us forget that Trump instigated all of this by accusing Mexicans of being murderers and rapists. And it has only gotten worse, stoking fears and prejudices that, perhaps, reached an unfathomable low in his Charlottesville response. Or maybe his family separation policy on the border. Every criticism of or question about his competence, his policies, his rhetoric, his anything and everything, is “fake news,” a “hoax,” a “witch hunt” fomented by the “enemy of the people.”  Even our intelligence agencies are “passive,” “naïve,” “wrong,” when it comes to North Korea, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.  This from a president who does not read daily security briefings and issues foreign policy statements in tweets and emojis. This from a president whose advisors can neither anticipate nor educate him. This from an inveterate liar who could announce today’s date from the Truman balcony, and I wouldn’t believe him. This from a president who threatens that “things will get very, very bad” if his supporters among the military, police, and biker communities are “pushed too far.”

Why does the president of the United States sound like Nicholas Maduro?

Every presidential campaign and administration gives rise to a number of cottage industries:  T-shirts, baseball caps, bumper stickers. The Trump administration has initiated yet another: the lie counter.  Granted, this is probably more of a left-side-of-the-aisle kind of thing, but the fact remains that people have been tracking the number of lies Trump utters in a day – nay, in a sentence – and the results are staggering. How can anyone be expected to believe anything that he says?  Why does his base continue to uncritically believe everything that he says?  Why do Republican members of Congress loyally believe this president.  Expediency? Fear? Party before country?

Whatever Donald Trump tapped into in 2016 – dormant racism and misogyny, economic fears, identity politics, nationalism camouflaged as patriotism – the 2018 midterms demonstrated that Americans have taken notice of what is happening to our Republic, and we do not approve. We do not like to be played, especially by the president.

Next we address the Electoral College.


  1. Dr. Michalos thank you for your well-reasoned and articulate summary of the person occupying the White House. Donald Trump has damaged our country in a way that I have never seen before. The “reign” of Donald Trump will have lingering effects on our society for generations. It has also highlighted those who pick party and personal gain over country. I am in the category of independent voters. The Republicans who have cheapen themselves by facilitating his agenda will never have my vote again. Patriotism has given way to tribalism, all at America’s expense.

  2. Thank you, Dr. Michalos, for an insightful and true analysis. The most scary thing, however, is the people who support him–the so-called “evangelical” Christians who tolerate all his dishonesty, ineptitude, lack of commitment to his wife and family, plus a host of other faults. These are the people who have been quick to criticize the great achievements of Clinton and Obama in the past, but who look away when this Idiot-in-Chief talks about “grabbing” women, banning Muslims, and caging children at the border. Hopefully, they will have a renaissance moment and come to grips with what we are dealing with at the present time.

  3. Evangelicals? Look at the voter record of every yiayia who squawks for Trump. She first registered to vote as a Democrat in 1988. The Greek yiayias provided the margin of victory for Trump.

  4. Unfortunately, Trump’s base is still with him. I’m afraid they won’t abandon him, even if he shoots someone in the middle of 5th ave, as he said. Greeks are just as Trump loving and others. Our churches are Trump territory. Look at John katsimatidis. Even national herald’s own Costas. Its so frustrating to see decent people love Trump. Their moral compass has gone crazy.

    1. Dear Bob, I believe you mentioned me in your comment and so I felt compelled to reply. First of all, THANK YOU for including me among the “decent people” who support Trump. I’m very glad to see that you are not part of the absurd and ignorant belief that Trump supporters must be bad people. I am happy that you understand that political preference is not inextricably linked to human decency. To put it another way: the vast majority of voters – whether those who love Trump and can’t stand Hillary Clinton, or vice versa, are all decent people. For the most part, they share the same values. Their differences are in the perceptions they have and the premises in which they believe. And, to some extent, in their order of priority. For instance, the overwhelming majority of people do not want drugs and human trafficking coming in from our Southern border, just as they do not want our planet to be destroyed by climate change. Yet they differ in terms of which is the more imminent danger.

      To put it even yet another way: if I agreed with the Trump-bashers’ perception of Donald Trump, I’d never support him either! And for those who would respond: “but how can you not? Are you blind to the obvious truth?” I could very well same the same thing in return.

      I hope that as the 2020 election approaches, folks of all political persuasions will not say, judgmentally and condescendingly: “I can’t believe you’re voting for __________!!!” but instead will patiently, sincerely, and open-mindedly ask: “why are you voting for ___________?”

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