Before Ronald Reagan ran for President, he appeared on Johnny Carson. He hadn’t announced his candidacy publicly, preferring instead to drop a few Reaganesque bombs first, the best being “I don’t know why people trust governments. I’ve been a governor, and I wouldn’t trust any of them.”
Yet he ran and voters elected Reagan, venerated him, even called him the greatest of all presidents. Yet he made mistakes like everybody else, some worse than others, some just plain stupid. The Iran Contra deal alone was enough to hang him by his toes. It was a sloppy debacle, a silly kickback scheme turning a sleaze named Oliver North into a household name. North was a bag man with stripes. He was one of many in the Reagan administration.
History makes heroes out of fools and fools out of heroes. It turns bag men into retrievers and peanut farmers into goody-goodies. There is no middle ground. Fools outnumber heroes because they populate. Heroes fade, sometimes becoming fools. In his last days in the Oval Office, Reagan slept more than any other President in history. He’d nap at the drop of a hat.
So why do we elect fools to office? Maybe they remind us of, well, us. Donald Trump was elected 45th President of the United States on “We’ll make America great again.” America has the greatest economy in the world. So what do Americans want? To be greater than great? More powerful than powerful? What we really want is “a chicken in every pot” and we vote accordingly.
Trump promised jobs would be his number one priority, which sent marginalized right-wingers to the polls. He didn’t need facts as much as adjectives. Newt Gingrich said, “Nobody will even care until 2020 when they see whether they’ve got jobs or not.” This is a time for wait-and-see politics, and you can get away with a lot simply by holding your ground.
Despite a petition signed by over 290,000 people, Trump won’t give up his tax returns. No president in 40 years has done this but, according to his counselor, Kellyanne Conway, President Trump doesn’t have to show anything. “People don’t care,” she told ABC News. “President Trump was elected to fix issues. That’s what he’s doing.”
Every President in U.S. history has been elected to fix issues. Rarely has it excused them from showing tax returns. Trump gets a pass. He’s more interested in birth certificates, anyway, which is odd. A shady birth certificate you can blame on your parents or country of origin. Tax returns? That’s all on you, partner.
Elizabeth Warren warns this cavalier attitude will turn a nation into tax cheats, something Trump hasn’t denied. It’s the American way, afterall. Didn’t God give us opposable thumbs so we could hook them on our belts and say “I wrote my farm off as a nudist colony”?
In one of his recent tweets, after denouncing the protests and then supporting them, Trump asked “Why didn’t they vote?” That’s a fair question. Why so much guile now? The horse is out of the barn and running in circles.
The media isn’t any better. On one hand, they were exacting about the statues in his $100 million penthouse, including Apollo, Eros and Psyche and some guy caressing a woman (in Melania’s office). On the other hand, they reported the removal of Martin Luther King’s bust from the Oval Office, saying it was Winston Churchill. Could it be that all black busts look alike?
Now let’s look at who actually brought Trump into office. His largest turnout was West Virginia, a state with the worst opioid problem in the country and the highest overdose rate. Maybe Trump should hold off closing the Mexican border. Those opioids can’t all be domestically produced. If he builds a wall and repeals ObamaCare, West Virginians may have to cook their own stuff.
It’s anyone’s guess how the next four years will play out. Already there’s talk of indicting Trump, possibly for sexual assault, possibly for his fake university (Cruz and Rubio are going after him for that). You can only leave the White House so many ways. At least Melania is splitting her time between Washington and New York. In a pinch, she’ll only lose half her wardrobe if they do a runner (I’m sure Trump’s pilots know the drill and keep the tanks full).
Obama left the White House with a 60 percent approval rating. I doubt Trump will leave the same way. He’s already signed an executive order banning most abortions. If protests across the country don’t concern him, what chance is there of getting any action in the Senate — especially with most of the Democrats being sluiced out? As one reporter said, “It’s pretty much up to the Republicans to turn on each other.”
The Republicans could very well turn on Trump. Even loyal sidekicks pull in the reins out of sheer annoyance. He’s got plenty of sidekicks, some sleazier than others. No President has filled his ranks with so many billionaires, while stating in his inaugural address “We’re giving the country back to the people.” How many billionaires give anything back? It’s one of those crazy ironies that makes Trump’s administration both determined and nutty. Even “Mad Dog” Mathis, Secretary of Defense, is getting backlash over his personal enmities. The word around Washington is that “Mathis Gives Blood, But It’s Never His Own.”
As Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” and Washington is full of weird pros right now. You can call it blind ignorance, but Trump got elected on blind ignorance. Now it’s just a question of how long it takes for Washington to turn Trump from hero into fool.
If we’re still asking why it happened in the first place, it’s not him it’s us. We elect saviors and wait for the fires to mount. How long will he last? Maybe longer than we think. Trump is one of those rare individuals who feels blessed. At his inauguration, he said, “I thought the rain was going to be a problem, but it stopped when I made my speech and started up again afterwards.”
Anyone thinking that’s just a tip of the hat to God isn’t reading Trump’s signals. He’s in God’s corner, and when God gives you the wink, who knows what heights of greatness you’ll achieve. That’s if God keeps winking and the public keeps believing. We’ve been patient so far (some of us have, anyway). The next four years will tell if Trump is a hero or a fool.
God has winked, but will he blink?
Robert Cormack is a novelist, journalist, blogger and freelance copywriter. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details. Coming soon (hopefully), a collection of short stories called “Would You Mind Not Talking to Me?”