As the nation descends into crisis, Donald Trump is failing in every way possible. Trump screwed up the pandemic response so badly, he has left it for dead even as an alarming number of new infections are beginning to surface in Sun Belt states like Arizona, Florida, and Texas. Experts also fear the widespread protests rippling through the nation could fuel spread of the disease.
But at least sickness and death are concepts Trump can vaguely comprehend, even if he possesses absolutely none of the skills required to combat a highly transmissible and lethal virus. The conversation the nation is having in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers is simply beyond Trump’s dim powers of comprehension.
Trump is a top-down, zero-sum simpleton presiding over a country in the midst of a people-powered moment of civic unrest and social change. Americans of varying races, backgrounds, and socioeconomic status are demanding reforms to our justice system that have been left unaddressed since our nation’s founding. Rather than engage in that dialogue, Trump’s natural instinct is to meet the passionate pleas rising up from the streets with the brute force of autocratic oppression. But the result is a ham-handed photo op that will almost surely become the defining moment of Trump’s presidency.
After Attorney General Bill Barr ordered federal officers to forcibly clear peaceably assembled protesters from the park outside the White House, Trump shuffled across the street to hoist an upside-down Bible over his head in front of a church that had been given no warning it would soon become a tool of Trump’s propaganda.
The whole scene was as alarming as it was pathetically comical. Trump, assisted by the country’s top law enforcement official, physically endangered a throng of civilians exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights so that he could execute a shambolic display of his mental, emotional, and intellectual unfitness to lead.
Trump’s acts of desecration were aided not only by Barr, but also by the nation’s secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, and the military’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Mark Milley, who instead of donning a dress uniform usually worn to the White House, showed up in combat fatigues—as if he were headed for battle.
Ever since the day Trump was sworn in, he has been obsessed with coopting the might of the U.S. military in order to aggrandize himself as a muscular American president. But whatever their faults, his previous Defense secretary, retired four-star Gen. James Mattis, and Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Joseph Dunford, resisted Trump’s demands, recognizing them as the stunt of a tin-pot dictator.
No more. Milley, the highest-ranking military officer in the U.S. Armed Forces, and Esper, the civilian leader of the Pentagon, have now tarnished the military’s reputation by turning it into a tool of Trump’s resistance to the will of The People. Trump has never been a leader. He’s lived his life as a human parasite, attaching himself to other entities and sucking them dry. Winning the U.S presidency was the motherlode, and Trump has been draining the lifeblood out of America ever since.
Now that the provider of that resource, the American people, is demanding something back, Trump is in crisis. At a very basic level, Trump simply doesn’t possess the human capacity to respond to the needs of others. Thus, his obsession with “dominating” the protests and the streets, as he counseled governors to do on the day he and Barr would ultimately gas non-violent protesters for Trump’s cringey photo op.
But Trump’s incapacity to lead is now being propped up by the twin forces of both the military and civilian law enforcement. Trump and Barr’s show of violence Monday green-lit the tyranny perpetrated by local police forces against peaceful civilian protesters across the country. In fact, Barr has giddily embraced the opportunity to portray the streets of the nation’s capital as a war zone, “flooding the zone” with thousands of armed, unidentifiable forces. Equipped with the accoutrement of warriors, these troops have become a pervasive force around the district, even as it’s nearly impossible to identify which agencies they represent and under whose authority they are working. But it’s not order, it’s chaos. In effect, anyone could show up in fatigues with a firearm and claim to be part of Barr’s federal force.
In the meantime, Esper and Milley, are refusing to testify before Congress about their participation in Trump’s photo op debacle. Both men have spent the week trying to distance themselves from the episode. The fact that they won’t cooperate with congressional oversight is yet another affront to the U.S. Constitution.
For his part, Barr has tried to pin blame for the mayhem Americans are seeing on their TV screens on the leftist group antifa. But Barr has also provided zero evidence for his assertion and, in fact, a leaked FBI report found no support for the idea that antifa inspired any of the violence that rocked Washington D.C. last Sunday.
Still, Barr is avidly working to finger the people of his choosing. According to an internal memo obtained by Buzzfeed News, the Department of Justice has given the Drug Enforcement Administration authority to “conduct covert surveillance” of people participating in the protests over the killing of George Floyd.
But so far, the efforts by Trump and Barr don’t appear to be resonating with the broader public.
Support for the Black Lives Matter movement is up.
Trump’s approvals are trending down.
Trump’s electoral prospects are so dismal, in fact, his campaign is basically manufacturing skewed polls and leaking them to the press to keep Trump from having an aneurysm. The national head to heads between Trump and Joe Biden have been terrible this week, showing Biden up anywhere between 7 and 11 points, while Trump is also taking a beating in crucial swing states.
And beyond the electoral polling, Americans appear to simply believe Trump is failing to lead on the two crises roiling the nation: the coronavirus and widespread distress caused by the senseless killing of Floyd. ABC News/Ipsos polling found 60% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s response to the pandemic and 66% disapprove of his response to Floyd’s killing. NPR/Marist/PBS polling also found that 67% of Americans say Trump has “mostly increased racial tensions, including 92% of Democrats, 73% of independents, 88% of Africans Americans and 63% of whites.”
Trump is flailing disastrously. Unfortunately, the nation will continue to pay the price for his incompetence. In the coming weeks, Trump and Barr will surely double down on their efforts to wreak havoc in America because Trump can’t possibly win reelection in any normal political environment. The good news is, the retired generals of America have finally come down on the side of democracy in full force. Trump may never be able to recover from the assertion by Mattis, his own former Secretary of Defense who spent some 50 years in the service, that’s he’s a clear and present danger to the republic.