It has only been 13 days and Donald Trump has already exceeded our expectations. We knew we wouldn’t like much of what he did or said. We knew we didn’t like most of his Cabinet nominees. We knew we were concerned about the nature of his inner circle of advisors. We questioned how he would resolve the mammoth questions regarding his conflicts of interest. It was clear from the beginning that there would be a learning curve at least as steep as most other new administrations have confronted. Simply put, our expectations were low and we were prepared to be confronted with political, ethical and moral challenges. However, I for one, never imagined the chaos, confrontation and alternative facts thrust upon us by this tone-deaf narcissist and his inexperienced, ideologically driven and arrogant inner circle. Never, in modern history, has a presidency generated so much dissent within hours of taking office.
To enumerate the many disconcerting events we have witnessed over the past several days would just be preaching to the choir. If you are reading this, I don’t have to tell you what has been going on. There is a good chance that you have participated in one or more of the mass demonstrations voicing your disagreement with any number of policies of this new administration. While I’m extremely concerned with what Trump has been doing, I am most troubled by what the events tell us about the new administration.
It seems that in the Trump Administration the truth is something that is not absolute. As we have recently been told there are “alternative facts”. The only way to define “alternative facts” is that they are lies. When the truth does not support an action or reaction certainly an “alternative fact” can be found to serve as justification. The obvious problem is that if the administration chooses to govern based on “alternative facts”, it will have no credibility. How can we know when it is telling us the truth? How can we trust the facts on which it bases its decisions? Over the past several days statements coming out of the White House have been demonstrably incorrect. Yet, even when confronted by the obvious truth they have doubled down and insisted that their “alternative facts” were the truth. A democracy requires the undeterred flow of information. This administration’s corrosive relationship with the press combined with its “sometimes” relationship with the truth places our democracy in danger.
The manner in which an administration makes decisions is extremely telling. It provides us with a unique insight into the president’s perception of the role of his cabinet secretaries as well as his key staff. The EO regarding immigration rolled out on Friday was such an opportunity. It has become clear that while Trump depended upon his closest advisors, he excluded his executive departments and congressional allies from this process. Those few congressional staff members who did participate were required to sign a nondisclosure agreement before they started. That means that they were prevented from sharing anything regarding this EO with either their bosses or colleagues. This secretive and exclusionary decision-making process is extraordinarily destructive and counterproductive. This is particularly true when those inhabiting Trump’s inner circle are inexperienced ideologues who are incapable of presenting the broad view or asking the pertinent questions. Most concerning is the way in which Trump has shown little tolerance for dissent. Dozens of career diplomats from the State Department who signed a letter voicing concern with the Immigration EO were told to get in line or quit. This reaction followed the firing of three top State Department administrators with many years of service. Additionally, the Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was fired along with the Acting Attorney General. So, not only is decision making kept to a small and insular group, but those who dare to differ with the administration’s decisions are vilified. To say that this severely endangers our democracy is an understatement.
When a leader tries to take control of what is considered the truth and limits his administration’s decision-making to a small and loyal group the very underpinnings of our democracy and our form of government are placed in jeopardy. Now it is up to ” we the people” to protect this nation for future generations.