Donald Trump Is Not A People Person
By Wayne Maye
June 12, 2020
In 1995, President Bill Clinton consoled the families of those who lost loved ones in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19; President George W. Bush rallied a shocked and stunned nation days after the September 11 attacks, an emotional President Obama shed tears during a press conference days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School where most of the victims were children. A united nation looks to its President for leadership in tough times and consistent guidance in quiet times; society wants the assurance that "everything will be alright," but also wants their President to show empathy and sympathy in times where those emotions are required, not optional. Although I have been following politics since September 11, 2001, it was the unfortunate results of the 2016 Presidential election that not only caused me to follow all aspects of politics more closely than in the past; it motivated me to pursue a career in politics with aspirations of running for state and federal office once I complete the academic part of my journey. But this will not be about my future in politics. This will be about the current individual occupying the White House and the aspects of public perception. This piece will serve as a reflection, in no order, explaining why Donald J. Trump is not a "people person" and why that will never change. (See if you notice a clear pattern as you read.)
In any other presidency, a pandemic of this magnitude would be a continuous priority of that President and his/her administration; however, this is the Trump administration we're talking about, where the priorities in place have never focused on what's best for the American people. Warnings from the out-going Obama administration were ignored (no surprise there), the irresponsible decision to close the National Security Council (NSC) flew under the proverbial radar, all leading to the most consequential early months of 2020. Two things continue to stick out like a sore thumb for me: 1) Trump saying at what would turn out to be one of his last rallies for a while, "this is their (the Democrats) new hoax," and 2) his March 6 visit at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, GA. It was clear at this point which route Trump would go by taking such a dismissive tone concerning what would turn out to be a pandemic. Courtesy of Edward Luce's article in the Financial Times, "Inside Trump's coronavirus meltdown," Trump's 47-minute interaction with the press included some of his "greatest hits," comprised of "dismissing CNN as fake news," "boasting about his Fox News viewership (which may or may not have dwindled as you read this)," "cited the US stock market's highs (as of March 2020)," referred to Washington state Democratic Governor Jay Inslee as a "snake," and admitted, "he hadn't known that large numbers of people could die from ordinary flu." The level of incompetence and disinterest on display for the world to see was highly noticeable, which also produced some of the most combative, lie-laced press briefings in history. These briefings would hit the lowest of lows during a now-infamous scene where he tried to recommend the human injection of bleach/disinfectant as a ridiculous way to cure the coronavirus. Some decided to write this off as him joking or "his words being taken out of context," but the false sincerity in his tone showed he was serious and why Ms. Deborah Birx did not immediately correct and challenge him on the spot is something I and others still cannot explain. Imagine if those who worship him decided to load up a cup or glass with bleach and drink it as if it was a regular glass of water. Unprecedented cannot even begin to describe this behavior, and thankfully, there were no reports of a mass human consumption of bleach in the United States. And when legit disinfectant companies have to come out and make statements essentially saying to not listen to the President of the United States in a case like this, you know something is wrong.
September 20, 2017 saw a category four hurricane in the form of Maria hit Puerto Rico, with such devastation that they are still recovering from 2 ½ years later. To this day, words can't express the shape the territory was in when the hurricane was over. Now, in situations like this, a president would make sure all the necessary agencies, particularly the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), are equipped and ready to assist those in need and Congress is prepared to initiate aid; however, it was clear during all of the coverage that Trump's priorities were elsewhere. As noted by a September 29, 2017 article in the Washington Post, Trump "lashed out on social media," "blamed the island's financial woes and ailing infrastructure for the difficult recovery process." In total contrast to what was happening on the ground, he "declared that efforts to provide food, water, and medical care were doing well." This is typical Trump behavior: lashing out, blaming others, and presenting a narrative that is the precise opposite of reality. Another typical Trump antic is blaming those in leadership, in this case, San Juan's mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, saying she had "poor leadership ability" via a tweet, of course. Oh, and who can forget another infamous happening that turned out to be an "epic fail." To show that he was helping the Puerto Rican people, he threw rolls of paper towels into a crowd. It remains one of the most insensitive things I have ever seen. Imagine experiencing a dangerous natural disaster, only to be told that your territory doesn't matter as much as others, being blamed in the process for what's taking place and your citizens being on the receiving end of incoming paper towels as a showing of "assistance."
A fire of any kind can take a devastating toll on a family, no matter their race, income level, marital status or actual location; however, when wildfires take place, most commonly in the state of California, the level of devastation is even more widespread, no pun intended. In November 2018, the northern part of the state was, unfortunately, subject to another brutal wave of wildfires, and according to an NBC News article, "at least 25 people were killed as fires burned more than 83,000 acres and leveling at least 177 homes." Now, in a difficult situation like this, one immediate thing that should come from a responsible president and his/her administration is: "My administration is following the unfortunate wildfires in the state of California. Rest assured that the nation is with you, and you will be provided with all of the assistance needed to get through this." Well, as mentioned, empathy and sympathy were never part of Trump's playbook as President. Not surprisingly, via tweet no less, he mostly blamed California for "poor management" and threatened to cut off federal aid. So the wildfires were their fault? Oh yeah, that's right, California was one of many states that went for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election as well as being a "blue state" with a Democratic governor, so this was Trump's form of petty and irresponsible "payback." Rep. Adam Schiff correctly noted that Trump's response to the California wildfires showed "how little he understands the job." Imagine your state not voting for a presidential candidate, the other candidate wins. When you are experiencing one of the worst natural disasters ever known, this person casts blame and does everything but offer assistance, plus recommending "a need to plug the rivers and clear the trees," according to Trump. Was that another joke during a time of crisis?
Voting is one of the cornerstones of our democracy; without it, freedom is pointless. As an African American man, I fully understand the importance of voting and will always recognize how my people and others fought and died for our right to vote; it's something that should be valued, protected, and never taken for granted. When I become an elected official in state and federal government, this will be one of many things I will bring out my passionate side. So, you can imagine my reaction and a host of others when Trump claimed, without a shred of evidence, that there was voter fraud before and after the 2016 presidential election. A 2017 article courtesy of factcheck.org truly broke down how Trump's claims were false and misleading to the public. He claimed:
· "millions of people voted illegally."
· That "you have people registered (to vote) in two states…….they vote twice", apparently not aware or dismissive of a 2012 Pew report that found 2.75 million people were registered in more than one state, with four members of his cabinet or staff being part of that list, plus no evidence of anyone voting twice
· That "if you look at it they (fraudulent voters) all voted for Hillary" and no one to this day is sure where he got those numbers from
· That "if dead people are registered to vote and voting, which they do," which were sporadic cases
I am all but certain that there are countless absurd claims made by Trump regarding voter fraud. His claims lead to the creation of a now-defunct "voting integrity commission" led by Vice President Mike Pence and then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, which did not find any instances of widespread voter fraud, not one. More recently, he claimed, without evidence that Nevada and Michigan, which happens to be two swing states with Democratic governors, were "planning to send out illegal vote by mail ballots," along with the threat (again) to withhold funding, which he legally cannot do. As noted in a May 20, 2020 article by David A. Graham in the Atlantic, the stated purpose here, via a memo, was to "secretly and illegally cut off all federal funding to two key swing states, with the goal of rigging turnout in favor of the president's party in the 2020 election." Imagine an incoming president who continuously complained about fraud, even after an election that he/she won and will stop at nothing to manipulate and mislead the public into thinking that the Democrats perpetrate something like voter fraud, but behind closed doors, it's done all to help his side.
It still boggles my mind that Trump and those in the GOP campaigned on the promise to "repeal and replace Obamacare," and of course not having anything resembling a replacement on the books. I will not rehash the history of the GOP's obsession with dismantling one of the signature domestic achievements of former president Barack Obama. Still, the mere thought of kicking millions of people of their health insurance, and again without a replacement, should be of the gravest concern to everyone. Paul Kane put it best in his May 16, 2020 Washington Post article, "now faced with a viral pandemic that has driven more than (at the time) 36 million workers to file unemployment claims in eight weeks, Republicans find themselves heading into an election season still lacking any health plan." I and others have long came to the conclusion that 1) the Republicans never had a replacement, and 2) Trump never had an alternative, and his push to "repeal and replace" was another action taken to stick it to Obama. As of this writing, the entire issue will likely come down to a historic Supreme Court decision that will determine the constitutional fate of the Affordable Care Act. Imagine a president of any party, willing to throw millions of people of their health insurance (including many who may have voted for him/her), with no plan to succeed the current law or even attempt to improve it, all to stick it to their predecessor.
Another thing that boggles my mind is when a president or any elected official wants to cut the funding of programs that helps people in need, sometimes drastically. There is never a good time to decrease the funding of programs that help low-income families; it is also worse when the attempt is made either during a supposed strong economy and a pandemic. A July 23, 2019 CBS News article highlighted the administration's views on this type of assistance. An ignorant claim made, from the Republican side, was that "many of its beneficiaries don't need such assistance given the strong economy," but "states have misused this flexibility without restraint," said Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. For the record, the "loophole" Perdue was referring to was "43 states allowing families who qualify for the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program (also known as TANF) to receive food-stamp benefits automatically." The rationale for wanting to decrease this funding is bad enough, but how do they know "beneficiaries don't need such assistance" and a lack of restraint on behalf of the states? Is there any evidence to support any of this, specifically regarding the states? Have they talked to any constituents about their financial situation(s)? Most likely not, but it is another shameful move on a list of them during this "Trump era." And speaking of outrageous, that describes this same behavior during a pandemic. Another CBS News article noted that even during the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, the administration still wanted to cut food stamps, citing the Department of Agriculture's appealing of a court ruling that blocked imposing additional work requirements to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) on poor adults without children. The positive aspect here is that Congress still expanded benefits via the stimulus bills passed earlier this year, including $16 billion in additional funding for SNAP, but imagine a group of individuals wanting to cut food stamps, which would directly affect millions of low-income Americans because this same group assumes they don't need such assistance
On June 15, 2012, President Obama announced and signed via executive order the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, intended to help those individuals brought to the United States as children (yes, illegally, but you don't blame the child). The constitutionality of the law has been discussed and debated in the annals of government for quite some time, including Trump's first attorney general Jeff Sessions (remember him) claiming "the Department of Justice cannot defend this overreach." You see, when a Republican is President, apparently there is no such thing as overreach, however, if the President is a Democrat, everything is overreach. Amazing. In an ABC News article discussing the court case stemming from Trump's decision to end the program, the federal appeals court ruled, "the Trump administration acted in an 'arbitrary and capricious' manner when it sought to end an Obama-era program that shields young immigrants from deportation." It is no surprise that this decision was appealed (like most court decisions that rightfully challenge this administration), and as of this writing, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case in the summer of 2020. Imagine you, as a child, came to this country through no fault of your own, likely because your parent(s) wanted a better life. Still, others are chomping at the bit to see you deported because of a false narrative surrounding your family's race and status.
We heard the excuses given by Trump and his allies (I refer to them as worshipers) leading up to the 2016 presidential election and even several months after the fact: "I'm under audit." This was the lame excuse Trump gave any time when asked about presenting his tax returns, breaking with the tradition that every President has participated in dating as far back as Richard Nixon. There are two notable points here: 1) The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stated Trump would be permitted to release his returns even while under audit, and 2) Kellyanne Conway would later make it a non-issue, ridiculously claiming that Trump's election meant he didn't have to show anything. No matter what the excuse was, it is clear to anyone with an observant eye that Trump has something to hide; otherwise, he would have presented them by now. This is another case that the Supreme Court is expected to rule on, which will likely determine the overall credibility of the judicial branch and the oversight powers of the legislative branch. Think about this for a second: Obama was seemingly pressured to show his birth certificate, primarily due to the racist and nonsensical ramblings of Trump; he complied and called Trump out on it, which I'll always say was the moment Trump decided to run for President. Trump has been called on repeatedly to show his tax returns, and he still refuses to comply. Furthermore, imagine what the response would be from Trump, the right-wing, Fox News, and the GOP members of Congress if Obama or any Democratic president refused to show their tax returns. Need I say more?
One of the main priorities of any administration is the protection of the environment. Well, the Trump administration has preferences, and it is the opposite of protecting the environment that directly affects the American people. The New York Times compiled an extensive list, which still receives updates, titled "The Trump Administration Is Reversing 100 Environmental Rules." The introductory sentence noted that "after three years in office, the Trump administration has dismantled most of the major climate and environmental policies the president promised to undo." For those concerned about any aspects of the environment, those promises made by Trump and this list should be alarming; however, they were cheered without any additional, credible context provided. One noteworthy example from the list was #11, "weakened oversight of some state plans for reducing air pollution in national parks." Americans love parks, right? So, would we be more or less likely to visit any park where air pollution is present? How can this possibly be for the good of the environment? Is destroying the environment worth sticking it to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton?
LA DAVID JOHNSON
I want to start this section by sending my condolences to the family of La David Johnson. With the rapid pace of news, even in October 2017, we seemingly just moved on after his death. As you read on, you will notice why I decided to focus on Mr. Johnson as opposed to titling the section "Military Families." Losing a son, daughter or any relative in the military can be a traumatic experience for obvious reasons. However, one thing a president is tasked with is consoling the families of those who were lost in battle and ensuring constant, consistent support. Leave it to Mr. Trump to bungle this opportunity like so many others. The Atlantic's David A. Graham explained this in a simple yet effective form in his October 18, 2017 article, stating "he botched the call badly enough that he left Johnson's widow in tears and his mother feeling disrespected," following that up with, "the president cannot be both the foremost patriot and the utmost consoler while at the same time dragging his feet on calls and angering military families." Although Trump denied the widow's and Rep. Frederica Wilson's accounts of the call, it was no surprise how he acted during the call, even down to not remembering Mr. Johnson's name and saying "he knew what he signed up for." And remember the ridiculous press conference then-chief of staff John Kelly gave trying to call out Ms. Wilson and making false claims in the process? The less said about it, the better. Imagine losing a loved one in the military, and the one person who could make all the difference in terms of elected leadership fails to console you.
I recall a few people saying that Charlottesville was the defining moment of Trump's presidency, and even though there have been other instances since August 2017 that may have eclipsed this in terms of impact, I still tend to agree. This was also in my state of Virginia, resulting in more personal feelings on what took place that day. I remember waking up on the morning of Saturday, August 12, 2017, and turning on CNN, seeing the clash that culminated in the "Unite the Right" rally. I also remember sitting at my laptop that day, not only shaking my head at what I was seeing but asking myself, "are we in 2017 or 1967?" I later texted my mom and said, "what a sad day in America mom," and she replied, "I know son." I still fail to understand how the planned removal of confederate statues affects so many people, especially those outside of Virginia; I mean, to put it bluntly, "what is it to you?" Before then-governor Terry McAuliffe would make a statement, I still had my TV on CNN, watching a broadcast hosted by Ana Cabrera. I want to say the panel consisted of three or four people, including Mrs. Cabrera, and what stunned but not surprised me was one of the panelists, an obvious Trump worshiper, was already trying to defend the behavior of the white nationalists. And of course, in appalling instances like this, the next question we are tempted to ask: Where is the President? Well, we certainly got him that day. In comments that are still mentioned to this day and prompted presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to run for President, Trump tried to equate the counter-protestors with the white supremacists, infamously saying "there were good people on both sides." This very comment told us all we needed to know regarding Trump's viewpoint on the matter, which was fully confirmed during a press conference days later at Trump Tower; it was also one of the first instances of a country looking to the President for leadership and not getting it. CNN's Chris Cillizza summed this up perfectly when he said, "what Trump is doing here is pre-emptively absolving himself of (the) blame for creating a political climate in the country in which people like these 'Unite the Right' demonstrators feel emboldened enough to rally in public." There was also one person killed during the rally (RIP Heather Heyer), and again, it was not surprising when it was reported that Trump did not contact Ms. Heyer's mother, nor was he invited to the funeral. With hindsight being 20/20, maybe not attending the funeral was a smart decision; the last thing a grieving public needed was the focus to turn to Trump and "how he was going to behave," which has sadly happened. It is not about him.
KIDS IN CAGES
Fear-mongering is one sure-fire way to motivate people to vote in specific ways, even if it is against their own best interests; it also motivates people when you cast another group of people as evil, thugs, rapists, bringing crime, etc. Trump's policies are nothing short of insulting for the lack of a better word. We can also add insensitive, immoral, and unethical to the list when we reflect on his policy to separate kids from their families, which then led to kids being placed in cages. Insensitive is also a keyword when worshipers of Trump would defend the practice by saying something along the lines of, "well, they shouldn't come here illegally" or "they shouldn't have broken the law." Never mind the fact they are trying to escape the horrible living conditions present in their countries. As part of her written testimony on July 11, 2019, before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, senior researcher Clara Long described in-depth the treatment at the border, focusing on the inhumane conditions at the border, lack of adult caregivers, hygiene and health conditions, lengths of stay, inadequate efforts to release and reunite children and the separation from family members. She also presented recommendations that should be taken up via legislation, stating that "Congress should write child rights protections into law and provide proper oversight." This hasn't been in the news as much due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the civil/social unrest in the country. Additional focus should be placed on what's happening at the border, along with congressional action that would prohibit such practices in the future.
To say that labeling the press as "the enemy of the people" is dangerous is quite the understatement, and this point has been made literally since Trump first uttered these words, especially with complete indifference, ignorance and/or disregard of the FIRST amendment. To be fair to Trump in the smallest sense of the word, he has, at best, a love/hate relationship with the media. If the coverage is favorable to him, he's ecstatic; if the coverage is unfavorable to him, he lashes out in a child-like fashion never seen in a president. Two instances that come to mind both involve the respected Jim Acosta at CNN. Remember the January 11, 2017 press conference where Trump, still the president-elect at that point, shouted down Acosta, not allowing him to ask his question while calling him "fake news?" It was one of the more tense exchanges for an incoming president you'll ever see. The second one may be forgotten, but spoke volumes at the time it happened: During a November 7, 2018 press conference, amid calling Acosta "a very rude person" and chastising him for how he treated then-Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (and others), a White House staffer attempted to take his microphone away, which was unheard of and unprecedented for all the wrong reasons, a clear case of trying to censor the media. I will never forget the image of the staffer trying to take his microphone. You'll notice Trump resorts to name-calling when he's not getting his way and when he's being challenged, which brings us to women journalists. Molly Jong-Fast's April 22, 2020 article in Daily Beast started accurately quoted, "maybe the former reality-tv host feels a little threatened by tough women who don't follow the script the way women should?" The article goes on to mention notable examples of his exchanges with CBS News' Weijia Jiang, PBS' Yamiche Alcindor, as well as the reason why he is/was rude to reporters: to excite and delight his base. There are many more examples, such as his interactions with April Ryan and other women of color. If you find insulting reporters to be some form of entertainment, that says a lot, and I'm not even trying to be judgmental when I say that. Part of the media's job is to hold elected officials, especially the President accountable, and if you're indifferent to that, you're in the wrong profession.
I wonder what Joe Scarborough and his wife Mika Brzezinski think at this point after initially supporting Trump and giving him valuable time on their platform. It's also a typical Trump tactic to embrace someone at first. Yet, when he's justifiably criticized and condemned for his behavior, as President of the United States mind you, he goes on the attack with gratuitous name-calling and indulging in the worst possible conspiracy theories in the face of strong evidence that contradicts everything he says. Case in point when Scarborough was a Republican member of Congress in Florida's 1st Congressional District, Lori Klausutis, an aide who worked for Scarborough at the time, died on July 20, 2001, due to a fatal fall in his office. Salvador Rizzo's fact-checker analysis in the Washington Post on May 12, 2020, laid out some of the most significant aspects surrounding her death, namely "authorities never suspected foul play" and "her death was not an unsolved mystery or a cold case waiting for answers" as well as the conclusion of the medical examiner. In the face of this and other overwhelming evidence, leave it to Trump to basically accuse Scarborough of murder and ignorantly suggest that the case be reopened, on Twitter of course. Although Joe and Mika addressed this on their "Morning Joe" program, you can't help but wonder how they feel off the record when they're subject to this behavior from Trump and those who worship him. A few people have mentioned that once Trump is no longer President, Scarborough should sue him for defamation of character, and I agree 100 percent.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans unemployed, a not so impressive economy, dwindling poll numbers and growing civil unrest, all of this would keep a normal president up at night and force him/her to get their collective priorities in order. But almost towards the end of this post, you'll still recognize this is Donald Trump. The man is so concerned with his image and perception that he'll put American citizens in harm's way to achieve such a goal. Clearing out a peaceful protest, complete with misuse of law enforcement, and using religion as a political tactic, all in the name of a photo op to make you appear strong to the world is the lowest of lows for this presidency, and that brings us full circle.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The failure to adequately protect the public before and during a pandemic; blaming cities and countries for circumstances beyond their control; threatening to withhold federal funds when you have no authority to do so; falsely claiming the first African American President wasn't born in the United States; falsely claiming mass voter fraud; making a promise to repeal a popular yet flawed health care law with no plan to replace it; the desire to cut food stamps, even amid a pandemic; refusal to show your tax returns; the desire to deport thousands of "dreamers" who were brought here through no fault of their own; falsely accusing someone of murder; implementing policies that'll harm the environment; equating counter-protesters' actions with those of neo-Nazis; clearing a peaceful protest with assistance from law enforcement; politicizing religion and the military; referring to the press as "the enemy of the people,"; doubling down on separating children from their families, and the failure to console grieving families all makes the title of this piece very clear: Donald Trump is NOT a people person. Outside of people deemed necessary, I do not think I've ever seen Trump interact with any private citizen, especially at his rallies. They may think his over the top performances are due to an enthusiasm for the people; in fact, he's doing just that, performing, giving the public impression that he's a "man of the people," but when the lights and microphones are off, he likely harbors disdain for those same people who would probably be shocked to learn that….. and would probably still support him anyway to "own the libs." Make no mistake about it, if you're not a "people person," you should not be President of the United States.
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Suderman, A. (2019, May 17). Federal appeals court rules against Trump on ending DACA. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/federal-appeals-court-rules-trump-ending-daca-63104250