President Donald Trump likes to brag that his best decision have come from his gut. Unfortunately, bile too often replaced brains, something painfully apparent in the results.
In the weeks since the election he has been waging a bitter but losing battle to hold on to a job he doesn’t really like. Of course, he likes the power, the prestige, the praise and the perks – but not the job if you define that as governing the nation.
The only real success has been raising over $150 million with a massive campaign of misleading appeals to wage his baseless battle to overturn the election. Most of the money isn’t actually going to legal fees but for Trump to use for his own post-presidential political activities.
Trump takes pride in not reading briefing papers from intelligence, defense and other top officials; he gets more advice, he’s said, from Fox & Friends than from the real experts. And he often hires some of those talking heads and puts them in top government jobs.
“I have a gut and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me,” he insists. The trouble with that is he believes it. It has led him to fire or force out the “adults” of yesteryear (2017) and replace them with cordons of sycophantic acolytes who will do his bidding and not burden him with bad news, facts or anything else he doesn’t want to hear.
President-elect Joe Biden approaches the office from another, higher part of his anatomy. Actually, two body parts – the heart with a compassion missing from the White House for the past four years, and a head with the knowledge and intellect for the job and a genuine desire to govern. He has the experience and doesn’t feel threatened by those who understand how government works and want to make it work – those Trump and the know-nothings dismiss as the “deep state.”
I don’t dismiss the value of Trump’s gut. While it was harmful for a deeply divided nation mired in the worst health crisis in a century and put the country at odds with many of its closest allies, it often served Trump the self-focused man well.
In his gut he knows, correctly that the media will pay more attention to a showman than a politician; the more outrageous the more attention. And the more he vilifies the media, the more his base loves it and the more media attention he gets and the less credibility – regardless how accurate – the press has.
He is the most skilled demagogic practitioner of the big lie since Joe McCarthy and a far more compelling performer. His gut told him the public was weary of the pandemic and he told them what they wanted to hear, however untrue and damaging — that they should go back to work, send their kids to school, demand “normalization” and the lifting of health restrictions. And to attend his rallies, where he basked in the glory of the crowds and became a superspreader of the disease.
He himself, his wife and son, senior staff, cabinet members, friends and others who attended his mask-free celebrations – and more are planned for this month’s holidays — became infected, as well as more than 130 Secret Service personnel whose job it is to protect the superspreader-in-chief.
Biden won the presidency by more than 6 million more popular votes; he got the same number of electoral votes that Trump won by four years ago and labeled his “massive landslide victory.”
Trump is making a furious and futile effort to deny this defeat, leveling absurd charges of voter fraud, to the surprise of no one who’s heard him insist for years that the only way he could lose an election would be if it were stolen. That’s why he tweeted that he “terminated” Chris Krebs, the government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency director this week for great sin of declaring the Nov. 3 election “the most secure in American history.”
Trump and the truth are rarely on speaking terms.
Biden is not the compelling speaker that Trump is. He has sought the office for decades, often stumbling over his own gaffes, and after a slow start finally hit his stride and is on his way to the White House despite Trump’s desperate efforts to avoid eviction.
Biden won’t be perfect or perhaps even a great president, but he will look that way compared to Trump. That is an easy act to follow if you’re looking for competence, empathy, integrity. Many people think Barack Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 not for any great achievement in diplomacy but simply for not being George W. Bush.
The 46th president will be buffeted from right and left. Trump will go full-Trump in his attacks and revenge. Many may rightly dismiss that as sour grapes, but the real problem will come from the Republican-led Senate. GOP leader Mitch McConnell can be expected to continue self-described role as the Grim Reaper whose desk is where Democratic legislation goes to die. It is a safe bet he will try to replicate his mission to make the first African American president a failure by visiting that fate on his white vice president.
From the other direction, Biden will be trying to navigate between the center-left Democratic establishment, where grew spent most of his career and the growing younger and increasingly demanding and vocal progressive wing of his party who will be pressing him to move farther and faster than he is inclined to go.
After four years of an inexperienced reality TV performer and much-bankrupt businessman, voters decided to go with an experienced politician unafraid to publish his tax returns.
One truth Trump will have to face after January 20 is a whole lot of legal problems, and for his sake he hopefully will have the smarts to hire a real lawyer and not Rudy Giuliani, whose greatest contribution to the lame duck president has been assuring his humiliation and impeachment.
In America’s body politic, Trump’s gut ultimately made his presidency a historic failure. It remains to be seen whether Biden’s heart and brain can make him a success.