Published in The Moderate Voice on December 27, 2016
In just 25 short days, President-elect Donald Trump sheds the elect and takes office as our nation’s 45th president. With much of the transition period behind, I have a number of thoughts. I will not focus on the quality of the appointments that have been made, but rather, on my concerns with what has not been done. But I also want to address a matter equally concerning that is evidently not taking part in the transition – Mr. Trump’s temperament and his continued affinity to let loose and settle scores via twitter.
First for the appointments. Trump has yet to name an Intelligence Director and a Director of the Office of Counter Terrorism. Lisa Monaco, the outgoing Director of the latter has even publicly lamented the fact that she is more than ready to sit down with her successor – if only one would be named. This is a must. In the age in which we live, that is a real problem but, more so for a man who lacks experience in government or international affairs. It’s not the end of the world if an Agriculture or Trade Secretary isn’t in place come inauguration day. Those department have many bureaucrats and people with firsthand knowledge who can keep things running (no disrespect to the bureaucrats). But national security cannot be carried out on a tightrope. The most important responsibility of a president is to keep his fellow Americans safe. Some contend that it is “preserving, protecting, and defending” the Constitution as the oath states and of course that is the case. But without one, the other cannot exist.
Therein lies the problem of his having taken limited – if not minimal, intelligence briefings. Trump contends that the subject matter is repetitive and that his vice-president to be taking part in these briefings. That’s not enough. At the end of the day, Mike Pence is not going to be the one making the decision – Trump is. Some of those decisions will have life and death consequences. Trump is the first to admit that he is a political rookie and when a rookie is mere weeks away from being handed the Oval Office, he has to know the lay of the land.
Next, until he gets firmly situated in the Oval Office, Trump needs to put a moratorium on his tweeting. It’s not that tweeting per se by a president-elect is bad. In fact, in many cases, it’s refreshing. but setting wide-reaching policy – in some cases breaking decades of precedent and unwritten rules, in 140 characters, is not a way to introduce these policies to the world.
So far, the president-elect has set off a firestorm with a single tweet on China as well as the possible need for “a new arms race.” A President-elect can’t compose a series of tweets – even with an attempted clarification later, without major repercussions on the world-stage. I realize that Trump, by his own admission, was for the most part not expecting to win the election so, I understand old habits die hard. That’s human nature. But with the campaign having been so divisive, Trump’s first mission should be reassuring the American people that he is fully up to the job – and this tweeting from the hip is not the way to carry this out.
The bottom line: after Trump is in office for an extended period of time – six months to a year, and Americans get a taste of his governing style, then perhaps he can tweet to his hearts content. But for the first few months of his Presidency, he ought stick to more generic things such as holiday greetings or congratulating sports teams, etc.
Finally, Trump needs to stop trying to be flippant about the fact that he lost the popular vote. It exists just as prominently in the Constitution as the Electoral College – only the electoral college is what counts. One can see that bothers him a great deal but at the end of the day, it is he who is going to take the oath of office on the steps of the U.S. Capital, not Hillary Clinton. Inevitably, some will try to second-guess him and delegitimize his presidency but, like the Electoral College or not, his legitimacy as commander-in-chief is protected under the Constitution. What is being delegitimized is his attempt, by virtue of his saying that he won because he chose the right states and Hillary Clinton didn’t, is people who live in certain states. Newt Gingrich concurred saying the person with the most yards don’t always win the games. The rules are the rules but putting it in such cavalier contexts has a way of making Americans in those states seem like second-class citizens. Agree with the electoral college or not, that is clearly not what the Founding Fathers envisioned.
Oh, and one more thing. Mr. Trump doesn’t have to keep taking aim at Clinton – and Obama, if even feebly. Your former opponent has been very gracious in defeat and totally silent. Shouldn’t you reciprocate? The President, by Trump’s own repeated admission, has gone out of his way to conduct a smooth transition. Responding to his notion that he could have won a third term is an unnecessary distraction from what should be far more important priorities, particularly since Obama was speaking more generally rather than actually mentioning Trump by name.
C’mon, sir.After all, it’s the time of year when the world falls in love. If you remember that as you get ready to assume the most powerful mission, everything will turn out Trumptastic.
<em>Photo: Pete Souza [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons</em>