Just an innocent bystander
“The future is in our hands. We are not hapless bystanders. We can influence whether we have a planet of peace, social justice, equity, and growth or a planet of unbridgeable differences between peoples, wasted resources, corruption, and terror.” –James Wolfensohn, businessman and activist
President Donald Trump knows he was elected president by the Electoral College. He knows (or should know) what the powers of the presidency are. But he often acts as if he has little or no control over many of the decisions he himself makes. He acts as if he is an innocent bystander in the White House, not the leader of the government.
One major example is Trump’s handling of the General Michel Flynn episode. Flynn was nominated by President Barack Obama to be director of the Defense Intelligence Agency on April 17, 2012. On April 30, 2014, Flynn was fired for his chaotic management style and his loose relationship with truth.
Before Trump’s inauguration, Obama warned Trump against hiring Flynn. Trump hired Flynn anyway as his national security advisor.
On Jan. 26, 2017, Sally Yates, former acting attorney general, warned the Trump White House that Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russians, making Flynn a serious security risk. Trump’s reaction? He fired Yates. Trump then kept Flynn on as national security advisor until firing him on Feb. 13 for lying.
On Feb. 14, Trump had dinner with former FBI Director James Comey and allegedly asked him to drop the investigation into Flynn. The next day, Trump said, “General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he has been treated very, very unfairly by the media … and I think it is really a sad thing that he was treated so badly.”
Trump sounds as if he had nothing to do with what happened to Flynn. Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI, a felony. And Trump complains about the media coverage.
To recap: Trump knew Flynn had been fired by Obama. He hired Flynn, a known security risk. He knows Flynn is a convicted felon. He finally fired Flynn. And he acts like a bemused bystander, with no control over any of these events.
Another example is Trump’s handling of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). On Feb. 16, 2017, Trump said, “We are going to deal with DACA with heart.” He called the DACA recipients “incredible kids” (Politico, 02/16/17).
In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled DACA was constitutional, so the legality of the program isn’t an issue. Each DACA recipient is carefully screened, so the character of these young people isn’t an issue. Most of them are working or in school or the military, so they are contributing to society. All Trump had to do was leave the program alone.
Yet on Sept. 5, 2017, Trump ended DACA by executive action, declaring that DACA would no longer be in force as of March 5, 2018. There was no compelling reason for this decision; Trump just decided to plunge 800,000 people’s lives into turmoil.
When Democrats came to him with immigration proposals that included money for Trump’s wall as well as restoration of the DACA program, Trump turned them down. Then he turned around and told DACA recipients that Republicans want to help them and Democrats don’t care.
Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld several lower court decisions to keep DACA active, protecting those who are in the program. But once again, Trump acts as if the events he started were outside of his control. He created this problem and now wants to blame everyone else.
The Syrian Civil War is another example. Trump has bombed Syria twice, claiming he’s protecting the Syrian people against Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s dictator. Trump calls Assad an animal for killing his own people. What would he call someone who could get at least some of these innocent victims to safety, but refuses to do so for political reasons?
Trump is blocking Syrian refugees trying to enter America. In 2016, 15,479 Syrian refugees were admitted to the U.S. In 2017, it was 3,624. In 2018, so far 11 refugees have been admitted (NPR). That’s not a typo; just 11 people who are fleeing Assad’s deadly attacks have been admitted. And Trump acts as if he is helpless to do anything about this, except drop some bombs.
Trump acts as if he has no control over the events that he orchestrated. His lack of principles is on clear display. Governing by confusion is Trump’s style, but it’s no way to run a country.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.