Trump's Superpowers: Destroying Truth, Careers and Reputations
Millions of employees were on the Trump team beginning in 2017, whether they liked it or not. He appointed a couple of thousand, by definition, Trumpers. The rest of the federal government had to salute and carry on, retire or just quit. Most were faithful government workers, dedicated to public service and the Constitution—and stayed under the radar. Some became either quick casualties or lingered on and became later victims. Others were Trump loyalists, lost their reputations and still got fired after being vilified by Trump. The more obnoxious they were, the more likely tv and book contracts would follow. The closest I can come to historically is Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina. His claim to fame was "canning" (that is, hitting him in the back of the head with a cane, then continuing to cane him, almost to death) Senator Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts abolitionist, in 1856. Brooks became a southern hero (and made the history books) for this despicable act.
Some crossed Trump doing their job, and either lost their own jobs or were severely hassled. The worst case before January 6, involving Ukraine, got Trump impeached and most people saw multiple federal workers testifying about doing their jobs heroically, despite super-Trump tirades.
Then what I consider really strange cases. Rudy Giuliani once had a reputation as a great American, serving both as US Attorney and Mayor of New York. Then he joined the Trump legal team. As far as I know, he was still a Trump functionary when Trump flew off to Florida. Somehow under Trump’s superpower he totally lost his reputation and perhaps his sanity. Late nigh comics did not have to parody him, just show his actual behavior.
James Comey was FBI Director. He reported personal information on Hilary Clinton’s emails when she was running for president, possibly the difference between her victory and Trump’s. Protocol was to report to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, not disclose his position to the public. I suppose he considered himself a boy scout, but his just seems an ethical violation. Of course, he was fired by Trump and took flack from both Trumpers and anti-Trumpers.
The Covid-19 response was pathetic, which has been true of most countries. There have been enough success stories to claim correct public health policies exist. My interest here are the scientists involved and how they interacted with Trump. Anthony Fauci seemed the most successful, maintaining his position as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and, at 80 years old, willing to put up with Trump and correct him when in a position to do so. He was a persona non grata as a Trump spokesman for much of the last year. Dr. Fauci became a hero to many. Deborah Birx continued to serve as the coronavirus response coordinator, but her reputation did not fare that well. I believe she stated the science correctly when given the opportunity, but I don’t recall her correcting Trump, even at his most egregious. Although it took a real toll on her and her family, it still seemed a dereliction of duty. I can sympathize with her for not being outspoken, but we’re talking about Trump and his superpower to kill both truth and reputations—and, in this case, people.
Even more outrageous are the politicians selling their souls to support Trump using misinformation, hypocrisy, back-stabbing and lies. One result was the attack on Congress on January 6. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Lindsey Graham head this infamous list, plus a few new members. Even Mitch McConnell backed off at the point of sedition (a rule bender rather than a rule breaker according to Tom Friedman). Half the Republicans in Congress did not even meet this McConnell test. McConnell backed off and again seems in the Trump camp.
The Gordian Knot was an Ancient World legend for an unsolvable problem, how to untie a tangled knot. When faced with this dilemma, Alexander the Great drew his sword and sliced it in half with a single swing. It was said that Alexander managed to do other stuff after that. As part of his superpower, Trump seemed to have left a warehouse full of Trumpian Knots.
Trump did his best to destroy as much of the executive branch as possible, to put up as many roadblocks to Biden’s path as possible. Trump left as many allies in place as possible. Biden fired some immediately, others he seems stuck with for a while. There seem to be smoldering fires and mine fields throughout most executive departments and agencies—like the allies liberating Naples during the Second World War. Plus, a pandemic at its low point and a vaccine rollout that seemed incoherent and without transparency.
Trump then made it as difficult as possible for the Republican Party to function as anything other than obstructionist and hypocritical as possible. His staunchest allies like Cruz, Hawley, and Graham seem totally committed to Trump and his superpower. Trump picked up new allies in Congress like Marjorie Taylor Greene and sundry QAnon supporters. Other Republicans demonstrated conservative principles, like Mitt Romney, and various state-level republicans in Georgia and Arizona. So far, their rewards are being censured, death threats and cries of “traitor” when in airports or other public settings. Trump claims he will lead a vast vendetta against any and all who opposed him even a little—even Mike Pence, apparently homeless after eight years in public housing.
Who will end up as Republican heroes in the next few years is anyone’s guess—I’m talking here about the main street media and history, not Fox News. Trump loyalist may get reelected in landslides, wind up with lucrative contracts on Fox or other news networks, and/or write best-selling books. Ditto, Trump opponents standing up for conservative principles. Early on, the shock of January 6 is fading and Trump seems to be gaining power (like Voldemort?).
One surprising thing was the lack of Trump pardons for the rioters at the Capitol. Most likely, at least the worst of these will face significant slammer time. This might put a damper on future riots, government takeover attempts and sundry mob behavior across the country. Perhaps there will be movements toward compromise and reduced partisanship. Probabilities are not that great, so increasing the FBI budget against domestic terrorism seems a good idea.
Trump made categorical statements from the start. Truth was the first victim. His statements could be truthful, wild exaggerations, or outright lies. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker started a databased of “untruths, exaggerations and misstatements,” apparently unaware this would take a separate platoon of counters. Their final count was 30,573 for four years.
It was not just Trump. Apparently, team Trump membership required perpetual outright lies—soon dubbed “alternative facts” by Kellyanne Conway. On day 1, first press secretary Sean Spicer yelled at White House journalists for not calling Trump’s inauguration crowd the biggest ever when the cameras were on the crowd showing that it was not. Despite ruining his reputation, he was fired within a few months. Amazingly, that did not seem to affect his “popularity” with the Fox crowd. This was the trend for the next four years. Support and lie for Trump, be fired quickly or after a good while, then get insulted by Trump. Pence lasted the entire four years (granted, with almost complete loyalty and minimizing the outright lies), then insulted by Trump and having the Capitol rioters shout “hang Mike Pence.”
The avoidance of truth telling has rubbed off on seemingly the vast majority of Republican politicians in Washington—even after the January 6th riots and Trump out of office. The antics continue. I would have thought the Republican powers that be would attempt to extricate themselves from Trump after Biden was sworn in. But no. Kevin McCarthy flew to Mar-A-Lago to pay homage a week later.
Before I continue on this tirade, Dana Milbank from the Washington Post (January 30, 2021) wrote “The ‘civil war’ for the soul of the GOP is over before it began/ Trump won—again.” This continues my line of thought (and his writing is great). Milbank includes McCarthy, Greene, McConnell, Matt Gaetz campaigning against Liz Chaney, Nikki Haley back on Team Trump, and so on. I can only hope that the Biden team is successful despite lack of Republican support and voters have enough sense to vote the Trump team out of Washington. Successful Trump prosecutions also would generate a bit of satisfaction.