Marie Antoinette had nothing on Trump, who flew to Florida and hit the links after pardoning cronies and upending a desperately needed COVID relief deal.
Most of America likely is not surprised by President Donald Trumpâ€™s post-election descent into ever deeper chaos, negligence and callous self-absorption. But that won’t make it any easier to get through the next three weeks and change.
Even thoughÂ deliverance is close, the anxiety of bracing for what will happen next is ever-present. When it does happen, it is always a blow. ItÂ isÂ always a shock, still, andÂ it’s not because we haven’t beenÂ paying attention. We have, all too much. And frankly itâ€™s a relief that so many of us continue to be so shocked.
It should never be shrugged off when a commander in chief offers pardons and clemency toÂ convictedÂ war criminals and white collar criminals, cronies and allies and crooksÂ with friends in high places.Â Especially when so many people are in prison due to old laws and requirements that have been overtaken by advances in brain science or new thinking onÂ drug offenses, and that in some cases have been changed by states butÂ not made retroactive.Â Especially when so many of those in prison are people of color.
US COVID response aÂ tragic failure
It should never be shrugged off when a president flies to his luxury Florida golf club to hit the linksÂ after single-handedly upending months of painful negotiations for COVID relief. Marie Antoinette had nothing on Trump. Donâ€™t be fooled by his post-game insistence on $2,000 checks in every pot. He had months to make that demand and persuade Republicans it was non-negotiable. Instead he made his move in a video three days before ChristmasÂ and two days after Congress finally agreed onÂ a deal. This holiday season is now a time of fear and desperation for millions who are facing hunger, eviction and the end of unemployment benefits.
It should never be shrugged off when the leader of a great nation abandonsÂ his people in a pandemic, leaving them to disease and death and turning his brilliant, wealthy country into a global role model for failure. From testing, contact tracing and identifying mutations of the coronavirus, to shortages of personal protective equipment and inadequate,Â belated and sometimes non-existent economic aid, the U.S. COVID response has beenÂ a rolling tragedy of mistakes, inaction, confusion, false starts, false information, propaganda,Â lies, and disrespect for science.
It should never be shrugged off when an entireÂ political party betrays an entire country. Republicans elected and then keptÂ in office a president they knew from the start was incapable of handling an emergency, protecting the general welfare of his fellow citizens, using his vast powers judiciously and nobly, or simplyÂ meeting a bareÂ minimum standard of ethical behavior.Â
At the same time, if there were doubts about whether American democracyÂ could withstand the stress test of a dishonest leader determined to scorch the earth on his way out of office, they have faded. We willÂ keep our republic, at least for now.
But that doesnâ€™t dull the capacity to be terrified with each new Trump assault or tweet. We shouldÂ never shrug off a president who spreads lies about votes and elections and has badgered the courtsÂ for weeks with futile attempts to overturn a free and fair election that he lost.Â
Waiting for truth and competence
To say America expects a lot of President-elect Joe Biden is to state the obvious, and so is saying we must keep our hopes in check. Who couldÂ write fast enough to list all that must be fixed, everywhere in government, and in what order, much less carry out the repairs?Â Thatâ€™s true of the pandemic alone, before even considering the urgent needs of the economy, the environment, international relations, racial inequities, immigration, the rule of law, American ideals, and the nuts-and-bolts damage Trump has inflicted on federal agencies from A to Z.
As competence and honesty make a comeback, one can only hope that America will notice, and will never let a TrumpÂ happen again.
Until then, we are all Bart Simpson at the blackboard, writing over and over: â€œThe arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Jill Lawrence is the commentary editor of USA TODAY and author ofÂ “The Art of the Political Deal:Â How Congress Beat the Odds and Broke Through Gridlock.”Â Follow her on Twitter:Â @JillDLawrence
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