by Errington C. Thompson, MD –
As I sat down and watched Donald Trump’s presidential address to Congress I winced in pain as I saw both Democrats and Republicans try to absorb exactly what Donald Trump was proposing.
I am sorry, but the last five weeks have been mind-numbing. I feel like I am at the dentist’s office. But no Novocain: the dentist just started drilling. There seem to be two types of pain—one that simply hurts, and the other that is so painful it crushes your soul.
I really wanted to give Donald Trump a chance to do something. I wanted him to stop talking … please stop talking … and do something. And the first thing he did was sign an Executive Order that was so poorly written that, like Egyptologists looking at hieroglyphs, they simply looked at each other in bewilderment.
This was of course, his famous “Muslim ban” that he claimed was not a Muslim ban. (The one that Rudy Giuliani said Trump asked him to arrange so that it would ban Muslims but would not be called “a Muslim ban.”) Because the executive order reads like it was written by a third grader, high on crack, it is completely indecipherable. This is one of the main reasons why it was overturned in court, not once but twice.
A month later, Adam Purinton was thrown out of a bar in Olathe, Kansas: he was being verbally abusive to two young men. He returned a few minutes later with a firearm and shot both of them. Thankfully, only one was killed, and another man, a white man, tried to detain Adam Purinton as he tried to flee the scene. He, too, was shot and significantly injured for his bravery. The two men Purinton shot were Indian. Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani were here in the United States legally. They were educated here in the good old US of A and were engineers at a U.S. company’s office in Olathe.
According to news reports, Purinton thought that they were Muslims from Iran and told them to go back to their own country. Days later, Donald Trump denounced the shooting, but somehow, his words rang hollow. After a year of divisiveness and hate, in which Donald Trump called Mexicans rapists and said that Muslims were too dangerous to be let into the country—and after observing Holocaust Remembrance Day without even mentioning Jews—it is hard to believe Donald Trump actually “stand(s) united in condemning hate and evil.”
How many times have you heard Donald Trump state that he was going to “repeal and replace” Obamacare? I feel like I hear it when I turn on the radio in the morning and when I turn off the TV at night. Last night there was this huge thunderstorm that came through town and I could have sworn I heard a crack of thunder say, “repeal and replace.”
As soon as he got into office, he signed an executive order telling folks in the executive branch to find ways to undermine Obamacare. Then, out of nowhere, last week, Donald Trump said that healthcare is complicated. Speaking to a gathering of state governors, he said that reforming Obamacare is “an unbelievable complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Really? This guy has been talking about how bad Obamacare has been for over two years yet he had no idea that healthcare was complex? Can our president really be that clueless?
HBCU’s as photo op
A couple of days ago, presidents and other leaders of several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) were in Washington to meet with White House officials. First, they had wasted their time by meeting with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, whose press statement showed her to be as ignorant of history as the president is of healthcare. She apparently knows nothing of the history of black education, Jim Crow laws, or even why HBCU’s exist; I am not even sure she understands her role as the top educator in the Department of Education.
Then the educators met with officials on Capitol Hill. Among their message was that these schools are dying. They have been dying for decades. They need funding. They need resources. They need support from the government to continue fulfilling their historic, essential role in educating people who have, for two centuries, been denied equal opportunities in predominantly white education institutions.
So, suddenly, (Cue the superhero music!) Donald Trump sweeps in to save the day. An executive order is written which transfers all funding of Historically Black Colleges and Universities from the Department of Education to the White House. (I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing; I really have no idea.) Then, in typical Donald Trump fashion, there is the photo op with the President of the United States in the Oval Office. Many of the presidents of these underserved colleges wanted to talk with Donald Trump … but only seven of them were allowed to speak, for, literally, one minute each. Nobody could possibly explain the plight of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in a couple of minutes. I suppose his staff didn’t want them to outlast his attention span.
By the way, how do you propose a new budget for the nation without a Council of Economic Advisers? Donald Trump does not have a Council of Economic Advisers. He simply has not nominated one.
I know that Donald Trump always says “America First,” but what about Russia? All the questions about Russia and its possible ties to the Trump campaign keep circling around like sharks in a tank. Rex Tillerson, the new Secretary of State, is the former CEO of Exxon Mobil. He was not an inside operative in Republican circles—Trump has never met the man—but he is very well known in Russia and in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
Then there’s Paul Manafort. How did he become Trump’s campaign chairman when he really did not have any major campaign experience here in the United States? He was not one of Trump’s business partners, but he does have campaign experience and deep personal ties with pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. Then there was a property in Florida for which a Russian oligarch paid Donald Trump nearly $100 million. Trump paid only around $40 million for the property two years earlier; that’s quite a return on investment.
Oh, and let us not forget Michael Flynn, who flamed out as the National Security Advisor. He had several inappropriate phone calls with the Russian ambassador and has documented close ties with the Putin regime. All of this may mean nothing, but it looks terrible. It does not meet “the smell test.”
I did believe, have always believed, and still believe, that President Donald Trump is nothing more than a snake-oil salesman. He had name recognition. He knew how to become the most popular man in the room even when he was not the smartest man in the room. He knew how to work the media and draw constant attention to himself. He might have been an empty suit, but he knew how to make the cameras focus on that suit. He’s really great at photo ops, though not so great at policy. So what are we to do?
Our only way forward, to a brighter future, to a safe future, is to organize. We must understand the problems of the American people. We must not be distracted by diversionary tactics, or divided by internal disagreements. We must all stand together and articulate a message that resonates with middle America, and we must Vote.