by Errington C. Thompson, MD –
For the past 12 months, whenever I sit down at my computer to type out an article, I really try to avoid talking about Donald Trump.
I’ll begin writing about foreign policy, tax cuts for the rich, the environment, or anything else, and I always end up circling back to President Trump.
Trump is the black hole of politicians: Everything gets sucked in; nothing gets out. On one hand, his policies, his demeanor, and his tweets are incredibly destructive to our society. More personally, though, the more I think about Donald Trump, the more depressed I get. I feel like that cartoon character who is walking around with a rain cloud over his head. Prozac is not going to help this, but a Democratic House, Senate, and White House would change my demeanor instantly.
On August 11 and 12, we had the one-year anniversary of the terrible riots and unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia. As you recall, white supremacists held a rally to protest the removal of Confederate monuments. There was a counter-protest, and James Fields drove his car at a high rate of speed directly into the counter-protesters. He killed Heather D. Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal, and injured 17 others. Fields was later charged with second-degree murder.
Afterwards, Trump said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.”
This one statement—blaming the victims equally with the perpetrators—proved beyond question that our president would not stand up for good, for justice, for right v. wrong. He would not stand up for the rule of law. He would not call out white nationalists.
The North Atlanta Treaty Organi-zation (NATO) was formed after World War II. It grew out of the Treaty of Dunkirk signed by France and the United Kingdom. This organization was always designed to be an insurance policy: If one member of NATO was attacked, all members would come to that country’s aid.
Mostly, the organization was designed to combat the threat from the Soviet Union. Recently we had a NATO summit in which our president seemed to want to pick a fight with Germany, France, and any other NATO ally he could find.
It’s true that the United States has complained for decades that many of our allies are not chipping in enough money. George W. Bush complained. Barack Obama complained. But it was only Donald Trump and his belligerence that caused our allies to bristle.
Yet it was more than harsh words. With Donald Trump it is always more: false claims spew from his mouth like a biblical plague. He stated that NATO was going out of business because “people were not paying.” There is no data to support the claim that NATO was going out of business. In fact, just the opposite: under agreements forged by President Obama, all NATO members agreed to increase their spending to the target of 2% of their national GDPs by 2024.
Evidence for Trump’s claim? None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Yet, the fact that Donald Trump will make demonstrably false statements is telling. He is lying. He knows he is lying. We know he is lying yet he still does it. He even lies about his previous lies.
Our allies were not amused. We can only hope they stay our allies, despite Donald Trump.
Let us imagine that we lived in a time before personal computers and the Internet. If Russian operatives, burglars or bagmen, had physically invaded the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic National Congressional Committee and stolen sensitive documents, we would have been outraged. This would have been Pearl Harbor all over again. They would have invaded our soil. They would have attacked one of the pillars of our democracy. (The Russians also hacked into the Republican National Committee but they did not release those documents.)
The call for retaliation and even, possibly, war would have been resounding. We could not have launched cruise missiles fast enough. Yet, because we were attacked through cyberspace, people are looking at this a little bit differently. In fact, a lot differently. Republicans, who always say that they are hawks on national security—who spent 60 years bellowing about Russian spies, “the Red Menace,” the Soviet Union and the KGB—are blowing this off like it is no big deal. A recent poll showed over 50% of Republicans are “okay” with Russia’s help in the 2016 election. What? This is nuts!
One of the funniest things that I heard throughout the 2016 election was that Donald Trump was his own man. He was not beholden to anyone because he was a billionaire. He did need anybody’s money.
Now I think we know differently. Donald Trump is beholden to Vladimir Putin. If there was any doubt about this relationship, that was cleared up recently in a joint news conference in Helsinki, in which, Donald Trump could not lavish enough praise on Vladimir Putin.
When asked point-blank did Vladimir Putin support or want Donald Trump to win the 2016 election, Putin answered yes. It was an unequivocal answer.
When Donald Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agents about Russian interference, Donald Trump threw the CIA and the FBI under the bus. He sided with his pal Putin.
Sure, he walked these comments back a few days later, but it was too late. We saw our president bow, kneel, and kiss the ring of Vladimir Putin.
Finally, in Donald Trump’s last act of complete subservience to the Russian dictator, Donald Trump agreed to have American diplomats turned over to Russia for questioning on whether they interfered in Russian affairs. Yes, you read that right. Donald Trump agreed to have our diplomats turned over to the Kremlin for questioning.
This single act drew universal condemnation from both Republicans and Democrats. The White House could not backpedal fast enough. But again, this shows us something. I believe this shows us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Donald Trump wants something from Vladimir Putin and he is willing to do almost anything to get it. What that something is, is open to speculation. Is it money? Is it power? Is it secret knowledge? Is it the promise of a Trump tower in Russia? We do not know. But whatever it is, it is there, and Putin holds it like a knife at Donald Trump’s—and America’s—throat.
So as wildfires rage in California and Lebron James has agreed to join the LA Lakers, what can we do? I think we must speak up. We do not have to speak up with one voice, but we have to speak up.
We have to say that this type of behavior is un-American. We have to say that our elections must reflect the will of the people. One person one vote.
We have to demand progressive change. We cannot allow an ultraconservative who does not believe in a woman’s right to choose but does believe in the right of corporations to influence elections to be seated on the Supreme Court.
We need to demand investment in ourselves. We need better schools, and affordable healthcare. We need to breathe clean air. We need an updated power grid and infrastructure. We need to drive more fuel-efficient cars. We need to reclaim an America that belongs to all of us.
If we do not stand up, speak out, and vote, we deserve Donald Trump as our president.