Many Republicans of principle are refusing to support the re-election of Donald Trump. Indeed, more than 70 senior officials who have served under Republican administrations signed a letter calling Trump “unfit to lead” and, along with at least 28 Republican former members of congress, have announced that they will be voting for Biden.
A separate group of onetime Republican presidential appointees who served as senior ethics or Justice Department aides are also endorsing Biden. “I think a lot of us are extremely alarmed, frankly, at the threat of autocracy,” said Donald Ayer, former Deputy Attorney General during the H.W. Bush administration. This group says their goal is to “restore basic honesty and integrity to the U.S. Department of Justice and to Executive Branch decision-making.” You can read about that here.
Despite the subservience of most current Republican office holders, a number of Trump’s own appointees have stated their opposition to him. For example, Miles Taylor, the former Chief of Staff to Secretary of Homeland Security Kristen Nielson, has described Trump as “terrifying” and “actively doing damage to our security.” Taylor expressed his view that, if re-elected, Trump will “align with dictators around the world.” Taylor too, is forming a group, from both outside and inside (anonymously) the administration. You can read about that here and/or here.
In a most unusual break from military tradition, 489 generals, admirals, and other national security officials have excoriated Trump and endorsed Biden in another letter published in September. In a video for Republican Voters Against Trump, General Michael Hayden, who was Director of the CIA and the NSA under George W. Bush, said that “President Trump doesn’t care about facts. President Trump doesn’t care about the truth.” … “I think if Trump gets another term, many alliances will be gone.” … “I absolutely disagree with some of Biden’s policies, but that’s not important. What’s important is the United States.” Then he stated the obvious: “Biden is a good man. Donald Trump is not.”
These are only the most recent defections from Trump or the Republican Party altogether. Many left the party or have railed against Trump since 2016. For example, long-time Republican and conservative columnist George Will left the party just after then House Speaker Paul Ryan endorsed Trump during the 2016 campaign. Along with many others of the so-called “never Trump” movement, Will could plainly see how Trump would sow division and ultimately weaken our country’s standing in the world. (Of course, Vladimir Putin can also see how a Trump presidency weakens the United States. That’s why he worked so hard for it in 2016, and is doing so again this year.)
For those who may wonder why so many Republicans and other people of conscience are against the re-election of Trump, they can see a few of the reasons in what follows. First, we will examine his character and fitness as a leader (and as an example to our children). Then we will have a brief look at his policies.
Of course, people often believe what they wish to believe, and no amount of contradicting evidence, new information, or rational argument can dissuade them from their preferred reality—often, an imagined reality that best accommodates their own proclivities and is reinforced by their preferred “news” sources. But that shouldn’t discourage us from our civic duty to make the case for our nation’s well-being.
Dishonorable: During his campaign for the presidency, Trump said that John McCain wasn’t really a war hero because he was captured. He has referred to American casualties of war, including McCain, as “losers” and “suckers.” Learn about John McCain’s captivity here. See what Trump really thinks of military service here.
Disloyal: Trump infamously admires despots of all sorts. His favorite, however, has always been Vladimir Putin. When Bill O’Reilly and others have pointed out that Putin often has his critics and political opponents killed, Trump has equated the casualties of war against the United States with Putin’s murders.
Amoral/Arrogant/Criminal: Trump bragged that, as “a star,” women didn’t really mind when he would “just start kissing them” and “grab ’m by the pussy.” We might imagine that such a claim was just harmless “locker-room banter.” But the testimony of more than twenty women tells us otherwise.
Immoral/Criminal: During his campaign, Trump paid off a porn star and a Playboy Playmate to keep them quiet about his affairs with them. Not reporting it was a violation of campaign finance law, for which his lawyer was imprisoned.
Foolish/Clumsy: Trump has repeatedly and recklessly exposed classified information, beginning with his infamous 2017 meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office. He told Bob Woodward (on the record) about a new secret Nuclear Weapon System that had been top secret. Now Russia and China know what to look for.
Shameless: In that same 2017 Oval Office meeting, we recently learned, Trump told the Russians that he didn’t really care that they had meddled in the election.
Racist/Amoral: Trumps comments regarding the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and his hiring of Stephen Miller (a well-documented white supremist) to oversee his immigration and refugee policies, are only two indicators among a great many that Trump’s policies are based upon a racist perception of the world.
Vindictive: Trump’s (and other Republicans’) undermining of the Affordable Care Act without a replacement has caused as many as 2.3 million Americans to lose their Health insurance. This was done, not to help people, but because they irrationally despise Obama.
Fraudulent: The Trump Foundation was shut down by the state of New York for self-dealing and other fraudulent activities. The infractions were so egregious that all members of the Trump family are now barred from sitting on the board of any charity in the state.
Gullible/Disloyal: In his infamous July, 2018 Helsinki news conference, Trump revealed that he was more inclined to believe Putin than American intelligence agencies.
Disloyal/Deceptive: Trump has repeatedly allowed no one else in the room when meeting with Putin, and even confiscated the notes of his interpreter after one meeting. We can only imagine what he is telling Putin that he doesn’t want the American people or even members of his own administration to know.
Criminal: Robert Mueller’s report offered no criminal case for the interactions of the Trump campaign with Russian contacts, but it illustrated that Trump and his associates interacted with Russians at least 140 times, and then most of them lied about it. Given Trump’s vigorous attempts to thwart the investigation, obviously he thought crimes were committed. The Mueller Report made it clear that Trump’s efforts constituted criminal obstruction of justice. Bill Barr can deny it, but more than a thousand federal prosecutors say it was criminal, and that anyone else would have been jailed for it.
Shameful: Trump is obsessed with keeping his tax returns and business dealings secret. We have to wonder what he is so very ashamed of—perhaps fraud, Russian financing?
Foolish: Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership will serve only to strengthen China’s strategic position at our expense. His withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and, more recently, the World Health Organization has significantly weakened America’s leadership role in the world.
Foolish Betrayal: Trump’s withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria, at the request of his autocratic friend, Erdogan of Turkey, was a betrayal of an American ally. It significantly damaged American credibility and, therefore, national security. Of course, it strengthened Putin, and prompted his Secretary of Defense, General Mattis, to resign.
Amoral: Trump pardoned two war criminals and restored the rank of a third, over the objections of the Pentagon and his own Defense Secretary. Trump was told that it would weaken morale within the ranks and damage American credibility around the world. But Trump saw some unprincipled bonehead on FOX News advocating for it, and that’s where he gets his shallow and fallacious understanding of the world.
Corrupt: Under Trump, SEC enforcement of insider trading has dropped to its lowest level in decades. Government contracts have regularly been awarded to friends and donors. More ambassadorships have been awarded to donors than any other president. One of them, Trump’s envoy in London passed along Trump’s request that the British Open golf tournament be moved to a Trump property. In direct violation of the Constitution, Trump has repeatedly used his office to benefit his personal business interests.
Gullible/Deluded: Trump seems to genuinely believe the government of Ukraine hacked the Democratic party server (not Russia) and also worked against him in the 2016 election. He believes this because Putin told him so, and because (as Putin well understands) Trump’s fragile ego needs to believe it.
Heartless: In addition to his expressed interest in buying Greenland, Trump asked aids about how he could sell Puerto Rico. He sees Puerto Rico in much the same light as those “shit-hole” countries from which he doesn’t want immigrants. It wouldn’t occur to him to attempt to alleviate the plight of the American citizens in Puerto Rico. He just wants to be rid of them.
Impeachable: No impartial observer could fail to recognize that Trump committed the explicitly impeachable crime of bribery when he held out a White House meeting and military aid in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into Joe Biden and into a conspiracy theory that is the product of Russian disinformation. It was a betrayal of an American ally for the personal benefit of Trump and to the strategic benefit of Putin.
Corrupt: Trump has often told us that he hires only the “very best people.” His first campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was charged with 18 crimes, including 5 falsification of tax returns, 9 counts of bank fraud or bank fraud conspiracy, money laundering, failure to register as a foreign agent, and conspiracy against the United States. Trump’s deputy campaign chairman under both Manafort and Steve Bannon, Rick Gates, was charged with money laundering, failure to register as a foreign agent, lying to the F.B.I., and conspiracy against the United States. Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security advisor, was charged and pled guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about his discussions with Russians to assure them that Trump didn’t care about their interference in the election, and that Trump would reverse the sanctions that Obama had imposed. (Something Trump personally told them after he took office.) Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-time personal lawyer, received a 3-year sentence for tax evasion, bank fraud, lying to Congress (about Trump’s efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, while saying he had no dealings and was working on no deals with Russia), and campaign finance violations—violations that Trump had instructed to cover for his affairs with porn actresses. Long-time Trump friend Roger Stone was convicted of crimes that include obstruction of justice, lying to Congress, and witness tampering. Trump’s second campaign chairman and trusted advisor, Steve Bannon, was recently indicted for fraud in his bilking the gullible Trump supporters who had donated to build “The Wall.” Other members of Trump’s team that have been convicted of crimes are George Papadopoulos, Richard Pinedo, and Alex van der Zwaan. The recently released, Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election included criminal referrals for Steve Bannon, Eric Prince (Betsy DeVos’s brother), Sam Clovis, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner.
Perhaps the only reason that those criminal referrals have not resulted in indictments is Attorney General Bill Barr, arguably the most partisan and corrupt attorney general in modern history. Barr has been such an embarrassment to his alma mater, George Washington University Law School, that much of its faculty, including the president of the National Bar Association have disavowed him. As a result of his behavior, more than 2,000 former DOJ prosecutors and other officials have urged Barr to resign. More recently, 1,600 DOJ lawyers have accused Barr of illegally using the Justice Department to help Trump in the election.
A Cheat: Trump’s older sister recently confirmed what others had alleged—that Trump had someone else take his SAT test in school. She also said she often did his homework for him in college. Trump is well known for regularly cheating in golf, revealing his true character. His long-time personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified to Congress about how Trump would illegally inflate the value of his assets to procure loans, and undervalue his assets for tax purposes. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that he has sought to cheat in both the 2016 and 2020 elections. His proclamations of “mail-in voter fraud” are obviously designed to set the stage for his claim of a “rigged” election. If it is a close election loss, he may well refuse to relinquish the presidency, convincing himself, along with his gullible followers, that he actually won.
Irreligious: There isn’t much that can make Christianity look more silly than young-earth creationism. But Donald Trump can. Polls consistently show that self-described “evangelical Christians” support Trump by large margins—the same Donald Trump that paid off porn stars with which he had extramarital affairs, that childishly taunts his detractors (real and imagined), that lies about nearly everything, that admires murderous dictators, that repeatedly flouts the law, and that sows racial division—the same Donald Trump that doesn’t know much about and doesn’t care at all about Christianity.
After his election, before he took office, Trump held a meeting in Trump Tower where “prominent evangelical leaders” laid hands on him in prayer. After the meeting, his attorney, Michael Cohen recounted Trump saying, “Can you believe that bullshit? Can you believe people believe that bullshit?” He thinks the Christians who buy his act are suckers. Unfortunately for the credibility of Christianity, so does much of the world.
Complaining about having to decorate the White House, Melania was recorded saying, “Who gives a fuck about Christmas stuff and decorations?”
Compromised: Trump has exchanged at least 25 letters with Kim Jong Un of North Korea that he described as “love letters.” He even bragged to Bob Woodward about how Kim had told him how he had killed his uncle (he disintegrated him with an anti-aircraft gun.). Trump has described their relationship as a “special friendship.” Trump told president Xi Jinping of China that concentration camps for the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of minority Uyghur Muslims was “exactly the right thing to do.” Trump has also done several favors for his friend and autocrat Erdogan of Turkey. But Trump’s favorite autocrat has always been Vladimir Putin.
Trump has never criticized Putin—not for interfering in the 2016 or 2020 elections, not for invading Ukraine, not for offering bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops, not for interfering in U.S. operations in Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan, and not for killing or imprisoning his critics and political rivals. A number of Intelligence professionals as well as most casual observers tend to think this is because Putin has something on him. It’s a logical explanation. Since Russians (as well as Saudis and other dictators) are well known to have laundered money through Trump condos and other properties, the dirt could be of a financial nature. But he could also have something concerning Trump’s behavior with women while in Russia.
In 2008, Dmitry Rybolovlev paid $95 million for a mansion for which Trump had paid $41.35 million in 2004. Rybolovlev never lived there, and the house was eventually demolished. According to his attorney, Michael Cohen, Trump believed that the money and approval to buy the property really came from Putin. Whether he has something on him or not, Trump unquestionably admires Putin, a murderous adversary of U.S. interests.
Ten Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder: 1) Lack of empathy— 2) Conversation hogging— 3) Attention seeking— 4) Inflated self-image— 5) Rule breaking—6) Unrealistic expectations— 7) Charming— 8) Manipulative— 9) Desiring control— 10) Blames others for failings. Trump exhibits all of these symptoms.
Now, His Policies and His Competence
The Economy and Fiscal Policies
Many people credit President Trump with the strong economy that existed before the pandemic. Though, in recent decades, the Federal Reserve has much more to do with the stability of the economy, there is little question that Trump’s policies contributed to the extension of the economic growth that preceded his tenure. The questions we might ask, however, are “by what means, and at what long-term cost?”
The policies are tax cuts, increases in federal spending, and deregulation. It is borrowing from the future. It is classic Keynesian economics, mis-applied.
Keynesian economics is best known for its advocacy of deficit spending to mitigate the hardship and the psychology of recessions—i.e., economic stimulus—the very thing that Republicans rail against when Democrats propose it. (Remember the hand wringing over Obama’s stimulus package during the Great Recession of 2008-2009.) As the theory goes, during times of economic growth, the debt that was accrued from the stimulus is to be paid down.
This time, however, Trump and Republicans have introduced stimulus during a time of growth. So, instead of paying the debt, they have significantly added to it, leaving the service of that extra debt to our children.
The hazard of large deficit spending during periods of growth is that those tools will be less available when needed during an economic contraction, like the recent downturn resulting from the Coronavirus. Fortunately, interest rates are so low that added debt is not as costly as it could be. Because rates are low, liberal economist Paul Krugman has said that we have little to worry about concerning the tripling of the federal deficit this year. But, as we add more than four trillion dollars to the national debt, it is certainly a debt that our children will bear.
Deregulation creates a similar problem. Regulations were enacted for a reason—i.e., to protect us from unscrupulous and reckless actors and to preserve resources for future generations. Wholesale deregulation does the opposite.
The economy will benefit in the short term from the infusion of borrowed money and deregulation. Those of us who own stocks, in particular, will realize significant gains. But, is short-term gain worth the risk of the long-term weakening of the United States’ financial strength, and the additional debt that is imposed on future generations? Is short-term personal gain really worth the sacrifice of virtue?
Perhaps the second most compelling reason cited by many people who support Trump is his handling of immigration—mostly, illegal immigration. They believe him when he tells them that illegal immigrants increase crime and cost American jobs. They believe him when he says that Democrats want “open borders.” Maybe they even believe it when he tells them that Democrats want to take away their God. (Evidently, he has a low opinion of the power of God.) It’s all nonsense, of course.
The reality is that President Obama deported more people than Trump. You can read about that here and/or here. The difference is that Obama is a decent human being, while Trump is a racist, stoking fear into a racist constituency. Trump implemented Jeff Sessions’ child separation policy because he places little value on those children. He is largely amoral. Trump’s attempts to end the DACA program are indicative of what his sister has described as his cruelty.
Everyone should be aware that illegal immigrants commit crimes at a significantly lower rate than the general population. The jobs they take are mostly those that would otherwise go unfilled, or would be filled at a much higher cost, increasing the cost of living for all Americans. The truth is, we need the labor and they need the work.
Almost certainly, the most important reason to avoid a second Trump term concerns the wellbeing of our planet’s ecosystem. Since he is an avid FOX News watcher (and because he isn’t bright enough to know better), he thinks climate change is a “hoax,” perpetrated by liberals (or China). He appears to think that all environmental rules and laws are unnecessary obstacles. Here is a list of 100 environmental rules the Trump administration has slated for reversal. With merely his first term, his policies have and/or will cause significant damage to the environment and, ultimately, to our quality of life—most significantly, to the quality of life of our children and grandchildren.
For the first time in its 175-year history, Scientific American magazine is endorsing a presidential candidate—Joe Biden. It’s not because Joe is so awesome. It’s because Trump is so destructive to the environment and to human health, as his appointees undermine the work and the credibility of the NOAA, the EPA, the NIH, the FDA, and the CDC.
In addition to a continued worsening of the fire seasons in the United States and Australia, climate change will likely result in a significant rise in sea levels over the next few decades, disrupting populations in the United States and around the world. Read about a rather alarming new development that could result in a 10 foot rise in sea levels here.
A recent study by the Zoological Society of London and the World Wildlife Fund concluded that wildlife populations (of the 3,700 species of birds, fish, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles studied) have declined by 58 percent in just the last 45 years. Insect populations have declined even more. In fact, we are in the midst of the Sixth Extinction event on earth. Read more about that in my own essay found here. Donald Trump’s policies are greatly accelerating the problem.
Trump has no healthcare plan or policies, only opposition to his predecessor’s efforts to reduce costs and provide insurance to more people. To Trump, very little is more important than undermining the efforts of his predecessor. This is a matter of competitive pride, having nothing to do with policies or the best interests of Americans. As noted above, some 2.3 million Americans have lost health insurance coverage under Trump. If he gets his way and the Supreme Court upholds a lower court ruling striking the entirety of the ACA as a result of a Republican lawsuit, more than 20 million Americans will lose their insurance, and insurance companies will, once again, be able to reject people with preexisting conditions, despite Trump’s denials.
Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, a few people view the issue of abortion as their first consideration when choosing a political candidate. A few others use abortion as an excuse for voting for candidates that share their right-wing reactionary proclivities. In any case, their votes over those 47 years have had little to no effect on the incidents of abortion in the United States. In a couple of states, they may have prevented a few abortions when the women were too poor or too dysfunctional to travel. But their votes have had no effect on women’s privacy and reproductive rights in federal law.
The incidents of abortion have been falling for decades. That is because of better access to contraceptives and to cultural changes, not prohibitive laws. In the event of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, it would not criminalize abortion. It would merely turn it back to the states. And most states, at the insistence of women, would keep such a choice the purview of the woman, her family, and her doctor. Women in those states where it would be outlawed could simply travel to the states (or to Canada or Mexico) where it would be legal. Most tragically, many of those who were too poor or too dysfunctional to travel would revert to illegal and horribly unsafe methods of managing their own lives.
So, a vote for Trump is very unlikely to significantly reduce the incidents of abortion. It would, on the other hand, be detrimental to the health and well-being of a great many children in other ways, as described above and below.
COVID 19 Response
As of September 10th, there were some 6.42 million cases and more than 192,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States. These numbers far exceed those of other developed countries because of President Trump’s failures of logistical response and of national leadership.
Because he takes his cues from professional partisans on FOX News, rather than scientific experts, for a while he said any dangers of the virus were just imagined by Democrats. He said it was “a hoax.” It wasn’t until Tucker Carlson said he should take it seriously, that Trump began to publicly acknowledge the danger.
Bob Woodward’s tapes reveal that Trump knew very early how dangerous it is, and that it is transmitted primarily through airborne particles, but intentionally “downplayed” it. He says, so as to avoid panic. It was, of course, panic in the stock market that Trump had in mind. (Of course, he doesn’t mind inciting panic over immigration or Antifa.)
Knowing how dangerous it is and that it is transmitted through airborne particles, Trump has downplayed it and even ridicules mask wearing. Only the dishonest and divisive Donald Trump could have turned a robust response and the act of wearing a mask into political issues. Trump has now hired someone else he saw on FOX News—a new pandemic adviser who uses made-up stats and false claims to support Trump’s avoidance of responsibility.
For the first time in its 208-year history, the New England Journal of Medicine has called for the defeat of a political candidate. In an editorial, the journal says that Trump has “taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.” By the end of this year, there is a very good chance that more than three hundred thousand lives will have been lost in the United States as a result of the virus, two-thirds of which—that’s two hundred thousand—can arguably be attributed to Trump’s dishonesty and incompetence.
It is pretty well known that Trump’s understanding of the world has been largely shaped by FOX News. He doesn’t read. He “listen[s] to the shows,” as he put it. As a result, he has an extraordinarily shallow, partisan, and divisive understanding of the world. In exasperation, his own Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, described him as “a fucking moron.” He is also rather gullible, believing the most bizarre conspiracy theories and whatever Putin or Erdogan might tell him.
Trump is, or he pretends to be, so gullible that he believes in the FOX News and OAN promoted conspiracy theory of a “deep state” out to get him. Recently, he even refused to disavow the QAnon movement—a pro-Trump conspiracy theory that posits, among other variants, that the government is run by a “deep state” of child-eating, pedophile, Satan worshipers, from which Trump is trying to save us. They like Trump, so he can’t bring himself to criticize them or to discourage their thinking. One might imagine that this is just too silly to be true, but with Trump…
Trump’s primary campaign theme this year is that, if Joe Biden is elected, there will be riots and chaos in the streets, just like we see in “Democrat cities” today. Of course, those riots we see today are on Trump’s watch, not Biden’s.
Even General Mattis, who had never before made a political statement, said that Trump is the only president he has seen that actively works to divide the American people, rather than to unite us. The result has been deadly. The bonehead who drove from Dallas to El Paso to kill 23 people in a Walmart, did so to stop the “invasion” of brown people that Trump had been complaining about. (Never mind that illegal border crossings were at a 46-year low when Trump took office.) It was Trump’s dishonest and irresponsible rhetoric that prompted the murders.
Of course, Trump has his enablers in Congress and on radio and television, as well as a number people lacking moral competence who work in his administration. In fact, much of the Republican Party has morphed into a cult of the personality of Donald Trump, taking on his worst character traits. A cultish dishonesty has overtaken the party and its adherents as they invariably seek to justify Trump’s fallacious claims and immoral conduct and policies.
Remarkably, for the first time since 1854, the Republican Party offered no policy platform at its nominating convention. Instead, they have merely pledged an allegiance to Donald Trump, breathing new life into John Calvin’s doctrine of Total Depravity.
A couple of words about Joe Biden
I remember Biden mostly from his years as a Senator. He was never intellectually gifted. But I remember him as a moderate who was very good at working “across the aisle.” He could bring people together. With age, he probably has lost some of his mental acuity, but, like Ronald Reagan, he can assemble a team of very smart (and morally competent) people. He’ll do just fine. Most importantly, he’ll respect common decency, the rule of law, and Congressional oversight.