In his Inaugural address, his first public speech as president, minutes after taking the oath of office, Donald J. Trump lied. We didn't know it was a lie at that point, but it soon became clear. He lied again the next day — about the size of his Inauguration crowd — in the face of all photographic evidence to the contrary. And the lies haven't stopped since.
According to the official count kept by The Washington Post, he has lied more than 18,000 times to the American people to whom he took an oath of allegiance. Prevarication comes as naturally as breathing to the mentally wounded child-man who occupies the White House. And now, we're discovering the price for the complete absence of leadership, honesty, and integrity that Trump has brought to the highest office in our land. The bill has come due.
We are not one nation. We do not "share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny." The United States, the country Mr. Trump swore he would reunite and lead to unprecedented heights of glory, is divided like never before. Rage, disgust, ridicule, protest, name-calling, lying — and violence — are now the tools of our public discourse.
More than 100,000 of us have died in four months from a still-raging COVID pandemic for which the president takes "no responsibility," despite ample evidence that he downplayed the danger for weeks, allowing the virus to gain a larger foothold. He then played state governments against each other to compete for medical supplies, rather than organizing a coordinated national response to a national crisis.
More than 42 million Americans have lost jobs, mostly due to the pandemic, and the president focuses on the stock market, saying and doing little to comfort working Americans facing bankruptcies, evictions, farm foreclosures, and health crises.
Another round of police killings of African Americans has led to protests in 150 cities. In response, the president ridiculed the nation's mayors' and governors' attempts to deal with their situations and called on them to "dominate" the streets, adding, "If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them."
Once again, the president chooses to pander to his angry white base, ignoring the voices of those calling for police reform and justice for all, ignoring those calling for peace and remediation and compromise. Ignoring the fact that this isn't a dictatorship where an autocratic leader "dominates" the citizenry. Where was this urge to dominate three weeks ago, when hundreds of angry, armed protesters marched the streets and invaded government buildings across the country? Why was the president actively encouraging those protests?
The truth is, this president has never tried to unite us. He has played to his base, and only his base, from Day One. Everything is politicized and polarized — immigration, healthcare, religion, the free press, climate change, international relations — even the wearing of medical masks. Pick a side, America. It's what the president wants. Let's you and him fight.
On Monday evening, as a crowd stood peacefully protesting outside the White House, police in riot gear suddenly moved in, using tear gas, flash bangs, and rubber bullets to push the crowd away from the area. The protesters — and the media members covering the protest — were indiscriminately targeted and herded down the block. The reason? The president of the United States wanted to get his picture taken at St. John's Episcopal Church, just across LaFayette Square from the White House. The crowd was in his way.
After the area was cleared of pesky Americans peacefully exercising their Constitutional right to free assembly, Trump and a crew of family members and aides walked across the square to the front of the church. Trump silently held up a Bible (upside down) for a minute or so, as though it were an auction item and he was awaiting bids. He didn't say much. That's because he was mainly there for a photo op: "President stands in front of church holding Bible."
Mission accomplished, the motley crew hustled back to the White House, no doubt eager to see how the stunt played on cable news.
Mariann E. Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., was not impressed. "He did not pray," she said. "He did not mention George Floyd, he did not mention the agony of people who have been subjected to this kind of horrific expression of racism and white supremacy for hundreds of years. We need a president who can unify and heal. He has done the opposite of that, and we are left to pick up the pieces. This was a charade that does nothing to calm the soul and to reassure the nation that we can recover from this moment." Amen.
Sinclair Lewis once wrote: "When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross." Or maybe a Bible? Lewis was right, and now the world watches in horror as the once-proud United States of America dis-unites, as the country we love descends into chaos and disorder, as traditional international alliances are torn asunder, as long-standing treaties, defense pacts, and trade agreements lie in ruins.
Trump isn't a law-and-order president. He is the polar opposite of both of those things. He generates chaos. He has created a dystopia. He is a disaster. We are a country with a mad king at the helm, enabled by toadies and grifters and garment-kissers of every stripe.
This is American carnage.