WASHINGTON — It’s long been a tenet of this country that Americans believe in fair play. But millions are ready to elect a president who believes the rules do not apply to him. And millions more are willing to be convinced that if this man is elected, somehow he will change from a self-centered oligarch to a leader who will put the country first.
It used to be that politics stopped at the water’s edge. That meant that unless a controversial vote on declaring war were involved, presidential candidates did not condemn a sitting president’s foreign policy efforts. But Donald Trump has insulted the prime minister of Great Britain, our closest ally, while promising to sit down and negotiate with sworn leaders such as murderous North Korean thug Kim Jong Un, who is testing nuclear weapons. And Trump cozies up to dictators like Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Trump has appealed to millions of primary voters turned off by politics as usual by promising to self-fund his campaign. But it turns out he was only loaning money to himself and wants it repaid by fat cat donors. He now wants the mighty Republican fundraising apparatus to raise a billion dollars for his candidacy. And it will.
Trump is demanding that anyone he might consider to be his running mate turn over tax returns. But Trump refuses to release his own, saying only that he has worked hard to pay the smallest amount he could get with. He says he can’t release his returns until an ongoing IRS audit is complete. But that is not true. He could release them. He is hiding something, but millions do not care.
During his rambunctious past, Trump publicly boasted of his many affairs with women, even on the radio. Now he wants such discussions stopped even though he vows to continue bringing up former President Bill Clinton’s dalliances as a way to attack rival Hillary Clinton. Ah yes, blame the wife.
He has openly flaunted the Republicans’ 11th commandment of not speaking ill of fellow party members by using schoolyard epithets and bullying tactics against his rivals. He publicly has insulted many women, but millions do not care.
Trump has forged his campaign on latent fear and hatred of immigrants and Muslims, stoking such emotions into white-hot rage. Never mind that this country was built by the hard work of immigrants and a belief that freedom of religion is paramount. His slogan, “make America great again,” has been easily parodied into “make America hate again.”
Trump vows to be the best job-creator in the history of the world but has never given a single specific blueprint of how he would do this. Yet he has called for lowering taxes on the richest Americans and does not believe in raising the federal minimum wage. Sometimes, he says, his various comments are really just “suggestions.” Nobody knows what he actually would push for if he becomes president.
He preys on the misunderstanding of trade by promising to illegally tear up trade agreements without accounting for the fact that fair trade helps Americans sell their products abroad and protects worker and environmental rights. He issues platitude after platitude without facts. Foreign policy experts say his understanding of how the world works is nonexistent and call his shallowness stunning.
He says he no longer believes that women have a right to choose what happens to their bodies and would punish women who get abortions.
Millions are impressed because Trump is rich. But he has made money by buying and selling things, licensing his name and by being paid huge salaries through reality TV, shows mastering the ability to dazzle and distract with word bombs and ridicule. But if the tables are turned against him, he cries “unfair” and sues.
We can’t blame our fellow Americans for worrying about their economic futures and being furious that politics as usual has failed them.
We can blame them for turning blind eyes and deaf ears to a false prophet who has been shown to be a sweet-talking, entertaining con artist courted by a hypocritical media.
We have wondered how past societies have chosen so poorly when it came to their leaders. Now we know.
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Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.