Often in the news, and certainly in a Donald Trump presidency, things happen quickly and the hot topic is overtaken by new events-last several days are an example of that. Though it now seems so long ago, but it hasn’t even been a week since the State of the Union speech. Yet the seemingly measured tone of the speech, praised even by some of the President’s long time opponents, has quickly been replaced by new chaos, courtesy of the President’s Twitter account among other things.
In the next several days, Thinking Man will offer thoughts on several topics of the last few days, including the long-awaited GOP plan to replace Obamacare.
But one topic has jumped to the front of the news cycle. Yesterday, President Trump claimed that the Obama Administration bugged Trump Tower leading up to the election this past November.
Right off, one wonders how exactly to respond to that. Probably never in the history of the country has any President made any accusations close to anything like that about a former President. So one has to take a deep breath—ok, maybe several deep breaths—and sit back and try to be as level-headed as possible. And that may not actually be possible, as there are so many things wrong with this whole scenario no matter what the final outcome.
First of all, let’s go with the less likely and say that Trump’s accusation may have some basis in truth. Trump has accused his predecessor of significant crimes which would be almost unprecedented, certainly unheard of since Nixon at the very least. Even if one can imagine a scenario where Obama or his Attorney General thought members of then candidate Trump’s team were contacting the Russians and, in some fit of mindless overzealousness decided that national security was at risk, then what an absolutely dumb thing that would have been with only weeks until the election. Even if there were real issues of concern, to bug the residence of a political opponent just before the election would be mindnumbingly stupid.
Having said that, for arguments sake (only) we are assuming that the former President or his Administration did exactly what the current President accused them of–even then, what in the world was Trump thinking? This would be possibly one of the most important issues in American history and he uses Twitter to bring the charge?! If that actually happened, it deserves a little more dedicated attention and formal communication than a passing reference in a late night Twitter rant. He is making a charge of almost unimaginable consequences for American democracy and he does it in 140 characters AND apparently without talking with anyone in his Cabinet or Administration. Is he absolutely crazy? (ok, silly question) Even more, he is the current President. If he thinks that actually happened, he has access to any and all classified information and his appointees currently head the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) and CIA and National Security Council. Why didn’t he get the information, hold a press conference and then let the laws of the land take their course? If evidence exists, it should have been overwhelming and he should have presented it immediately. Again, why would he choose to do something so momentous in a passing social media post, without telling any of his staff who would have responsibility for investigating the claims? His methods, at a very minimum, shows that he can’t possibly have any respect for the American electoral and legal system. Government by social media, when making accusations of criminal activity by a former President are not only odd but dangerous to our democracy.
Now, if the accusations are not true then the problems become exponentially bigger. We know that President Trump has a skin thinner than hair on an amoeba but to make criminal accusations about a former President is a big deal. He can’t (sorry, he shouldn’t—he obviously can and does do things that no normal adult would ever imagine). If you are going to make an accusation of criminal behavior against a former President, not a policy based disagreement but something almost unprecedented in American history, then you had better be sure and be able to prove it to the American public. The evidence to prove it ought to be overwhelming and, to keep the country from uproar and calamity, it should be shared immediately to answer the inevitable questions. Of course, no evidence has been forthcoming and Trump implied that none would because he asked Congress to investigate when it’s his Administration they would have to get the information from to do that. That accusation against a former President is a charge of corruption, a charge that our election wasn’t free and that President Obama was little better than a president of some banana republic. President Trump, it’s long been abundantly clear you care about no one but yourself but to say something like that about anyone, much less a former President of the country, who held the office that you now hold, is over the top.
This whole incident, all brought on by a Twitter post, reinforces the preconceived notions that a large number of people have about the President—that he is spiteful, immature, has no regard for the truth and liable to become unhinged and do reckless things and to do so without consulting any of his advisors first. Unfortunately, President Trump, you are proving much of that to be right. Regardless of how this turns out, you set an example of disrespect for the office that you decry in others. You set an example of the crazy and childish ways you complain about when others treat you similarly. Frankly, much of what you complain about in those regards are true. The best way to go about changing that is to look in the mirror. But, then again, you are 70 years old and if you haven’t outgrown your middle school playground mentality by now, you probably won’t.