Tag Archives: inept

A New Embarrassment Every Day

Donald Trump may not be making America “great” again–unless your version of “great” is white, Christian, intolerant and angry–but he is certainly making the U.S. government the focus of attention, both at home and abroad.

Each day, the Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most powerful nation does something to embarrass sentient Americans and appall foreign observers. Sometimes, it is a prominent display of boorishness, of the sort we saw during Angela Merkel’s visit, but usually it is a statement or a tweet that puts Trump’s incredible ignorance on display–the sort of obliviousness that Dana Milbank addressed in a recent Washington Post column.

Seeking and winning the presidency has been a magical voyage of discovery for Donald Trump.

Tuesday night, he divulged a most remarkable finding: Abraham Lincoln was — are you sitting down for this? — a Republican.

“Most people don’t even know he was a Republican,” Trump told a group of Republicans. “Right? Does anyone know? A lot of people don’t know that.”

As Milbank noted, a lot of people actually do know that, considering that the GOP routinely calls itself the “Party of Lincoln.” He went on to catalogue other discoveries that evidently came as a surprise to our President: Health policy is complicated, slavery is bad…

Beyond this Lincoln revelation, Trump has happened upon many other things that people didn’t know. Such as the complexity of health care: “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” he said recently. And the existence of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who died in 1895: “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”

Later, touring the new African American history museum in Washington, Trump discovered that slavery was bad. Spying a stone auction block, Trump said, according to Alveda King, a part of his entourage: “Boy, that is just not good. That is not good.” King also told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that upon seeing shackles for children, Trump remarked: “That is really bad. That is really bad.”

I’m relieved to know that our inarticulate President considers slavery “bad.” Evidently, however, his enlightenment about human equality stops there. His misogyny–embarrassingly on display during the Merkel visit–emerged again with his choice of delegates to the U.N. Conference on Women’s Rights. As Common Dreams reports:

Earlier this week, the State Department announced that representatives from infamous anti-LGBTQ hate group the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM) and from the far-right Heritage Foundation will represent the U.S. at a United Nations conference on women’s rights later this month….

One delegate, Lisa Correnti, is an executive vice president at the Center for Family & Human Rights (C-FAM), which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled a hate group since 2014. C-FAM was explicitly formed in the ’90s to push back against the rights of women in U.N. resolutions and policies. One of C-FAM’s core missions is to advance laws that restrict the rights and protections of LGBTQ people; its president recently called contraception and gay rights “devilish gospel.” The organization signed on in favor of Russia’s anti-gay laws, which have led to arrests, prosecution, and physical assaults from government agents for gay Russians.

Adding insult to injury, these delegates “are opposed to the U.N. as a whole and the fundamental rights of women in particular.”

The unanswered question is: did the Administration know its chosen delegates would be seen as an “in your face” rejection of the conference’s entire premise? Or did they just assume that an organization named “Center for Family and Human Rights” would be supportive of women’s rights? In either case, it’s another humiliation for the U.S.

If the Trump Administration were a comedy show, we might find its level of cluelessness amusing. If it was the government of an emerging third-world country with no tradition of democratic rule or experience with international diplomacy, we might shake our heads and dismiss the spectacle as a remnant of pre-modern autocracies. (“Sad!”)

Trump and his terrifyingly unqualified cabinet and staff are in a position to do incredible harm to our country and our fellow citizens, and thus far an equally inept (and in some cases dishonest) Congress has aided and abetted, rather than restrained or opposed this travesty of an administration.

It’s beyond embarrassing.

 

Logical Consequences

For the past quarter-century, Americans have been bashing government–not just this or that administration or political party or elected official, but the enterprise of governing.

Want a laugh? Say “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” Want to indulge a conspiracy theory? The government’s giving the Alamo to the UN! Obama plans to impose Sharia law!..  Got a grudge against your state lawmakers? Push for your area’s counties to secede. Hate the feds? Put on a tricorn hat, misspell a placard and hold a rally.

The problem is, there are consequences to this constant and indiscriminate hostility to government authority, and those consequences aren’t pretty.

Example: Yesterday, to its credit and my surprise, The Indianapolis Star ran two actual news stories: one about legislative conflicts of interest and corrupt behavior, and another about inadequate regulation of child care providers.  Stories about the inept rollout of the Affordable Care Act, and other tales of poor management, are everywhere.

Guess what? When we devalue government, we shouldn’t be surprised when government isn’t done very well. When we spend our time and energy arguing whether major elements of government infrastructure should even exist, we don’t have much time or energy left over to insure that all parts of government are operating properly–that public servants are competently performing those tasks that most reasonable people believe government should do.

I will be the first to acknowledge that we have public officials who deserve our scorn, policies that are–at best–counterproductive and need to be changed, and antiquated or corrupted structures that need to be revisited. The difference is, those are criticisms of how well our government is doing–not attacks on the legitimacy of government itself.

Are some regulations unnecessary? Undoubtedly. But supervising people who care for defenseless infants and children certainly seems an appropriate function of government. Most Americans would also agree that we need laws sanctioning officials who abuse their positions for personal gain.

Americans’ attitudes toward government are a lot like their attitudes toward Congress: we famously despise Congress, but approve of our own Representative. We hate government, but not the programs that benefit us, or veterans, or grandma.

Much as we may not want to admit it, we live in a complex modern world where there are   tasks that only government can effectively perform–from FAA supervision of air travel, to FDA oversight of food and drug safety, to regulations preventing banks from ripping off unwary customers…..on and on. When the agencies charged with these tasks fail to do their jobs properly, real people get hurt–planes crash, people get sick and die, and–as we’ve seen– economies fall into recession or worse.

We need to stop bashing government’s legitimacy, and instead turn our attention to how government is doing its job. We need to put down the ax and pick up the scalpel–to stop characterizing government as some sort of enemy,  and begin focusing on making it better.

When we insist that “public service” is an oxymoron, we shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t get decent public service.