What has become apparent in recent months is that his character flaws are so profound that we could not have expected anything different and cannot expect a change for the better in his remaining time in office.
The latest Russia scandal illustrates the point. According to the New York Times, Trump did receive intelligence in his daily briefing about the bounty that Russia put on U.S. troops: “The intelligence was included months ago in Mr. Trump’s President’s Daily Brief document — a compilation of the government’s latest secrets and best insights about foreign policy and national security that is prepared for him to read. One of the officials said the item appeared in Mr. Trump’s brief in late February; the other cited Feb. 27, specifically.” (Trump and the White House have denied he was briefed on the matter.)
The Associated Press also reports that the White House knew in 2019 that “Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported” and that Trump was briefed once by former national security adviser John Bolton in March 2019 and again by his successor, Robert O’Brien (who denies doing so).
Incidents such as these do not just pop up. They are the result of an unfit president and an administration of political hacks. This president is so incurious, so self-absorbed and so resistant to facts and expertise that it was inevitable he would fail to protect Americans from a hostile power; he lacks the will or the ability to do so. This is what we mean by unfit: Trump’s yawning deficits (in attention, knowledge, honesty) render him unable to uphold his oath.
Similarly, the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic, most acutely in red states that followed Trump’s lead, did not simply happen. As with the Russia scandal, the administration had plenty of warning of an imminent catastrophe; the president knew weeks before the pandemic was widely felt yet played down the emergency. Later, he failed to assume responsibility by refusing to fully activate the Defense Production Act, leading to shortages of critical materials. To this day, he refuses to wear a mask in public, inducing millions of his followers to do the same; preventable cases and deaths ensue. This is what happens when you elect someone with no capacity to process bad news, no respect for scientific expertise and no concern for other human beings.
In short, Trump has behaved in precisely the way his fiercest critics foresaw. They were not clairvoyant. Free from the compulsion of slavish loyalty and partisan hackery, they simply saw Trump for what he is and understood the ramifications of a president this hobbled. By contrast, Trumpers cared too little about character, fitness and simply decency.
The sycophants who continue to rationalize his conduct got practically nothing from the Faustian bargain. His Supreme Court justices did not overturn abortion precedent, undo protections for the “dreamers” or deny LGBTQ Americans freedom from discrimination. The tax cuts for the rich never delivered on promises of sustained prosperity (and surely did not pay for themselves). The price they (and we) paid was intolerable. We have suffered from a pandemic that has killed more than 124,000 Americans, an economy akin to the Great Depression, a Russian patsy masquerading as a friend of the troops, a self-dealer who corruptly promoted his own holdings as president and a racist entirely out of step with a country yearning for racial justice.
We dare not repeat the error of 2016. We know — because we know Trump — a second term would be equally if not more calamitous than the first. Character this twisted is destiny. Unfitness this severe is irreparable.