The vaudeville show that’s running at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue didn’t book itself into the White House. Nearly 63 million Americans sent that burlesque comedy with headliner Donald Trump to Washington. That 66 million other voters thought otherwise is beside the point. Trump didn’t anoint himself president. Millions put him in office.
What does that tell us about the country?
Was hatred of President Barack Obama, fear of Hillary Clinton, outrage over America’s perceived direction enough to transfer the reins to Trump?
It’s not as if the Trump on display in the Oval Office is not the same Trump we saw on the campaign trail or on reality TV or out and about touting his businesses. He was, by any yardstick, the most unqualified presidential nominee in modern history.
Trump didn’t seize the presidency by deception. For months on end, he was out there for all voters to see, measure and judge. Some of us did offer our preelection assessments, based upon his campaign, well before time came to cast ballots.
In my view, Trump showed himself to be one who could be neither out-demagogued nor out-nastied.
Well in advance of the vote, the country heard Trump’s vile insults and claims: Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists; Obama wasn’t born in the United States and was an illegitimate president.
And his attacks on people. Megyn Kelly: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” Jews: “The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): “He’s not a war hero . . . I like people that weren’t captured.” My journalist colleague Serge Kovaleski, who has limited mobility in his arms: “Now the poor guy, you ought to see this guy,” Trump said, before contorting his arms in an apparent impersonation.
Trump the candidate showed himself to be an ignorant, undisciplined, ranting bully who exaggerated and lied without shame. A man who wore a tough-guy masculinity but was actually a coward, who picked on women, demeaned minorities and was thoroughly lacking in human decency.
Trump’s character defects were on full display well before the polls opened.
President Trump’s behavior in the White House has been equally as disgusting and beneath the dignity of that high office.
And now our nation’s capital is being wrenched apart by the Trump-Russia scandal and congressional and federal investigations into the Kremlin’s intrusion in the election.
The country can’t claim not to have seen this coming.
On Oct. 7, one month before the election, U.S. officials put it out there: “The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. . . . These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. . . . We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
Questions, serious questions, surfaced about whether Trump associates or campaign staff had any role in assisting Moscow’s meddling in the election to hurt Clinton and elect Trump. And answers are coming in.
Trump’s ties and affinities to Russia were no secret, either.
Two months before Election Day, reports appeared in The Post, including in this column, that there was strong evidence that Trump’s businesses had received significant funding from Russian investors — thus adding to a growing sense that the Russians may have had their hooks in him and his associates.
“Turn over the keys to Trump,” I wrote, “who mingles with Putin’s Russian oligarchs, hustles business opportunities in Moscow, blithely looks past Putin’s annexation of Crimea, and glosses over the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its support for Iran and Bashar al-Assad in Syria? Who says the NATO-member Baltic states can count on our help only if threatened by Russia if they have ‘fulfilled their obligations to us’? Who says of Russian election meddling: ‘I’m not going to tell Putin what to do’?
“No wonder Putin, covert manipulator of the West, smirks. In Donald Trump, Russia will never have had it so good,” I wrote, adding: “Something voters may wish to think about.”
Well, millions did, taking in all that Trump — by word, thought and deed — had to offer. And they decided to swallow the Kool-Aid and enter the Trump Show with the unquestioned obedience of an adoring audience.
Now what does that say about us?
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