This isn’t a Road to Damascus moment; my concerns have been building publicly for a while. And I’m not seeking absolution. I just want to be part of the solution. The negatives of Trump’s demagoguery now clearly outweigh the positives of his leadership, and it is imperative that Americans unite to prevent him from serving another four years in office.
When I decided to support Trump’s candidacy and later to work in his administration, it wasn’t because I agreed with all of his policies or liked every aspect of his personality. As former New York mayor Ed Koch used to say, “If you agree with me on nine out of 12 issues, vote for me. If you agree with me on 12 out of 12, see a psychiatrist.”
My public praise of the man was over the top at times, but my private estimation of him was more measured. I thought Trump, despite his warts, could bring a pragmatic, entrepreneurial approach to the Oval Office. I thought he could be the reset button Washington needed to break through the partisan sclerosis. I thought he would govern in a more inclusive way than his campaign rhetoric might have indicated, and I naively thought that, by joining the administration, I could counteract the far-right voices in the room.
I thought wrong. And, yes, many of you told me so.
Even after leaving the administration, I supported the president based on my belief that the positive results achieved during his time in office, especially concerning the economy, outweighed the corrosive effects of his unpresidential behavior. Most notably, his pro-business governance has driven unemployment to record lows for almost every segment of the population and boosted wage growth — even if his lack of tact in trade negotiations with China now threatens to cause a recession. However, in the yes-or-no matter of supporting the president, I have reached a tipping point.
For those paying attention, my public criticism of the president has been mounting over the past two years. His response to the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville was repellent. I was appalled by the administration’s child-separation policy along the southern border. His ranting about the news media as the “enemy of the people” was dangerous and beyond the pale. But the final straw came last month when Trump said on Twitter that four congresswomen — all of them U.S. citizens, and three native-born — should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
While it’s difficult and embarrassing to admit my errors in judgment, I believe I still have the ability to make amends.
I’ve been accused of turning on Trump only because he turned on me. If that were the case, the time to be vindictive would have been after I agreed to sell my company to serve in the administration, only to be used as a hatchet man and then summarily fired after 11 days as White House communications director simply because I used naughty words to tell a reporter, whom I had mistakenly trusted, the truth about bad people.
I broke from Trump because not only has his behavior become more erratic and his rhetoric more inflammatory, but also because, like all demagogues, he is incapable of handling constructive criticism. As we lie on the bed of nails Trump has made, it’s often difficult to see how much the paradigm of acceptable conduct has shifted. For the Republican Party, it’s now a question of whether we want to start cleaning up the mess or continue papering over the cracks.
I challenge my fellow Republicans to summon the nerve to speak out on the record against Trump. Defy the culture of fear he has created, and go public with the concerns you readily express in private. Hold on to your patriotism, and help save the country from his depredations. And to members of the so-called resistance, please leave room on the off-ramp for those willing to admit their mistakes.
My personal odyssey took longer than it should have, but I’m not concerned with being on the right side of history — I’m determined to ensure that good people are the ones who end up writing it.