The lesson we should learn after Trump is gone

One reason why I favor liberalism as a philosophical position over conservatism is because liberals are more frequently on the side of truth than conservatives, but not always. For example, I have been known to disavow and criticize memes that — however funny and however much they may disparage Donald Trump — are factually wrong. This seldom makes me popular. So be it. But we live in a world where Trump’s outrages are, in every sense, an embarrassment of riches. We don’t need to invent more.

So in the spirit of full disclosure I am not an ideologue. I believe in truth, and if that makes me look like an ideologue then the appearance is entirely accidental. Besides which, in my view it’s ideologues on both sides of the Trump question that cause the most trouble, because ideologues are swallowers of entire platforms, and I’m unwilling to do that — ever. I worry that someday someone is going to sneak something into the platform that I don’t like, and thus will begin my slippery slope to ruin.

So I must beg to differ with some who say Donald Trump couldn’t have destroyed America. He could have. The things we complained about more than anything else, Trump’s stupidity and incompetence, are the things that have saved us. A smarter and more competent president than Trump could have taken over the United States government and ruled it like a dictator. He or she could have even started a second American Civil War, if that had been his or her aim. Trump will leave office in January a ruined and broken man. But he will leave it because he was too stupid, too lazy, and too incompetent to take full advantage of the opportunities that came his way. It could have been a lot worse.

Permit me to illustrate what I mean with an example from recent history. It has now become a liberal article of faith, for example, to laugh with disparagement at George W. Bush for his pursuit of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps the same people who laugh with such automatic abandon wouldn’t laugh so much if they read “The Bomb in My Garden,” by Mahdi Obeidi, the Iraqi scientist who was in charge of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program. Or, recalling that Saddam actually used WMDs on his own people when he gassed the Kurds on 16 March 1988, during the Halabja chemical attack, might give them further cause for sober reflection.

When these days we speak of the perils caused by a handful of dictators across the world, that list no longer includes Saddam Hussein. I would be disingenuous if I told you I didn’t think that a very good thing. Today we don’t have to worry about nuclear weapons in the hands of a solipsistic lunatic like Saddam, who would be 83 if he were alive today. Were he still alive and in power, not only would we be dealing with a psychopath with nuclear weapons who is as evil and unflappable as Kim Jong Un, he’d be a hundred times richer to boot. We should count our lucky stars.

We will soon be rid of Donald Trump, and while that is very much a good thing, I hope we don’t miss the lesson that Trump’s tenure as president can teach us. It took the American people only six years to forget Nixon and elect another Republican. The bombastic, tweeting child in the White House will inspire much humor after he’s gone. I hope he also inspires a healthy dose of fear, because he will also be leaving behind a roadmap to power that a smarter and equally evil man or woman won’t soon forget.

Humans have a habit of thinking that because a bad thing didn’t happen it couldn’t have happened. But had someone like Donald Trump been in charge in October of 1962, I doubt I would be around to write these worlds. I can’t tell you, for that matter, what state the world would be in right now had not the tech industry spent billions of dollars and five years across the planet to get their computer systems “Y2K compliant” by the year 2000, but I’m glad we didn’t have to find out. The world is not a laboratory and we don’t have the luxury to experiment with it. God, if there is one, isn’t going to save us from ourselves. That work, as JFK put it, must truly be our own.

If fate hands Joe Biden a Democratic Congress then I hope his first priority is to prevent another Donald Trump from ever happening again. One step in that direction would be to sponsor and enact laws requiring all presidential candidates undergo extensive psychological and physical tests for mental and physical health. It should go without saying that a president shouldn’t be a psychopath and a drug addict. Future presidents should also satisfy certain stringent legal examinations. Allegations of rape, theft, money laundering, self-dealing and moral turpitude should be diligently investigated by nonpartisan bodies, and poor candidates should be routinely rejected.

The presidency should not be a job that any adventurer can easily claim as a trophy for their limitless egos. For the presidency we should actively seek candidates who are public-spirited men and women whose highest ideals include public service for the best public good. No more giant egos, no more conmen, no more corporate adventurers seeking a final feather for their caps, a final trophy job to go with their trophy wives.

The presidency is a sacred calling. Let’s start treating it that way, and let’s start insisting that all future candidates agree that it is a sacred thing, a thing to be entered into with reverence and respect for the duties and obligations of the office. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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