Reflections on the State of the U.S. Presidency

Relative standards.– Joe Biden is a doofus, an ignoramus, and a habitual liar. His special handicap, however, is that as a lifelong Washington politician, people expect him to be slightly more clever at hiding these deficiencies, or at least to be surrounded with handlers who will be clever at hiding them for him. The opposite was true of Biden’s presidential predecessor, who was at least as big a doofus, probably twice as ignorant, and certainly as disinclined to truth-telling, but who, as a world-famous lifelong circus clown and self-promoter, could not possibly fall short of anyone’s expectations — a fact which serves to magnify Biden’s shortcomings. That is to say, with Trump, no one ever expected him to know anything, care about anything, or speak frankly about anything, so he could earn a pass just by not handling this or that isolated issue quite as embarrassingly as you imagined he would, whereas Biden has suddenly returned Americans to judging their president on a more typical politician standard — i.e., as a polished fraud and rhetorically self-aware dissembler — such that his nearly Trumpian buffoonery seems almost shockingly disappointing to most people.

Accidental president.— Joe Biden’s first moment of genuinely presidential behavior, not surprisingly, was merely an unscripted episode of Bidenesque mental wandering in which his media controllers were unable to cut off the transmission quickly enough to stop his error from hitting the airwaves. Specifically, he directly vowed U.S. support for Taiwan against Chinese aggression — which is not official U.S. policy, at least in public. Now, if this were an intentional overstatement, designed to jerk the Chinese Communist Party’s chain a bit, it might have been quite useful and clever. But we all know neither Biden nor the Democratic Party are ever useful or clever in such ways, and that this was just a bit of “misinformation” from Chief Running Mouth, the world’s longest-afflicted dementia patient.¬†

I never heard a single defense of Donald Trump or his presidency that struck me as even remotely worthy of serious consideration, let alone plausible. But of all the lame defenses to which any politically observant person has been subjected over these five years, perhaps none irks me as much as the bottom-of-the-barrel mantra, “At least Trump loves America.”

Does Trump love America? Can you prove that? Can you even cite any evidence at all in favor of it at this point? Has any president ever done more to undermine the basic faith in American institutions than Trump? Has any president ever had less awareness of, or concern for, the founding documents or the principles expressed therein? Has any president ever been more thoroughly disengaged from the lives or interests of his own voters? Has any tried harder to foment insuperable hatred among his voters/followers toward the tens of millions of their fellow citizens — not to mention the millions of their fellow Republicans — who chose not to join his personality cult?

Would a president who loved his country use vulgar personal attacks to smear every person in the country and in his own party who does not pledge allegiance to him? Would a president who loved his country invent a lie about a stolen election merely to assuage his personal embarrassment at the prospect of losing, and then continue to push that lie among his followers against all evidence and testimony from his own allies disproving it attempting, to state it bluntly, to overturn an election result, on the basis of no tangible evidence of massive fraud  rather than just accept defeat like a man? Would a president who loved his country condemn his own vice president before his violently angry cult worshippers, and lead those cultists in demanding that this vice president violate the duties of his office by directly rejecting the certified results of the election, effectively declaring himself the vice-presidential winner?

I see nothing to indicate love of country, but only love of self-image, love of profit, love of adulation and fame and fantasies of endless “winning” — not winning for America, but winning for Donald Trump.

On the other hand, Americans today — granting that there remain a steadfast few worthy of that designation — can no longer even be sure that their president could tell you, at any random moment, which country he is president of.

For a very long time, the U.S. federal government has been tilting toward an imbalance in favor of executive authority. With the current president and his predecessor, that tilt has finally led to a topple: The executive branch is more powerful than ever, while the presidency itself has become a triviality, a laughingstock. That is a very dangerous scenario for a once-free republic, as it means that the administrative state, nominally under executive control, now effectively rules the country and sets the agenda, with the president as more of an annoying obstacle than a leader or overseer, against minimal pushback from either of the other two supposedly equal branches of government.

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