Donald Trump has officially declared his candidacy for the highest office in the land. Since his announcement, I’ve heard and read the thoughts of too many who seem to be going out of their way to portray him as a reasonable choice for this role. Granted, in a country that has twice elected Obama as president, it’s difficult to single out anyone as unqualified or unfit, but I continue to hope that we can learn from our horrid collective mistakes and not just blindly repeat them. Two such lessens that I hope that we can immediately apply – 1) people will not change appreciably upon winning the White House, and 2) it’s vital to consider what animates, what drives one who desires to be president.
Obama was really not known by many until his address to the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Up to that point, he had been a community agitator, and he allegedly taught a little constitutional law (yikes!) to unsuspecting Chicago college students. Still, in a short time, it was quite easy to determine who he was, and by extension, what he would pursue if elected. Nothing that he’s done has surprised anyone who knows who he is as evidenced by what he’s said and written. I’m left to just shake my head when I hear people express shock or disappointment when Obama chips away at constitutional limits to the executive branch, or sadness that he’s attempting to legitimize a nuclear Iran while dissing Netanyahu and Israel, or dejection because he has pulled our troops out of Iraq and left it and much of the Middle East in the hands of Islamists who are now killing Christians for sport. It’s been clear to anyone who’s been paying attention that Obama’s worldview is consistent with all of this.
To be sure, Donald Trump is no Obama. He has achieved a great deal, and has contributed much by virtue of his accomplishments – none of that can be said about Obama. Becoming a billionaire, however, does not qualify one to be president, and I am convinced that Trump’s focus is, first, financial. Admittedly, I’ve not heard all of his campaign speeches, but I’ve heard several speeches and a number of interviews, and he seems unable to answer almost any question without some reference to money. He continuously talks about his wealth, as if that solidifies his qualification. In illustration of how our country is in trouble, he mentioned first that China is consistently beating us in trade deals, and suggested that Mexico is now whipping us economically. Even in discussing the terror group ISIS, he noted that he’s competing with them, as he asserted that they had recently “built a hotel” in Syria.
It’s no doubt true, that in most cases, government and policies that further the ideals and institutions that America was built on will result in increased opportunity and wealth for most everyone. But it would just be wrong to say that the soul of America’s founding was material wealth. The soul, the animating energy, of America’s founding was individual liberty, and the successful establishment of a nation founded on liberty led predictably to a level of prosperity such as the world has never seen. Wealth was not our cause – it was the consequence of a worldview that saw every individual as possessing rights given by their Creator. As evidence, this nation has spent enormous sums in support or defense of people all over the world (e.g., Trump says that we spent $2 trillion in Iraq), and there’s just no way that a people motivated primarily by the dollar would do that, repeatedly.
Trump also seems to be incapable of statesmanship. He struggles with those who express differences with him, and often descends to personal attacks and name-calling. Recently, Dr. Charles Krauthammer cited poll numbers indicating that Trump ranked highly among those that respondents indicated that they’d never vote for, and suggested that ranking was well-deserved. In response, this man who would be president, and who would have incessant barrages of contempt, and even hate, aimed at him from all angles were he to become president, felt compelled to respond by calling Dr. Krauthammer a “loser” who hasn’t done anything. As ignorant as that assertion is on its face, it also betrays a personality that would be impossible to fashion into anything even minimally suited to the office of President.
Donald Trump is a uniquely successful businessman, and I begrudge him none of that; to the contrary, I deeply respect and admire what he’s accomplished. Obviously, in and of itself, success in business is not a disqualifier for elective office. However, it’s clear that he sees everything first through a window of financial wins and losses. Some of the key challenges facing us now – dwindling individual liberty, and terrorist, Islamist threats that will definitely impose a dear financial cost – will not be best addressed by one whose vision is so obstructed by a balance sheet.