January 20, 2017
A Citizen’s Inaugural Oath
‘I pledge allegiance to the Vlad of the United States of America…!!!!’
This past Monday, MLK Day, I woke up with a weirdly resonant version of the Pledge of Allegiance playing in my head. It was my brain working overtime to square reality with my deepest fear. This was not the relief of being able to cast it all off as a dream. This was the shock of threatening changes afoot to our daily freedoms and the undeniable fact that we Americans had cast our lot of governance with a compulsive liar whose relentlessly belligerent positions and erratic behavior called his own allegiances into serious question. Hardly a dream, this was a waking nightmare…our waking nightmare.
Remember me, Rachel…”--just a citizen out there.” (see attached letter to you: “A Lie is a Lie is a Lie,” 9.9.2016) So concerned about T’s ‘mental’ health (not so ‘astonishingly excellent’), that I was driven to do what I never do, write to members of the press about the danger of the press’ fateful embrace of false equivalency, and their failure to call out T. for his naked lies and force his hand on policy. (A Lie is a Lie is a Lie: 9.9.16) Terrified that we as a country might do the unthinkable… as we now have done, seal our fate with a psychopath. (albeit high-functioning, though ‘path’ is the operative syllable here that appears to define the president-elect’s state of mind.)
And let’s face it, Goldwater rule aside, warning against armchair diagnoses from afar, and admittedly without any clinical diagnosis in hand, still We The People have all had ample opportunity to witness on a daily basis the lack of conscience, conviction and empathy, the self-centered impulsivity, fearless dominance and hateful invective that punctuates T’s every exhilarating lie, without exhibiting the least care for the harmful effect his words and actions do have on others, not to mention the world. Without showing the least care for the trail of written and taped evidence that documents his lies. Why tell the boring truth, when you can kick it up a notch and lie with impunity!
We have watched as he accused the President of the United States of treasonous promotion of ISIS throughout the world, even as T himself invited a foreign hostile power to hack e-mails and interfere with democratic elections, and as he incited his audiences to protect their constitutional rights by taking violent action against his opponent.
All the while we have watched and wondered what kind of a man does this. Of course, one for whom lying is a waking/breathing reflex function and who seizes any means whatsoever to the political end of his self-aggrandizement. We watched as he ridiculed challengers knowing they would not stoop to his gutter tactics. We watched as he scorned a four-star family and a federal judge, ridiculed women and minorities, and mocked a disabled journalist—perhaps just chalking it all up to politics (the fog of a campaign war). But yes, we probably did not know that not long ago he cancelled the Trump health insurance on his nephew’s severely disabled newborn child for challenging a family trust issue.
This man—the President-elect—has been no different, no less cruel in peace than war, in private than in public. No less ignorant, mercurial and vulgar, inside or out, yesterday, today or tomorrow.
We have watched as he promoted a years-long birther conspiracy against the first black president of the United States. We have watched as he publicly vilified the exonerated Central Park 5. We watched of late as he denied allegations of sexual assault that he bragged on tape to get away with routinely, by virtue of who he is. We now listen as he asserts to the New York Times his right to enrich himself at the expense of the U.S. Government, his privilege to flaunt pay for play, something he is vigorously pursuing even before he takes office, because the president ‘cannot have a conflict of interest.’ Where have we heard that before: ‘and they let you do it, when you’re a star!’
We have listened to him falsely assert large-scale voter fraud by millions of illegals in an election he won. We have listened to him claim a mandate he did not get (the popular vote advantage going to his opponent by 2.9 million votes and still counting). We have heard his threats to curb free speech, change libel laws, punish women exercising free choice, and revoke the citizenship of flag burners (an extreme penalty for a deplorable act, for sure, but proposed by a president who might just as well be setting fire to our constitution).
This has nothing to do with you or me or American values in dispute, and even less to do with the misguided or misinformed disenfranchised people who voted for T. Rather it has everything to do with his insatiable appetite for more—more power, maybe; more money, maybe: but definitely, more ME time. Far from an assertion of populist principles, his are a tyrant’s stronghold moves to subvert the constitution and control the populace, through a divisive campaign of hate and intimidation, aimed at misinformation, suppressing the vote, silencing dissent.
“How stupid are the people of Iowa?” we heard him say to us just last January. ‘How stupid are the people of America?’ will now be the whisper welling out over the Capitol crowds at T’s inauguration come Friday, January 20.
Sadly this is no reality show that can be cancelled when it ceases to be entertaining. This is the dead-serious, no-holds-barred reality of a demagogic personality—imposing, in your face and demanding adulation, threatening humiliation and banishment to those who challenge him. (not likely to be a mere little citizen such as myself, but you, Rachel, the ‘dishonest lyin’ media,’ whose questioning analysis dares to besmirch T’s ‘astonishingly excellent’ reflection).
Not terribly interested in governing, T. (and his minions) will all the same tear down governance and gut the ‘public’ out of policy, all the while lining their coffers. Not terribly interested in truth, T. will take his advice from Bannon and Flynn, espoused traffickers of hate fiction. Not terribly interested in leading, T. will nevertheless demand to be followed.
And as long as we ‘say yes,’ he will intimidate individuals and nations alike with the threatening might of US force. And that mighty force defining our president elect’s comfort zone and quite literally mirroring his narcissistic values is both monetary and military-- reflected in the sweep of billionaires and generals that T has proposed for the cabinet that will run his government. The United States of America is morphing into The United States of O(i)ligarchs before our eyes.
**Could it possibly be true that we as a populace and the surrogates who serve him are already being conditioned to frame our responses to appeal to his good side, in the hopes that the treatment will not be too harsh, the damage not too great?
**Could it possibly be true that the American people and indeed his own (likely revolving door) cadre of cabinet and staff are left to parse out his feeling and thinking behind any possible policy whim/move from the venom he spews in his daily tweets? (as in his gloating New Year’s parting shot to ‘enemies and losers.’)
**Could it possibly be true that we will hold our president immune from ‘conflicts of interest,’ even as he refuses to divulge the identity and extent of his global private interests to the public and to congress alike?
However much we as a citizenry for the sake of our internal survival and our national unity are moved to normalize and rationalize the rants and acts of our elected autocrat, there is absolutely no guarantee that our allies and our global partners will throw their lot with an unpredictable imperial blowhard who breaks promises as fast as he makes them. Far from it, they will hedge bets for a while and reconfigure their diplomatic, financial and military alliances to insure their own security, a strategy that braces them against the dangerous provocation of a self-serving hostile actor masquerading as the leader of the free world. And “America First’ will fast become ‘America— of the last resort.’ So much for our exceptionalism.
In the short span of forty-eight hours last month (Dec), T. managed to destabilize the agreement on One China through a cozy conversation with Taiwanese PM; to fatuously extol the superior virtues of the ‘exceptional’ Pakistani people to their PM, after having excoriated Pakistan as our ‘enemy’ only a few months ago; and finally, he praised the dictatorial Philippine President’s violent antidrug crack-down, descried by the UN, and invited him to the WH. As if he were starring as hotelier in the new political soap of ‘Sleeping with the Enemy (in the Lincoln Bedroom, no less).’ Tune in next week…. And I did, and he was baiting a trade war with China, inviting a nuclear arms race (we thought with North Korea, but no, with anyone!) and jettisoning a two-state solution in the Middle East. ‘Merry Christmas to all!...”
However thrilling it may be to command the spotlight and hold all the world hostage, there is something chest-thumping pathetic about our president-elect individually craving the praise of despots at the cost of our diplomatic trust and our country’s reputation throughout the world. There is also something alarming about an elected commander-in-chief who eschews intelligence briefings to instead settle scores with individuals and corporations and nation-states alike—in an exercise akin to ‘divide and tweet”.
How long will it take the media and markets to ignore his tweets, in order to mitigate their impact, because they have come to know, despite all the sound and fury, they signify nothing. How long will it take for a hostile hacker named Vlad to complete the operation and wave his sword of compromising data above T’s head?
And now, as if to punctuate T’s imperial stake in the home front, we are told that T. may actually refuse to submit a budget in his first year. Governance be damned. Why be hemmed in by plans, obligations or promises? Dismantle labor and unions. Dismantle environmental protection. Dismantle public schools. Take away healthcare from the poor, working class and the elderly (we forget, after a decades long struggle, the Elder Justice Act protecting older Americans against all manner of abuse was first federally mandated only under the ACA.) And why do all this? Because he simply can. (‘they let you do it…’ a predator knows the weak ones.)
It is hard not to hear the rapid-fire threats to our governance fired off in this bizarre target practice transition of tweets and cabinet picks, and not recall T’s campaign ‘Dare-Me’ boast: ‘I could stand in the middle of 5th Ave. and shoot people and not lose voters.’
Let’s be clear about ‘Repeal and Delay’… --the proposed eradication of Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) and the cessation of healthcare for over 20 million people. This strategy captures symbolically the ‘teardown anarchic ethos’ of so many of T’s and the GOP’s policies. The teardown part will come naturally but ‘replace’ will prove as elusive as the promise that already having worked its magic at the ballot box becomes vapor—erased from the record, along with the voter.
T said as much, on his ‘Thank Me’ tour in early Dec. when looking out to the crowd in Ohio he chuckled, ‘I don’t need your vote anymore.’ Was the wizard lifting the curtain just a bit? Did nobody feel the least tinge of having been played, if not suckered?
First things first. What MATTERS most (for T) is that T. has WON! A fact oddly that he needs to assert and to have reinstated by surrogates and family and media sycophants over and over again, despite his victory. Why? Because the narcissist basks in the moment of reflected glory and literally lives for the applause. And it’s the nature of the malignant narcissist’s sickness (his ‘wound’ or ‘injury’, clinically stated) that too much is never enough. (Because he’s never quite satisfied with who he is.)
Plainly put, there’s a hole in the conman’s heart. He knows the lies he gets them to believe; he knows what he is not—even when he has won! This year’s premiere season will tell the gut-wrenching story of how We The People HAVE NOT. (won.)
And just to insure we do not lose interest, lapse into a paralyzing depression or god forbid, switch the channel, we are given a glimpse of the debut season’s intrigue. As in: ‘Russians succeed in hacking and swinging an election. T rebuffs his own intelligence agency, installs an oil oligarch as secretary of state and celebrates a new alliance with ‘Vlad the Prevailer’. (the cyber version of ‘Vlad the Impaler’.) Sidebar: ‘Responding to hostile threats, China calls T an ‘ignorant child’ and conducts a nuclear fly-over.’ Followed by ‘China seizes US drone. Trump says ‘Keep It!’ Have no fear, the prez elect assures us he doesn’t need instruction, knowledge, and intelligence: he knows how to ‘hit back’ and he has ‘a good brain.’
There is something frightening about a leader who advertises his willful ignorance. There is something crazy about a leader who actually claims to know more by refusing to be informed. There is something dangerous about a populace trying to give a certainly deluded and possibly deranged elected leader the ‘benefit of the doubt’ while handing him the nuclear codes.
The question remains: are there no checks in our imperfect democracy to an imbalanced autocrat? While many of us continue to be roped into T’s keep-‘em-guessing contradictory behavior and others are stunned or cowed into silence, will most of us acquiesce and come to accept that the president does not mean what he says and does not say what he means. Will we give him a pass on lying?
What will it take for us to realize that his presidential promises serve an immediate end of personal profit? Will it be the Indonesian PM at his side with the go-ahead for two properties? Or will it be the Billionaire Dubai partner celebrating the expanding Trump organizations interests at T’s New Year’s party? Or the hotels booked into the future, a stones’ throw away from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Or the Chinese banker by his son-in-law’s side with his raucous: ‘I love you guys!’ Or the disclosure that T will be handing over his business to the open arms, eyes-wide-open ‘trust’ of his family. (Believe that, then pigs fly!) When will it occur to us that ‘no new deals’ is a promise already broken? A lie intended to deceive the public trust for a specific self-serving end.
In the game of T’s lying pathology, the narcissist always escapes unscathed. Because true to his con, he doesn’t believe for a minute anything he says. All that matters is that we do. Slave to his compulsions, the pathological liar cannot be held to his word. He cannot help himself. (except of course, to OPM, other people’s money.) And fresh with his new U.S. presidential passport, OPM will be forthcoming.
That said, this is neither reality show nor board game nor therapy session. T’s actions, moves and words as commander in chief can reverberate with immediate consequences throughout the world. So let us be warned, in the game of Real Life, T, as President of the United States, can harm many.
Let’s put aside for a moment the racism, the misogyny, the sexual assault, and the xenophobic rage T asserted or exhibited or admitted to, as well as the chants for violence against his opponent he cheered on during the campaign, and focus only on the interim between the election and the inauguration.
1) T has claimed the electoral process was rigged due to millions of undocumented alien votes and that he won by a mandate. (Patently false, given his opponent’s popular advantage of nearly 3 million votes,)
2) T has threatened a nuclear arms race (we thought at first in response to North Korea, but then it became more global—a contest with an amorphous “them”.)
3) T has praised the wisdom and superior leadership of V. Putin while disparaging his president and undermining the United States intelligence services (the CIA, the NSA and the FBI) he is about to assume command of.
4) T dismissed sight unseen the findings of the three U.S. intelligence agencies into the Russian cyber-hacking of the DNC and before even being briefed, he mocked to the world U.S. intelligence’s pinpointing of Russia as the perpetrator of the hack. And he then went on to cite the superior intelligence of Julian Assange, whose Wikileaks was a main actor in the attack. T also claimed to possess his own Intelligence that he promised to make public but did not. (Because that too was a lie and/or its sources might prove too damning a connection.)
5) Once briefed by U.S. Intel agency heads on their findings, T emerged from that meeting to announce the three agencies’ conclusions that the election had in no way been influenced by the hacking and disinformation campaign waged by Russia and carried out by Wikileaks. He proceeded immediately to celebrate a new era of collaboration with Russia globally and to call for an inquiry into a U.S. news organization (MSNBC) for reporting leaked material.
In fact the intelligence services’ report issued shortly after the meeting explicitly stated it did not assess nor draw conclusions on the hacking’s direct effects on election results. Rather it established beyond a reasonable doubt, the crime (criminal interference in elections and theft of property from the DNC and other individuals and offices), the perpetrator –the nation state of Russia--and the means and the motive, namely the disruption of the democratic election process through a multifaceted program of cyber-espionage, in order to undermine one presidential candidate, Clinton, in favor or another—namely T. An operation that to the eyes of the world had clearly succeeded.
So what might these positions possibly reveal about the president elect’s state of mind…
1) T. insistently voices the paranoid belief that the election was rigged. (the polls, the debates, the media…it’s all rigged.)
2) T. asserts a dangerous readiness to go nuclear to demonstrate his superior power.
3) T. identifies fully with the absolute power of the autocrat (lauding Putin’s approval ratings) in stark mocking contrast to democratic presidents who are weakened by their accountability to citizens.
4) T. threatens to restrict the access and power of the press and to thwart the free inquiry of law—all the while denying Russia’s murderous suppression of dissent and absolving them of interference in our U.S. elections.
5) T. not only absolves Russia of criminal involvement in executing an attack on our U.S. elections, but he compliments their superior intelligence and rewards them for a mission accomplished replete with promises of lifting sanctions, forgiving the Crimea, and forging new deals of joint Russo-American kleptocracy in the future.
Think about it. T. is fighting the standing president Obama and the combined U.S. intelligence agencies’ findings regarding a crime against American sovereignty committed by the Russian state, and throwing his lot with the enabling website publisher and the perpetrator of the act—namely Wikileaks and Putin. What’s wrong with this picture?
But as ever Trump is blameless in all his disputes, always the aggrieved victim. And he is a cunning master at using deflection to misdirect attention away from explosive issues that threaten his primacy—as in, his possible complicity in an international cyber-war crime against American elections.
It is hard to read Trump’s relentless BOLDFACE lying in the face of verifiable facts, and not see a man who has something huge to hide. A man who is paranoid about losing, even when he has won; a man who considers nuclear escalation a real bargaining chip; a man for whom the constitution is a minor legal hurdle to be leapt over on the way to getting what he wants: self-validation through whatever vengeful, intimidating and humiliating means possible.
It is time for us to consider that this man—be he lone wolf or unwitting pawn-- is not just wrong-minded or misguided, but demonstrably unstable. It is time for us to stop massaging T’s distorted truth telling as ‘untruths’ and ‘falsehoods’ (as some journalists seem to bend over backwards to accommodate) and demand that T. own his lies: ‘A lie is a lie is a lie.’ It is time for us to realize that as president of the United States, T’s lying represents a clear and present danger to our nation’s sovereignty, its unity and our global security.
Just how Donald Trump ultimately loses face in his ongoing life contest for applause may end up a riveting celebrity ‘fall from grace’ story for some followers. But the American people as a whole stand to lose something far more valuable: our face with the world. And ultimately the world’s confidence in our moral compass.
However they view him, I hope that they will see through the bombast and the lies of the con for the venal small man he is. I hope too that they will not judge us too harshly nor lose faith in American resilience.
Didn’t I say a few pages back that it was only a matter of time (the time it took to write this letter) before Vlad would wave his Damocles’ sword over T’s head? And now, a dossier of Kompromat surfaces—and what was that? One tape or two… and yes, a credible intelligence officer with an incredible story… well, maybe not so incredible. As yet unverified reports that hang the subject in limbo. A conspiracy that begs investigation that if validated, will rattle him and unravel the veneer of his presidency to expose a hollow core.
As I watch this would-be autocrat flailing in the clutches of a Russian disinformation campaign designed to undermine democracy (if not specifically to elect Trump), I am reminded of my student years visiting a Soviet block country and how it was common knowledge that even the lowliest academics were reported on. All part of an equal opportunity network of informants whose eyes scanned Westerners of every stripe and whose tentacles reached deep into their own population. Information then as now, was the most stable form of currency.
So thirty years later the Kremlin’s denial that they would ever collect Kompromat, on insignificant Western billionaires rings hollow, even ridiculous, given Russia is run by oligarchs, and especially when the state has used Kompromat just recently on its own journalists and politicians. Russia’s plea of ‘innocence’ coupled with T’s press conference statement that of course he knew Russian hotel rooms were bugged and his later tweet (Jan.11) that Russia had confirmed that the report was a complete fabrication strikes a loudly discordant note of collusion. So who now has been talking to whom and for how long?
Thirty-plus years in publishing gave me a keen appreciation for the word. Words really do matter. They are an author’s oath to the reader. They are a president’s oath to his people. The president gives us his word to lead in honor and we the people give him our trust. That bond of belief between leaders and citizens is what makes democracy work. There is no greater abuse of power than a president’s lie.
Over and over again, T has shown himself to be a half step ahead of his last lie. So we citizens, who follow, do so at our own peril. Mindful that we must take special care that this would-be strongman not draw us and the country into his black hole of delusions, swallowing up the light of our American idealism.
Today I worry most about some of my end of lifers in the nursing homes I visit as an ombudsman. Judy in that corner room who literally has nobody but does have the basic protections of the ACA, that grants her some end of life palliative comfort, without which she could easily be released to a shelter. Nobody is talking about Elder rights that when taken away will shorten their lives, or ACA provisions that guarantee that 80+% of every Medicare dollar go to actual patient care. The already forgotten are the easiest for Washington to forget. They are written off before they are dead. And without the ACA’s end of life support, putting Grandma on an ice floe is going to look more humane than America’s alternative healthcare choices.
They, the ones with only the present to hold onto, go without protest into that good night. But we are not children who turn on our parents or an America that turns its back on its own people. We cannot let them go quietly. We must speak up for them, for us, and for our children. And most vociferously for provisions that protect them and for the rule of law.
On the cusp of the inauguration, from this day forward we must hold T not to his mercurial word or, for that matter, to my critical words or someone else’s placating words. We must hold him to a higher power: the collective promise of this nation’s founders’ words inscribed in our constitution. Words that have navigated us through a frequently turbulent history and still manage to insure safe passage from yesterday to tomorrow.
Those words bear revisiting, especially as T has seemed oblivious to them. Especially as the very heart of the presidential oath of office is the vow to uphold the constitution. Our bible of governance. T will find no deals to break in the Constitution, only promises to keep. Whatever We the People experience in the months and years ahead, we citizens must meet T’s every bullying effort and threat of force to divide and conquer this civil democracy with the courage to hold his feet to the fire and call him out when the liar within does what comes so naturally, and breaks his oath. His time will come.
I woke up this morning reminded of that strange warped Putinesque pledge of my dream this past Monday and I thought that if I had my very own pledge to make today, I would pledge allegiance to the Constitution. And if I were a praying sort, I would pray not for party or partisans or even for deliverance, but simply for more Patriots. Right in the here and now, to bear witness and to speak up. (Not more lawmakers, but some doctors in the wings and make that, someone with a net, to make that critical call when T shouts ‘Fire’ in a crowded Theater of our global security).
So patriots and a psychiatrist or two are what is called for. We Americans don’t do well with mental health—acknowledging the problem only after the tragic event. So we will have to be vigilant. The soul of this republic is only as vital as the citizens who hold it sacred, seeking an ever more perfect, ever more inclusive union, insuring the blessings of today’s freedoms for tomorrow’s children, not only through prayers but action.
At noon, T. serial liar and the conman in chief will take the oath of office. He will solemnly pledge to faithfully execute the duties of office, yada yada…, so help me god or Vlad or whomever. But when he walks away from the podium, he will have sealed his fate with one and only one promise to We the People. To tell the truth. Now that’s a deal breaker.
And how will play end…check-mate or the untrumpable con. Time will tell. We will all be watching.
Sign me ‘A’ for American or Anonymous or just ‘Angela’, Concerned Citizen