Presidential angst is not a good basis for national policy

The May 11 Daily Local News provides some strong commentary about the firing of FBI director James Comey.

The headline of the AP article “Before the ax, Comey was pushing Trump-Russia probe harder” says a lot. It’s pretty obvious that Comey was not fired for his 2016 comments about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Someone is lying again in the White House. What a surprise!

As the editorial “Comey firing seen as sabotage of Russia probe” from the Denver Post brings out, it is surely not a coincidence that Comey was hot on the Moscow Connection trail. The Denver Post’s own headline “The Comey firing stinks; a special prosecutor is a must” draws the necessary conclusion supported by both PA Senator Bob Casey and PA-06 congressman Ryan Costello.

That editorial refers to “the president’s angst with Comey.” The German word” angst,” defined as “a feeling of dread, anxiety, or anguish,” describes well the national political mood in the potentially brief era of Trump.

Another Denver Post article (from the Washington Post) says a lot in its headline “How Trump’s anger, impatience prompted him to fire the FBI director” and goes on to give a lot of significant background.

Angst, anger, impatience… that’s Trump all over. We knew last year that a lot of voters liked candidate Trump’s volatile behavior, unguarded language, and middle-of-the-night tweets. Such traits may be less attractive in a president. Obama’s cool and no-drama exterior may be looking a lot better now.

The columnist Ruth Marcus, in “Right or wrong, why did president fire Comey now?” (Washington Post title: “Comey’s firing should make all of us ‘mildly nauseous’”) has a nice touch in “the sitting president of the United States announcing that he is not a crook,” invoking one of the most famous lines in US political history: Richard Nixon’s declaration “I am not a crook” (he was). But here’s what surprised me, at the end of Marcus’s column:

“Trump’s priority is, first and always, Trump. Which raises the question: Knowing, as he must have, that firing Comey would set off a firestorm, why did he calculate that this move was in his self-interest?”

Normal politicians calculate, evaluate varied advice, look at scenarios, project consequences into the future. But all that is much too logical for Trump: since as Marcus says, it’s all about him, he works from emotion. Angst, anger, impatience in the White House—not a good deal for rational decision-making.

But who ever expected rational decision-making from a developer, show personality, and candidate whose trademarks were intimidation, insults, and invented news?

Sorry to quote myself, but I fear my little satire from ten years ago “Age of Reason over, President proclaims” was all too true.

As alluded to there, former Vice President Al Gore did his best in his book The Assault on Reason; and from 2009-17 we had a president who strove to follow the lead of reason in determining national priorities. Today, with whole disciplines like history, sociology, oceanography, geology, and journalism under assault, it’s sad that Americans need once again to fight for carefully reasoned, fact-based policies.

As the slogan says, “Respect science”: that would be a very good place to start.


About politicswestchesterview

Nathaniel regards himself as a progressive Democrat who sees a serious need to involve more Americans in the political process if we are to rise to Ben Franklin's challenge "A republic, madam, if you can keep it," after a passerby asked him what form of government the founders had chosen. This blog gives my views and background information on the local, state, and national political scenes. My career in higher education was mainly in the areas of international studies, foreign languages, and student advising, most recently at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, from which I retired in 2006. I have lived in West Chester since 1986.
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