Robert Reich: The Trump Presidency Is Over
Donald J. Trump continues playing the role of Commander in Chief, Robert Reich suggested in a Sunday op-ed for The Guardian, but he is “no longer the president of the United States.”
The economist and former Labor Secretary, who has served under Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton, wrote that as the country has plunged into crisis, Trump “doesn’t run the government of the United States” and “doesn’t manage anything.”
The president spends his time “golfing, watching cable TV and tweeting,” Reich wrote, even as the coronavirus pandemic wears on and protests against racial injustice have engulfed the country.
Reich asked: “How has Trump responded to the widespread unrest following the murder in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for minutes as he was handcuffed on the ground?”
Trump called the protesters “thugs” and threatened to have them shot. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he tweeted, parroting a former Miami police chief whose words spurred race riots in the late 1960s.
On Saturday, he gloated about “the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons” awaiting protesters outside the White House, should they ever break through Secret Service lines.
Trump has addressed the pandemic no better, Reich lamented, having “punted management of the coronavirus to the states.”
He left states to fend for themselves, at times pitted against one another in bidding for necessary medical supplies.
Trump has claimed “no responsibility at all” for testing and contact-tracing – the keys to containing the virus. His new “plan” places responsibility on states to do their own testing and contact-tracing.
And with the economic crisis, Trump has fared no better, Reich said — even as more than 41 million Americans have lost their jobs.
He noted that “temporary eviction moratoriums are set to end in half of the states” in the coming weeks, even though one-fifth of Americans were unable to pay their rent this month.
Likewise, the boost in unemployment benefits is slated to expire in July.
But Trump has not risen to the challenge, Reich wrote.
What is Trump’s response? Like Herbert Hoover, who in 1930 said “the worst is behind us” as thousands starved, Trump says the economy will improve and does nothing about the growing hardship. The Democratic-led House passed a $3tn relief package on 15 May. Mitch McConnell has recessed the Senate without taking action and Trump calls the bill dead on arrival.
Reich conceded that there is nothing inherently wrong with golfing, watching television or tweeting but said it is the extent to which Trump engages in these activities — even as his presidential responsibilities languish amid several crises — that causes alarm.
Of Trump’s tweets, Reich noted that many involve threats he holds no actual power to enforce.
The president has threatened “withholding funds from states that expand absentee voting, ‘overruling’ governors who don’t allow places of worship to reopen “right away”, and punishing Twitter for factchecking him.”
“Trump’s tweets are no substitute for governing,” he wrote. “They are mostly about getting even.”
When he’s not fomenting violence against black protesters, he’s accusing a media personality of committing murder, retweeting slurs about a black female politician’s weight and the House speaker’s looks, conjuring up conspiracies against himself supposedly organized by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and encouraging his followers to “liberate” their states from lockdown restrictions.
Trump’s disinterest in leading the country has been apparent from the start, Reich noted, but “it has taken the present set of crises to reveal the depths of his self-absorbed abdication – his utter contempt for his job, his total repudiation of his office.”
- The current reality is that “Donald Trump doesn’t run the government of the United States,” Reich observed.
He doesn’t manage anything. He doesn’t organize anyone. He doesn’t administer or oversee or supervise. He doesn’t read memos. He hates meetings. He has no patience for briefings. His White House is in perpetual chaos.
Trump’s nonfeasance goes far beyond an absence of leadership or inattention to traditional norms and roles. In a time of national trauma, he has relinquished the core duties and responsibilities of the presidency.
Reich's conclusion is that Trump is no longer president, and he implores the country to “stop treating him as if he were.”