By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders
For many it seemed unthinkable. For some it was inevitable. But for all of us the moment is here. Donald J. Trump is our nation’s 45th president starting at noon, January 20, 2017. Stunning!
As with most new presidents the conjecture begins as to which other president does he most admire or wish to model himself after. The answer can offer a clue as to how he will govern.
Three Republican presidents come to mind and top the list of most admired amongst the party faithful. They are Lincoln, (Theodore) Roosevelt and Reagan. So for fun let’s mix and match and see which of these political icons best suits our new president.
Lincoln…probably not a good fit. Unlike Trump, Abraham Lincoln encouraged internal debate and criticism. He filled his inner circle with people who opposed him but whom he respected. He had empathy for people who were enslaved or victims of bigotry. And far from mocking his adversaries, as is de rigor for Trump, Lincoln declared a policy of “malice towards none and charity for all” even for those who engaged in rebellion. Trump on the other hand never misses an opportunity to attack those who have criticized him. Lincoln often deflected political affronts with self-deprecating humor.
These are personal characteristics that Trump has shown no interest in emulating.
Roosevelt… An unlikely fit for Trump as well. Teddy Roosevelt is famous for breaking up corporate monopolies at the expense of the captains of industry. In contrast, Trump is largely inhabiting his cabinet with corporate titans and bigwigs. He is from the business world and as such will likely be the most corporate friendly president ever. Roosevelt also is well known for worrying about the natural environment, creating federal park preserves and dedicating millions of acres of pristine land for future generations. Trump on the other hand denies that climate change is induced by man or is threatening our ecosystem and the very viability of our planet. He favors accelerated oil drilling and minimizes the risks of fracking.
Roosevelt sought out and cultivated relationships with journalists. Trump calls the mainstream press scum.
Reagan… Probably not him either. But Trump may talk him up since Ronald Reagan is the patron saint of the modern conservative movement in America. They both assumed the presidency at the age of 70. Trump, like Reagan, believes in strengthening the military. But Reagan was highly suspicious of Russian intensions and challenged Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev at every turn. Not so much Trump. Reagan was amongst the most genial of our presidents, always polite, even with his detractors, and slow to anger. Trump holds on to grudges like a dog with a bone. Reagan released all his tax returns while running for president. Trump refuses. Reagan forged a productive working relationship with his political counterparts, notably the liberal speaker of the House of Representatives, Tip O’Neil from Massachusetts. Such collegiality is not part of Trump’s DNA.
So if not Lincoln, Roosevelt or Reagan then who? Who exhibits Trump’s thin skinned surliness? Which President shares Trump’s authoritarian approach towards leadership, who despises an inquisitive press and chafes mightily at criticism and will not allow a perceived slight or insult to pass unresponded to? Who, according to our national intelligence agencies, worked overtime to help elect Trump? Which president does Trump share such kinship and who Trump referred to as a better leader than Barack Obama?