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Thursday, October 12, 2023

All The President's Men

This post is a duplicate of a post on my political blog.  I'm re-posting because of the importance of this topic. 
Donald Trump was the 45th president of the United States, serving from 2017 until 2021.  Like any president, Trump appointed a cabinet of department secretaries, choosing highly accomplished individuals to serve in those positions.  Trump, with his well-known inclination for authority figures, chose a number of military generals.  Over the years, Trump also developed a circle of associates in private business.  As in any administration, conflicts developed between Trump and his subordinates, and sometimes between the subordinates.  However, Trump’s administration was noteworthy for the number of conflicts and for turnover in his cabinet. 

During his first campaign, Trump told Bret Baier of Fox News, “I'm going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people.”  Indeed, the people recruited to serve in Trump’s cabinet had remarkable resumes, particularly those in top-tier positions.  But as those individuals left the White House, a picture began to unfold about the president himself.  Their writings, interviews and public statements about the former president are a performance review from those who worked with him most closely in the White House.

The opinions about Donald Trump from his former subordinates are a remarkably consistent portrait of the president.  They describe a man who who no principles, who sees everything through the lens of his own self-interest.  They describe a man who has no regard for rules, laws, treaties or behavioral norms.  They describe a man who is unbelievably impatient, who reacts rather than thinks, who doesn’t, can’t or won’t learn relevant facts before making a decision.  They describe a man with an incredibly short attention span.  They describe a man who admires dictators, aspires to have the power of a dictator, and who has no regard for the constitution or democracy.  They describe a man who is enamored of violence, who seeks domination of others as a matter of course.  In blunt terms they describe a man with immature emotions and intellectual capacity, unable to understand complex state matters.  And they say that Trump should not be president.

Here, then, is Donald Trump’s Presidential Portrait.

Mark Esper

West Point, Lt. Colonel US Army, Congressional policy analyst, VP Aerospace Industries Association, VP Raytheon, Secretary of Defense.

“He is an unprincipled person who, given his self-interest, should not be in the position of public service."

“It's important to our country, it's important to the republic, the American people, that they understand what was going on in this very consequential period… The last year of the Trump administration.  And to tell the story about things we prevented. Really bad things. Dangerous things that could have taken the country in a dark direction."

Bret Baier, Fox News: "Is Donald Trump a threat to democracy?
Mark Esper: ““I think that given the events of January 6, given how he has undermined the election results, he incited people to come to DC, stirred them up that morning and failed to call them off, to me, that threatens our democracy. … I think the answer would – what else can you conclude, Bret?”

John Kelly

4-star General, US Marines, Board of Advisors, DC Capital Partners, Secretary of Homeland Security, White House Chief of Staff.

Trump is:
“A person that has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about.”
“A person who demonstrated open contempt for a Gold Star family…and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in America’s defense are ‘losers’ and wouldn’t visit their graves in France.”
“A person who cavalierly suggests that a selfless warrior who has served his country for 40 years in peacetime and war should lose his life for treason – in expectation that someone will take action.”
“A person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators.”
“A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law."

“He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”

Kelly referred to Trump as "an idiot" multiple times to underscore his point, according to four officials who say they've witnessed the comments.

An unidentified friend of Kelly told CNN that Trump "can’t fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself.  Trump can’t imagine anyone else’s pain."

Jim Mattis

4-star General, Commander US Joint Forces, Commander NATO Allied Forces Transformation, Director General Dynamics, Secretary of Defense.

"The president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’"

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths.”

Bill Barr

US Attorney, corporate lawyer, director of Time/Warner, Attorney General (1991-93, 2019 - 2020).

Donald Trump “knew well he lost the election.”
“Someone who engaged in that kind of bullying about a process that is fundamental to our system and to our self-government shouldn’t be anywhere near the Oval Office.”

“There was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were.  I thought, ‘Boy, if he really believes this stuff, he has lost contact with – he’s become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff.’”
Barr said the theories Trump supported were “idiotic” and “amateurish”.

Barr said this about various claims by the Trump legal team: “bullshit,” “completely bullshit,” “absolute rubbish,” “idiotic,” “bogus,” “stupid,” “crazy,” “crazy stuff,” “complete nonsense,” and “a great, great disservice to the country.”

Trump is a “fundamentally flawed person who engaged in reckless conduct.”
“He will always put his own interests and gratifying his own ego ahead of everything else, including the country's interests.”
“He's like a 9-year-old, a defiant 9-year-old kid who is always pushing the glass toward the edge of the table, defying his parents to stop him from doing it.  It's a means of self-assertion and exerting his dominance over other people. And he's a very petty individual who will always put his interests ahead of the country’s.”

Rex Tillerson

Chairman & CEO of Exxon-Mobil, President of Boy Scouts USA, Secretary of State.

“…a fucking moron.”  Corroborated by White House witnesses, following a meeting where Trump asked to increase the US nuclear arsenal ten-fold.

“When the president would say, ‘Here’s what I want to do, and here’s how I want to do it,’ and I’d have to say to him, ‘Well, Mr. President, I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law, it violates the treaty,’.... I think he grew tired of me being the guy every day that told him, ‘You can’t do that, and let’s talk about what we can do.’
Trump “is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of says, ‘This is what I believe.’ ”

“Nothing worked out” with Trump’s foreign policy decisions.  "We squandered the best opportunity we had on North Korea. It was just blown up when he took the meeting with Kim [Jong Un], and that was one of the last straws between him and I," Tillerson told Foreign Policy. "With [Russia's Vladimir] Putin, we didn't get anything done. We're nowhere with China on national security.”..."We're in a worse place today than we were before he came in, and I didn't think that was possible."

“His understanding of global events, his understanding of global history, his understanding of U.S. history was really limited....It’s really hard to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t even understand the concept for why we’re talking about this.”

“I used to go into meetings with a list of four to five things I needed to talk to him about, and I quickly learned that if I got to three, it was a home run, and I realized getting two that were meaningful was probably the best objective....If I could put a photo or a picture in front of him or a map or a piece of paper that had two big bullet points on it, he would focus on that, and I could build on that,” Tillerson told the outlet. “Just sitting and trying to have a conversation as you and I are having just doesn’t work....I’m not sure many of those decisions were well-informed.”

John Bolton

Assistant Attorney General, Ambassador to the UN, US National Security Advisor, Secretary of State.

“Trump has the attention span of a fruit fly.”

“I hope [history] will remember him as a one-term president who didn’t plunge the country irretrievably into a downward spiral.  We can get over one term. I have absolute confidence. … Two terms, I’m more troubled about.”

Richard Spencer

US Marine aviator & captain, Wall Street executive, Vice-chair & CFO of Intercontinental Exchange, Pentagon & Navy business advisory panels, Secretary of the Navy.

“…the president has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices."

Mark Milley

4-star General US Army, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff

After Trump’s election loss in 2020, General Milley feared Trump would try “to use the military on the streets of America to prevent the legitimate, peaceful, transfer of power.”  Milley also feared that Trump would have a “Reichstag moment” to manufacture a foreign crisis and seize power.  Milley called his counterpart in China to reassure him that the US would not start a war.

“We don’t take an oath to a king, or queen, or tyrant or a dictator, and we don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator.”

Gary Cohn

Vice-chair & COO of Goldman Sachs, Vice-chair of IBM, Director of National Economic Council, Chair of Pallas Advisors, Trump’s Chief Economic Advisor.

“It's worse than you can imagine. An idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won't read anything--not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored….Trump is less a person than a collection of terrible traits. No one will survive the first year but his family….I am in a constant state of shock and horror.”

Mike Pompeo

US Army Captain, founder, attorney, Thayer Aerospace, president Sentinel International, US Representative, Director of CIA, Secretary of State

“We can’t become the left, following celebrity leaders with their own brand of identity politics, those with fragile egos who refuse to acknowledge reality,”
“Trump had classified docs when he shouldn’t have had them, and when given the opportunity to return them, he chose not to do that”.

H.R. McMaster

3-star General, US Military Academy, Hoover Institution Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Int’l Inst. of Strategic Studies, National Security Advisor.
H.R. McMaster said the president was an “idiot”, a “dope”, “with the intelligence of a kindergartener.”

Reince Priebus

Attorney, Republican National Committee Chair, White House Chief of Staff

Reports of chaos and disorganization inside the White House through the first months of President Donald Trump’s administration are accurate, former chief of staff Reince Priebus said. In fact, Priebus said, those reports understated the truth of the Trump administration’s beginnings.
“Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by 50.”

Anthony Scaramucci

Goldman Sachs investment banker, founder Oscar Capital, founder Skybridge Capital, White House Communications Director (briefly).

“Recently he has said things that divide the country in a way that is unacceptable. So I didn’t pass the 100% litmus test. Eventually he turns on everyone, and soon it will be you and then the entire country.”

Steve Bannon

Lt. US Navy, Assistant to Chief of Naval Operations, investment banker, executive chairman of Breitbart News, Senior Counselor to the President.

“He’s like an 11-year-old child.”

 Alyssa Griffin

Press secretary for the Dept of Defense, Press secretary to Mike Pence, co-host of The View, Special Assistant to the President.

She is trying to reach those who, like her, "drank the Kool-Aid."
“The people I’m most hoping to reach and convince that Trump is terrible for our country, are people who, like I once did, support him.”

Omarosa Newman

Participant on “The Apprentice”, Presidential aide, Director of Communications, Office of Public Liaison.

Trump is “racist, misogynist and bigot.”
“Would you look at this George Conway article?” she quotes the president as saying. “F**ing FLIP! Disloyal! Fucking Goo-goo.”
“growing realization that Donald Trump was indeed a racist, a bigot and a misogynist. My certainty about the N-word tape and his frequent uses of that word were the top of a high mountain of truly appalling things I’d experienced with him, during the last two years in particular.”

Tony Schwartz

Co-author, “The Art of the Deal”

“He is so deeply sociopathic that I don't think there is any capacity for empathy or any capacity for remorse.”
“He likes violence and particularly when that violence he perceives as exalting him and being on his behalf.”

“He had a stunningly short attention span....He was like a kindergartener who couldn’t sit still in the classroom.  My strong guess is that Trump has never read a book in his adult life.”

“When he feels aggrieved, he reacts impulsively and defensively, constructing a self-justifying story that doesn’t depend on facts and always directs the blame to others.”
“Trump was equally clear with me that he didn’t value — nor even necessarily recognize — the qualities that tend to emerge as people grow more secure, such as empathy, generosity, reflectiveness, the capacity to delay gratification or, above all, a conscience, an inner sense of right and wrong.”
“When he is challenged, he instinctively doubles down — even when what he has just said is demonstrably false.... Trump would see no contradiction at all in changing his story about why he fired Comey and thereby undermining the statements of his aides, or in any other lie he tells. His aim is never accuracy; it’s domination.”

“Lying is second nature to him.”

Michael Cohen

Former Trump personal lawyer.

“I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat.”
“A copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account – after he became president – to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign.  He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie to his wife about it, which I did.”
“Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.”
“He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘shithole.’ This was when Barack Obama was President of the United States.”
“He told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.”
“I fear that if he loses the presidential election in 2020, there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

Cohen said Trump told him to lie about the medical deferments Trump received that excused him from the draft during the Vietnam War.

Trump ordered Cohen to find a fake buyer for a portrait of Trump to make it appear that the painting had sold for a lot of money and was therefore valuable; actually, Cohen said, Trump arranged to use money from his foundation to inflate the sale price.

"The man doesn't tell the truth.”

Cohen said Trump is “a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man.”

Trump ran his operation “much like a mobster would do,” Cohen said.

Bonus Quote:
James Comey

US attorney, Director of the FBI
James Comey is not a Trump associate or appointee, but played a prominent role in Trump’s 2016 election victory over Hillary Clinton.  Here is Comey’s assessment of Trump.

“I actually believe he's morally unfit to be president." 
Trump is "someone who is able to see moral equivalence in (white nationalist protests in) Charlottesville or to speak and treat women like they're pieces of meat and to lie constantly and who appears to lack an external moral framework" of religion or philosophy or history.”

The prominent people featured in this post are not woke or leftist critics of the former president, but are Trump’s hand-picked appointees to the most critical posts in the country.   I don’t like most of them.  I think that they are largely terrible people for their conservative positions and past actions.  But these are the people responsible for the administration, operations and policies of the most critical elements of the United States government,  and some of Trump’s closest associates in private life.  They’re telling the truth about Trump.  They have a clear consensus about his character flaws that should preclude him from ever again holding the office of president.  The character flaws they describe are entirely consistent with everything else we know about this man – that he lied on loan applications, that he cheated on taxes, that he failed to pay his contractors, that he cheated on three wives, that he held a teen beauty contest so that he could walk in unannounced on naked children in their dressing room, that he stole government secrets and refused to return them when caught, that he tried to overturn the legitimate results of a presidential election, that he organized a riot to attempt a coup.

The conclusion is plain – Trump should not be president again.  But Republican voters continue to hold Trump in high regard.  Republican elected officials (with few exceptions, such as Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney) do not criticize or denounce this emperor with no clothes.  The media faithfully reports on his rallies, with a mild, futile protest of “Trump said XYZ without evidence” in the fine print near the bottom of the article. 

What does it take to get through to Republican voters?