Our view: Through his actions and social media posts, President Trump offers a helpful reminder to the nation that the rich can be as insufferable and childish as anyone else
By now, the rational or at least non-misogynistic among us had an opportunity to be appalled by President Donald Tweet’s recent Trumps (or is that backwards? It’s hard to remember) regarding the hosts of “Morning Joe,” a cable TV talk show about which the president is apparently fixated. The exact language of the comments hardly deserve to be repeated again, but the nastiest (and loudest cry for psychiatric help from within the White House) was directed at Mika Brzesinski and touched on her intelligence (judged low), physical appearance (ditto) and blood flow (judged high which, let’s face it, is really creepy and scary coming from just about anybody but especially from the guy holding the nuclear codes).
The president’s social media postings were widely denounced, including, mercifully, by leaders of his party. The official word from the White House was that the president was merely giving tit for tat, which is, of course, exactly what they say on the preschool playground. Republicans fretted that their legislative agenda was getting trampled, Democrats were secretly pleased about the trampling and almost nobody was shocked by it all. Mr. Trump’s coarse language and personal attacks against his critics on Twitter have simply become too commonplace and familiar for Americans to be shocked. Sickened, yes, but surprised? Ah, those were the days — back when presidents spoke with dignity and intelligence — about six months ago.
Even Mr. Trump’s most vigorous defenders (aside from the ones on his payroll or sitting at his dinner table) will admit he has acted foolishly. But here’s something else Americans need to take away from this latest act of self-sabotage: Can we all now agree that billionaires aren’t inherently better than everyone else? That being richer than Croesus doesn’t make one smart or virtuous or even possessing of sound judgment? That wealth isn’t much of a yardstick to assess character or even management skills or the understanding of a complex central government? That might seem obvious, yet the expectation that a “successful” businessman could make a nation “great again” was the main pitch of the Trump candidacy and seems to suffuse the Trump administration’s every action.
Who can be trusted to set economic policy? Mr. Trump’s cabinet has a combined wealth of more than $9.5 billion. As the president told supporters last month at an Iowa rally, he doesn’t want a “poor person” in his cabinet. Perhaps that’s why so many of his proposals to date would disproportionately benefit the rich, from Republican health care reform (billionaire Warren Buffett has calculated that the House version of the Obamacare repeal would provide him a cool $679,999 a year while taking health insurance away from tens of millions) to his outline for tax reform (which contains all kinds of benefits to the super-rich from the elimination of the estate tax to a lower corporate tax rate). This notion that the U.S. economy is driven by the proper nurturing of the 1 percent is not only demonstrably untrue and remarkably un-American but so unabashedly narcissistic as to enter the realm of self-parody.
Surely, this puts Mr. Trump is the rare air of a Travis Kalanick, the 40-year-old Uber founder (worth several Donald Trumps, if we are to use that measure) whose arrogance, scandals and “bro culture” led to his recent resignation as CEO, or perhaps the various disgraced super-rich of recent years from con artists like Bernard Madoff to outright frauds like Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling of Enron fame. Their money didn’t make them better people; if anything, their drive for wealth demonstrated their lack of character. There are some extraordinary people who have made fortunes in business, but there are also extraordinary people teaching the next generation to read, walking police beats, inventing the next life-saving medication or helping lift the disadvantaged out of poverty — all for a fraction of a rich person’s pay.
The Donald Trump of “The Apprentice,” that all-knowing, generally benevolent and relatively dignified presence who appeared in a dramatically-lighted board room at the beginning and end of each episode to judge the success or folly of contestants? That’s a fiction, people. As revolting as the president’s tweets may seem to average Americans, they are an invaluable reminder that rich does not make right. Billionaires are no better or worse than anyone else, and the one who currently occupies the Oval Office seems to use Twitter primarily to demonstrate his everyday, ordinary vulgarity.
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