Imagine that your favorite college football team had a slim first quarter lead, but then the tide turned and when the dust finally cleared, your team got clobbered. The moment the game ended, your team’s head coach screams, “We won this game! The refs didn’t call all those illegal procedure penalties on our enemy! They took away a dozen touchdowns from me! The game was rigged! The fix was in!” You’d be justified thinking that embittered coach was completely off his rocker.
The Electoral College score was 306-232. Donald Trump insists that he won the election, the vote was rigged, and the fix was in. His campaign went to court to reverse results, but when judges, even some he appointed, dismissed his suits as being completely without merit, the truth seemed to be sinking into Trump’s camp, if not Trump himself. Joe Biden will be the next president, with or without Trump’s cooperation.
It would be better for the country were Trump to smooth President-elect Biden’s path to the office. But he has other ideas. It’s 11 weeks between election and inauguration. History, if not Trump’s mercurial moods, tells us this period is fraught with peril.
The COVID-19 pandemic will not just vanish without strong intervention. In a normal transition, the outgoing and incoming presidents’ teams would work together to assure continuity in planning for dealing with this disease. They’d work together to assure that Americans suffering economically received needed assistance. They’d cooperate to assure that Americans don’t go hungry or get evicted from their homes. Taking care of these urgent, critically important matters is essential.
But President Trump blocked GSA chief Emily Murphy from releasing transition funding to Biden’s team for more than two weeks after the election’s outcome was certain. Trump’s COVID-19 team did not meet with Biden’s transition team on Operation Warp Speed until last Wednesday. While infection and death rates from that disease grew with explosive, deadly speed, Trump contented himself with filing frivolous lawsuits until not even he could continue to deny the threat.
Three days after Biden’s election was certain, Trump fired defense secretary Mark Esper for doing his job with integrity and speaking truth to power. He replaced Esper and other senior defense department officials with “loyalists,” aka, yes-men. Making this change so close to inauguration could not have been more disruptive to military preparedness. CIA director Gina Haspel and FBI director Christopher Wray are also under attack. The military and national security teams need stability in order to intercept and plan for threats coming from abroad. Last week, Iran’s top nuclear scientist was assassinated, probably by Israeli agents. Iran’s Supreme Leader vowed revenge, and it’s not hard to think that the Ayatollahs might not distinguish between Israel and its most important ally. Would Trump confer with Biden to plan for a response to Iranian mischief? I hope so.
If this seems far-fetched and alarmist, you might want to consult recent history. The winner of the 2000 election wasn’t determined until six weeks after election day. Uncertainty in the outcome contributed heavily to a 10% drop in the stock market. More importantly, it also resulted in delays getting George W. Bush’s national security team up to speed on the threat of radical Islamist attacks on America later in the year. Andy Card, Bush’s former chief of staff, said “it’s concerning that the Trump Administration has refused to cooperate” with President-elect Biden’s transition team. Card also said in that CNN interview, “The 9/11 Commission had said if there had been a longer transition and there had been cooperation, there might have been a better response, or maybe not even any attack.”
President Trump’s actions in other areas, such as his frantic rush to sell drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, his delays in allowing Biden access to presidential daily briefings, his having blocked FBI performing routine clearances of Biden’s prospective nominees, and his nonstop attacks on the election’s results all point to a different sort of problem.
Trump wants to make it as difficult as possible for Biden’s administration to function smoothly. This is more than political sabotage. It is a blow to America. Forty-four times, beginning with George Washington, the outgoing president has worked with his successor to assure that the nation’s best interests are served. No patriotic American would intentionally try to subvert that process. But this is Donald Trump we’re talking about. His only concern is what’s best for Donald Trump. Rumor has it he will announce his candidacy for the 2024 election during Biden’s inaugural ceremony, the better to be the center of attention and Keep America Divided Again.
Trump brings to mind a famous quote: “Some cause joy wherever they go; others, whenever they go.” 2021 will be better.
Mitch Edelman, vice chairperson of the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee, writes from Finksburg. His column appears every other Tuesday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.