2017: The year from hell

By Bill Press

It may be the toughest question I was ever asked on television. And it came, just before the end of the year, from Larry King. Yes, 84 years young, he’s still on television, hosting “Politicking with Larry King” on Hulu and RT America.

Larry’s not known for asking tough questions, but he stumped me with this one: “What are some of the good and bad things Donald Trump has done in 2017?” Good things? That stopped me cold. I couldn’t think of one, until I remembered: Like every president since Harry Truman, he pardoned a Thanksgiving turkey. Honestly, that’s the only “good thing” I could come up with.

But the “bad things”? The list is endless. Donald Trump has turned out to be even less qualified, less prepared, less capable, less fit for the office of president, and more dangerous, than we originally feared. True, he didn’t get much done in Congress – signing only one major bill, but his executive actions have done lasting damage to domestic and foreign policy.

Start with his new “America First” policy, spelled out in a speech at the Reagan Building on Dec. 18. Does anybody in the White House have any sense of history? “America First” was the anti-Semitic slogan of Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, Joseph Kennedy and other Nazi sympathizers who opposed U.S. entry into World War II. Do we really want to go back there?

Under this “go it alone” policy, Trump’s already reversed seven decades of U.S. world leadership under Republican and Democratic presidents, working with allies to solve common problems. From now on, he says, all existing international agreements are meaningless.

First to fall were the Paris Accords. As of today, every other nation on the planet except the United States has joined the international pact on climate change. Nicaragua and Syria, the last two holdouts, agreed to sign last fall. That leaves the United States, the world’s second-largest source of greenhouse gases, isolated in global efforts to tackle one of the greatest threats facing the planet. We should be leading that effort, not running from it.

We should also be leading on nuclear disarmament. And we were, until a year ago, gathering the U.K., Russia, China, France, Germany and the EU in a historic agreement with Iran to cease its nuclear weapons program for at least 15 years. Now, thanks to Donald Trump, that deal’s in the trash bin of history. America First!

On the domestic front, Trump’s also taken the nation backward – appealing, not to “the better angels of our nature,” but to the worst. He’s attempted, with some success, to slam America’s doors to all Muslims. And he’s initiated repeal of the Dreamers program, leaving 700,000 immigrants who were brought to this country illegally by their parents – young people who’ve lived nowhere else, have jobs, go to college, pay taxes, serve in the military and have committed no crimes – subject to instant deportation.

Trump has also turned back the clock on environmental protection. Most presidents add new national monuments. Trump has cut two of them in half to allow more drilling and mining on public lands. In signing the tax bill, he also opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, created by President Eisenhower in 1960, to oil drilling. And he’s canceled limits on greenhouse emissions from new coal-fired power plants.

By eliminating the individual mandate, he gutted the Affordable Care Act, causing 13 million Americans to lose their health insurance. He’s lied about everything from the size of his electoral vote to the size of the crowd at his inaugural. His administration’s still the subject of a criminal investigation, in which four of his top aides have already been indicted, and Trump himself is subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit in New York.

Meanwhile, he’s conducted himself in a manner – personal attacks, crude language, petty tweets, childish bragging – that’s brought disgrace to the highest office in the land: behavior that prompted editors of USA Today to conclude that Trump is “not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.”

In short, Donald Trump the president has turned out to be just as obnoxious as Donald Trump the candidate. No wonder he has the lowest approval rating of any president in 50 years. The fact that we survived one year of Trump just proves what a strong country we are. But I’m not sure we’re strong enough to survive another three.

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