The turning point?
Although in January of 2017 Mr. Trump swore and oath to selflessly put his own interests aside in order to serve a greater cause — “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and to serve our great nation and all of its citizens — it has become painfully clear that such an oath has no meaning for him as he sees no greater cause than himself.
Since taking office, he has been progressively destroying our democracy like a wrecking ball from within — undermining, hollowing out and dismantling all of the institutions serving as checks on his executive powers while relentlessly trying to twist them into tools to serve the insatiable needs of his own massive ego as well as weaponizing them for use against his perceived critics and opponents. The corruption running rampant through this administration is stunning and unprecedented, as he clearly believes that the laws which apply to mere mortals do not apply to him, and that he is way above the law. This is how democracies die.
Ironically, as the sitting president, Justice Department policy does grant him immunity from federal prosecution, thus preventing him from having been indicted for campaign finance violations (where he is listed as an “un-indicted co-conspirator,” with his lawyer now serving time in prison for carrying out his orders) as well as ten instances of obstructing justice described in the Mueller report. At least for now.
So, on the day right after Mueller’s testimony, Mr. Trump was emboldened and incredibly brazen enough to openly pressure Ukraine’s newly elected president (by holding back desperately needed and approved military aid) to help him with his 2020 re-election effort by doing him the “favor” of trying to “dig up some dirt” on Joe Biden – an effort which had reportedly been going on for several months. As a result, an insider who witnessed what had happened was so distressed that he or she felt it was necessary to “blow the whistle” on this incident, along with subsequent efforts to cover it up.
The damage done to our nation by this man is extraordinary, and will take years if not decades to mend. He has sowed seeds of hatred, fear, cruelty and division to serve his own political needs. He has embraced the world’s most brutal dictators and despots, while alienating our allies. He has instituted policies to enrich himself and his enablers, while slowly dismantling our healthcare system and the social safety net programs which serve our nation’s working class and most vulnerable citizens. And through all of this he spews out constant deceptions and untruths with gusto and charisma, a skill which any good con man has mastered.
But America is resilient. Surely we will have to learn the hard lessons of this chapter in our history, and then to repair our institutions and strengthen the system of checks and balances so wisely designed by our founding fathers – a system, however, now revealed to include previously unseen weaknesses which this president has exploited in ways which they could never have imagined. We must ensure that no president can do these kinds of things ever again.
And we Americans will need to remember what unites and binds us far outweigh our differences, which are truly one of our nation’s greatest strengths. We must call upon “the better angels of our nature,” and no longer be manipulated by those feeding our darker sides in order to serve their own ego-driven needs. Decency, kindness, compassion, and respect toward others; lifting others up rather than tearing them down; speaking and honoring truth; working through our disagreements in a civil, constructive and collaborative way; and working together to improve the lives of all Americans – is this not that “shining city on the hill” that America is meant to be?
Dale E. Buonocore,