Leavitt: President Donald J. Trump’s promises unkept

By Irv Leavitt for Chronicle Media

President Donald Trump welcomed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) to the White House Nov. 13, a month after Turkey attacked Kurdish allies of the United States. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

“You promised me this wouldn’t happen,” she said as she switched off the light late that November night in 2016. She turned and faced the wall.

We both knew, of course, that there was precious little that I could have done to prevent Donald Trump’s presidency. But I had reassured her with such certainty that she felt stunned and misled when he was elected.

I had told her it was impossible that a man long suspected of laundering millions of dollars for Russian criminals could be elected to an American school board, let alone the White House. His businesses repeatedly tanked, resulting in a skein of corporate bankruptcies, and he had often refused to honor pledges to pay contractors. It just couldn’t happen, I promised.

In the weeks leading up to the 2016 election, my confidence in his defeat waned significantly, but I kept my doubts to myself. Though much smarter than me, she relied on my understanding of politics, knowing I’d done my homework. So not telling her was a sin of omission. A lie.

I didn’t lie to her again. I didn’t assure her that cooler, more intelligent or more honest heads would keep this prospective tyrant from making decisions that would endanger her nation. I told her that he would sometimes be thwarted, but often not.

That much became clear, anyway, when the president-elect began to assemble a federal hierarchy stocked with cronies, sycophants and relatives, most of them as indifferent to the welfare of the nation as he.

He refused to separate himself from his businesses, though they collect payments from foreign nationals. That put him in unprecedented violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution immediately upon taking the oath of office. That oath became the first lie of his thousands as President of the United States.

A lawsuit to force his compliance was filed within seconds. It remains pending, along with two companion cases.

It was a fit beginning for what may eventually be found to be the most corrupt presidential administration in the history of the republic. The trading of favors to American businesses, foreign nations and politicians has seemed to be the commerce of Trump’s White House.

A primary concern was that this corruption — along with Trump’s chilling disdain for the lives and rights of others — would result in the deaths of thousands of people around the world. This has occurred, through reductions of medical and social programs, his immigration decisions and foreign policy outrages.

The world remains on tenterhooks, awaiting the possibility that thousands of deaths could become millions if Trump incites larger wars than the one he fostered between Turkey and our former allies, the Kurds of Syria.

It seemed foolish, we thought, to make plans for the future when the future was so much in doubt. Most days, upon awakening, we just talked about Trump. We would often be doing it when we retired at night.

We’re open-minded liberals, having voted for many conservative candidates over the years, and counted several as friends.

But those friendships became strained.

As Trump ran roughshod over the laws and conventions that make the United States worth living in, his party’s other leaders were not just going along.

They loved what he is doing.

They want the Environmental Protection Agency — signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1970 — toothless. And reduction of fossil fuel emissions happily ceases to be a priority for them. It doesn’t matter that climate change is an existential threat. What matters: who funds the campaigns, who offers the post-politics employment, and what an ill-informed political base favors.

Ganging up on the poor and elderly and on innocents fleeing poverty and terror, shoveling money at the already-rich through tax breaks, grants of environmentally questionable mining rights and slashing protective regulations indicates just who is in charge of the party of Lincoln and Reagan.

The stock market keeps going up — a lot — as does employment — not as much. In the first 33 months of Trump’s tenure, 5.7 million jobs were added. In the 33 months prior to his ascension, 7.4 million were added.

Wait, what? We funded a tax giveaway that drove up the federal deficit 77 percent in 2019’s first quarter alone, and the rate of job growth has actually gone down?

It’s no surprise to those who listened to credible economists prior to the tax cut vote. They accurately predicted that corporations would not use the bulk of the tax savings for innovation or expansion, but for the easiest way to generate income. They just bought up their own stock, which drove up stock prices.

Shareholders might keep in mind that when it comes to the markets, what goes up must come down.

The sad truth about the last three years is that Americans have given up all claims to the moral high ground for nothing. Not even more money. Instead, we’ve mortgaged our children’s future.

The tariff war initiated by Trump led to direct payments of $28 billion to farmers to keep them from going bust. A decade ago, the bailout for the automakers only cost $12 billion, and they paid it back. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac paid back their bailouts, too. The farmers won’t be paying anything back, which is lucky, because the rate of farm bankruptcy continued to rise despite the cash infusions.

The bailout, by the way, reportedly went mostly to farms in the southern states, which more loyally supported Trump in 2016, instead of the Midwest, though states like Illinois were hurt worse.

Something new and awful happens almost every day in Washington now. As I write, I hear that Trump’s Department of Agriculture has approved cutting federal inspectors in hog slaughterhouses despite an extensive pilot program indicating that would lead to more unhealthy pork in stores. The USDA also blessed removing the limit to the number of hogs that can be run through a slaughtering line. Apparently, 1,106 per hour was not fast enough.

Trump was impeachable before he walked into the White House, but smarter Democrats wanted to avoid it, because it would actually benefit him in this age of doublespeak. The Ukraine call made impeachment inevitable, however.

The Ukraine-based Articles of Impeachment strike me the same way as grounds for divorce found on legal documents. The papers you bring to court may not necessarily indicate what’s really behind a separation.

My own relationship, mentioned earlier, one of the best of my life, began to go downhill after the election of November, 2016.

It’s hard to say what really killed it, but I know for sure that we would have preferred to navigate the shoals of our lives without the distraction of the dismantling of our nation’s principles and security.

Like many Americans, we spent more time worrying over caged children, shattered peace treaties, shunned allies and unholy compacts with tyrants in Russia, North Korea and Turkey than we did managing our own futures.

That’s because we are patriots.

Our country is like a mighty warship. Though often listing in battle or rough weather, it has always righted itself and returned to course, to fulfill its mission as the world’s great hope for survival and justice.

It remains to be seen if it can recover after its refit as a ship of fools.