Our Opinion: Donald Trump has not earned a second term

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Donald Trump was one of the most unprepared men to assume the presidency in U.S. history. Rather than making an effort to learn about the job and its constitutional parameters, the president has spent his time in the Oval Office courting chaos, subverting the foundations of our democracy through authoritarian distortion of the nation's most basic values. His first term has been a failure caused by his incompetence, his corruption and his embrace of authoritarian behavior.

Incompetence

The most obvious example of the president's inability to do his job is his bungling response to the coronavirus that exacerbated the crisis and killed thousands of Americans.

In February, when the virus was gaining a foothold in the U.S., he said the outbreak was a "hoax" hatched by his opposition. Leadership called for keeping Americans safe in a pandemic. Rather than acting to protect the nation, Mr. Trump denied that there was a threat. His sin of omission became a sin of commission, because we now know from a Feb. 7 taped interview with Bob Woodward that he was aware of the gravity of the threat before then.

The glaring incompetence has not been limited to his coronavirus response. The president's attempt to enforce his questionable policy of separating asylum seeking families resulted in thousands of terrified children being locked up in cages and taken from their parents.

These grossly incompetent acts were done in the name of the American public, for which we all bear some vicarious responsibility. Needless to say, the country would also be better served by a commander in chief who doesn't need to have his public health experts spend time clarifying that we should not inject disinfectant into people's bodies to combat coronavirus.

Corruption

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President Trump entered the Oval Office with a pledge to do away with politics as usual and "drain the swamp." The president has imported far more mire than he has purged.

President Trump sought to condition the release of congressionally approved aid to Ukraine on that country's leader announcing an investigation into his most potent political rival.

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After being impeached, the Republican Senate majority spared the president from conviction, but the result was not an exoneration. The affair laid bare that, to the current commander in chief, foreign policy and diplomacy exist not to further American interests, but to be exploited for his personal advancement and reelection efforts. For the first time in our history, a sitting president has been accused of violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution. That provision forbids federal office-holders from accepting valuable gifts from foreign leaders. Many foreign leaders flocked to the Washington hotel that the President Trump still owns, where they paid handsomely for a convenient place to stay while indirectly lining the president's pockets.

One example of the president's corruption was so egregious that he had to reverse course on it before he could receive its benefits. The location of the annual G-7 meeting was scheduled to be held in the United States in June, and the president decided to hold that meeting at his Florida resort, Trump National Doral Miami. President Trump actively tried to create a captive audience of foreign leaders that would pay top rates to his company. The public outcry caused him to backtrack on the plan, while the COVID-19 pandemic killed the entire meeting.

To President Trump, the most actionable offenses are challenges to his absolute authority. FBI Director James Comey and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions were ousted for not bending the Justice Department to the president's whim. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was dismissed from the National Security Council for daring to do his job by reporting to Congress on the shady Ukraine dealings. Even some congressional Republicans were alarmed when five key inspectors general were fired in the span of four weeks earlier this year, an unprecedented purge of governmental watchdogs with little justification.

Authoritarianism

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Throughout his first term, President Trump's autocratic aspirations have developed alongside cozy relationships with tin-pot dictators.

The president's apparent admiration of these ruthless despots is reflected in his own authoritarian ambitions. One need not take this from his political opponents — just consider the observations of those who worked with him. Former Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis labeled the president a threat to the Constitution after D.C. police were ordered to aggressively clear nonviolent protesters from Lafayette Square to create a presidential photo op. Former national security adviser John Bolton characterized President Trump as "naive and dangerous," saying that he offered to "give personal favors to dictators," and, while in conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, asked for help with reelection and approved of China's widespread human rights abuses in Uighur concentration camps as "the right thing to do."

These are not Democratic loyalists or Joe Biden fans. These are the people who worked closely enough with this administration to confirm that it's not only failing to protect our republic, it is working overtime to wound it.

As the president constantly seeks to distract the public and rally his base, bigotry has been a common throughline. His racist remarks against Latinos in the early days of his 2016 campaign set the tone for a messaging strategy that often forgoes the dog whistle in favor of a bullhorn. While the country grapples with racial injustice and inequality, he has fanned the flames of hatred and xenophobia, opting not to try and heal division but to appeal to it.

The president's demagogic mantra "law and order" appears to be a justification for a crackdown on protests more reminiscent of strongman dictatorship than democracy. The administration has deployed jackboot tactics and unmarked federal troops in response to mostly peaceful, nationwide demonstrations for racial justice in the wake of several high-profile police killings. Indeed, this extra-constitutional show of military force might have caused more violence and property damage than it prevented.

President Trump has thoroughly proven he is incapable of fully grasping the job of commander in chief, much less performing it. The pandemic, which has killed nearly 200,000 Americans and brought on the worst financial crash since the Great Depression under President Trump's watch, exemplifies the kind of crisis that America cannot afford to face while retaining an incompetent behind the Resolute desk.


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