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Even if there was no collusion (and we don’t know that), he’s unfit to serve


May none but Honest and Wise Men ever rule under This Roof

That’s what our second president, John Adams, said concerning the American presidency. Is Donald J. Trump an “honest and wise” man?

In the topsy-turvy world of politics, Trump’s been having a good few days. His polls are up a bit. The Senate Intelligence Committee appears to be on the verge of announcing that they could find no collusion between him, or his campaign, with Russia. The economy continues to roar along. And Trump, fully in campaign mode, seems energized, and nastier than ever.

When our new California Governor, Gavin Newsom, recalled the California National Guard from the border a few days ago (a move that gave him national attention), I fully expected Trump to smear him with insults. (He may already have; maybe I just haven’t seen them.) So I emailed the Governor and suggested that he “forget about the Marquis of Queensbury and think instead of the MMA octagon.” There’s a debate in the Democratic Party about how Democrats, especially the primary candidates, should act towards Trump: conciliatory (as Amy Klobuchar seems to be doing) or confrontational (as Kamala Harris is). IMHO, this is a time to be confrontational: talk to Trump in the only language he understands: his own. Hit him below the belt, reminding him and the public constantly of the adultery, the lies, the indecency. Take off the gloves and start talking about Fred Trump and the KKK, the multiple affairs, the payouts to mistresses, the ripping off of vendors, hiding his tax returns, dog whistles to white nationalists, the sneaky business deals. Devise derogatory nicknames for Trump, the way he does for Democrats. “Tax-dodging Donald” has a nice alliterative quality. “Cheating Donald” is good. “Indecent Donald” gets to the point. Wonder publicly if Trump’s bad moods are because the Secret Service refuses to smuggle in women. This is nastiness, but you have to fight fire with fire.

Some people will say this take-no-prisoners approach panders to the far left of the Democratic base—that most Democrats and centrists want to get beyond the squabbling that has marked the Trump years. I don’t agree. While Trump occupies the Oval Office, something has to be done to restore the normative values that should preside over our politics. Those normative values—mutual respect, gentlemanly (or gentle-womanly) conduct, politeness—have been trashed by Trump. I don’t think he understands the deep grievances Democrats harbor towards him and his supporters. Everybody knows—everybody, from Franklin Graham to Senate Republicans—that Trump has degraded the Presidency, that he’s a moral degenerate. Everybody admits he’s not a role model for kids. Everyone knows he’s a pathological liar.

That’s what Democrats need to hammer home. Forget about issues for the time being: borders, the economy, climate change, overseas wars. Focus on Trump’s miserable character. Maybe there was no collusion. Maybe Trump came close to the line of illegality without actually crossing it. But collusion with Russia was never the main reason why so many of us said Trump is unfit for office. We felt that way well before we ever heard any collusion theories—at least, I did. I knew he was unfit because of his gross indecency. If Trump supported every Democratic platform issue there is—combating climate change, support for LGBTQ rights, fair income distribution, raising taxes on the rich, restoring union rights, rebuilding infrastructure, protecting voting rights, and so on—I’d still say he was unfit for office. Maybe that’s the biggest difference between Republicans and Democrats. We care about the character of the person. They don’t. And that’s a good platform to run on.

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