In Game of Thrones, Peter Baelysh says, “Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.” Using deception, theft, murder and the sewing distrust, Baelysh undoes his opponents and turns circumstance forever in his favor. Sound familiar? When Jeb Bush called Trump a “chaos candidate,” he wasn’t kidding.
The New York Times recently published a story on books about Trump. Like other stories, this one continues to show his absolute unfitness to lead the U.S. government (or any other large organization for that matter). They write,
To read a stack of new and reissued books about Mr. Trump, as well as a bunch of his own works, is to be plunged into a kind of Bizarro World version of Dante’s “Inferno,” where arrogance, acquisitiveness and the sowing of discord are not sins, but attributes of leadership; a place where lies, contradictions and outrageous remarks spring up in such thickets that the sort of moral exhaustion associated with bad soap operas quickly threatens to ensue.
Trump thrives on setting people against one another. He has bullied and swindled people into submission. He’s no leader.
Many will rightly remind us that great leaders wear down their opponents. Think of Abraham Lincoln’s perseverance despite his losses. Theodore Roosevelt didn’t recognize “the man in the arena” for nothing. Leaders push their opponents to exhaustion for “the worthy cause,” but never to moral exhaustion much less cynicism.
Martin Luther King, Jr. took us where we otherwise wouldn’t have gone. He motivated men, women, and children to cross the bridge in Selma, a bridge that became a metaphor for the most just and loving vision of America. King understood that others need to be empowered so that his time in the Birmingham jail was not the sacrifice of his freedom alone. Rather, his imprisonment was the desecration of the freedom of all people. An injustice anywhere was an injustice everywhere. His vision had to include and empower others to act, to invite them to the table to eat and speak their hearts, and live more fully for one another. They had to walk together in relationships that the theologian Martin Buber called “I and thou.” Ultimately, King’s life for others emboldened and fortified more of us to march farther across the bridge.
Contrast this with Trump’s discord and dismissal. The Tweet storm he unleashed in the wake of Hillary Clinton challenging him about his “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” comments to former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. His unhinged response in the small hours show an obsession with his own ego and utter disregard for our recent or perennial issues. Couldn’t he have gone on a Tweet storm about reforming law enforcement, a policy area he at least claims to care about? Apparently not.
Watch him brag about grabbing women “by the p***y” and them claim that Hillary Clinton’s happiness is important to him. Contrast his discount of John McCain’s time as a prisoner of war with his claim that dodging STD infections was his personal Vietnam. Read his Tweet calling climate change a hoax created by the Chinese and then listen to him say “I do not say that.”
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
He’s accused of pilfering the bank accounts of thousands of people through his fake university and then claims he’s generous despite not donating to his eponymous charity. He’s retweeted white power propaganda and then performed a weird charade to attract black voters. As editorial boards have made clear over the last couple of weeks and a recent spate of Republican leaders, this man is totally “unfit to be the president” of the United States.
Trump stands in stark contrast to some of this year’s Republican presidential candidates. Can you imagine John Kasich or Marco Rubio ever insulting prisoners of war? Of course not. It would violate every bone of decency they have. Do you remember how upset people were about Romney’s “binders full of women” comments? My God. That’s practically feminist in comparison.
Can you imagine Hillary Clinton retweeting the left-wing propaganda of fringe conspiracy movements? Of course not. Unlike Trump she works with credible people. She’s worked for decades to ensure access for all to social services from education to health care with people who actually know what they’re doing. When you consistently work to bring community leaders to the table to deal with racial intolerance, school quality, health care reform, or water contamination to ensure the common good, you are leading. “Stronger Together” actually means something.
Trump doesn’t have the integrity to value the people following him. He has no sense of responsibility for or any respect for his followers. As David Brooks said, “He is a lone operator, a disloyal diva, who is incapable of horizontal relationships. He has demeaned and humiliated everybody who has tried to be his friend, from Chris Christie to Paul Ryan.” Unable to see the value in others, he can’t prioritize what to do. He lives in a web of what Buber would call “I-it” relationships. We are all objects.
If there was any doubt, Trump just proved–again–that he’s not leading us anywhere we want to go. He’s still a “shocker, a demagogue, smasher of certainties” and the potential “destroyer of the Republican Party.” He’s trying mightily to dig a pit he can throw others into and out of which only he will climb. It’s time to break his ladder.