The last 70 days or so have been harrowing ones for millions of Americans who fully recognize the disaster that’s forthcoming after Jan. 20. I hasten to note that the tangible, low-frequency sense of panic isn’t exclusive to Democrats or Hillary Clinton supporters. There are quite a few sensible Republicans as well as Democrats who collectively recognize what’s in store.
While there are numerous specifics — the known knowns — the real source of the panic is emerging from what we don’t know. We’ll circle back to this after we discuss Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The other day on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” McConnell told host John Dickerson that Democrats need to “grow up and get past” the results of the election.
You know, what this is about, John, the Democrats are really frustrated that they lost the election. I was in Sen. [Chuck] Schumer’s position eight years ago. I know how it feels when you’re coming into a new situation, that the other guys won the election. What did we do? We confirmed seven Cabinet appointments the day President Obama was sworn in. We didn’t like most of them either. But he won the election. So all of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate. I understand that. But we need to, sort of, grow up here and get past that.
This comes from the same U.S. senator who, eight years ago, was so butt hurt by the results of the election that he famously declared as his mission statement the sabotaging of everything President Barack Obama tried to achieve. And he almost managed to do it. Nevertheless, McConnell’s “grow up” remark is one we’ve heard quite often in social media and elsewhere from Trump Republicans and pundits alike who have completely failed to grasp why, specifically, Americans of many political dispositions are terrified right now.
We’re not breaking any news when we observe that Donald Trump might be the most erratic, unpredictable, unqualified, misinformed politician ever to step into national politics, much less to be thrust into the highest office in the world. The threat here doesn't necessarily come from Trump’s policy agenda, though his promises on that front are harrowing: border walls, deportations of American citizens, blacklists, registries, abortion bans, prosecution of journalists, a nefarious alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin and so forth. The fear and loathing with regard to Trump’s publicly known agenda covers only a small fraction of the problem.
The rest is a great big Trojan horse question mark, and it’s nearly impossible to know what sort of madness will burst forth when we least expect it. Contra McConnell, this isn’t a generic Republican stepping into the Oval Office on Jan. 20. This isn’t a predictable GOP stooge, like Vice President Mike Pence or even Sen. Ted Cruz. It’s Donald Trump, with all his twitchy, screechy, whiny berserker-in-chief instability. What follows the inauguration will be a real-life fun house with hellish consequences around every corner and with Trump pulling the levers.
Throughout the campaign, Trump’s behavior ranged from out to lunch to clueless to literally shouting breathlessly at the world. For example, every morning now Americans roll out of bed to news about Trump’s latest 3 a.m. tweet-gasm. Did he yell at Meryl Streep this time? Or was it Arnold Schwarzenegger? Did he completely scramble 40 years of American foreign policy while misspelling several words? And regarding the latter, what will the long-term repercussions be? Frankly, I never thought we’d have to double-check to make sure the incoming president’s tweets aren’t from a parody account. It's the continuing death of “being presidential.”
Twitter aside, does anyone — including members of his inner circle, such that it is — know how Trump will deal with a major international crisis? I don’t, and I’ve been studying presidential politics going on 30 years. Put it this way: Imagine Donald Trump handling a Cuban missile crisis scenario. Or a 9/11 scenario. (Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t let Trump fill my car with gas, much less dictate my health care. Even then, my car would end up on fire within seconds and there would somehow be monkeys riding golden jet packs dropping bottles of Brawndo on the flames.) People who say they know for sure how Trump might deal with a crisis are lying. Trump has never given a straight answer on the topic, and so we wait on tenterhooks for the first sample.
But perhaps what will be worse will be the actions that Trump takes that don’t accompany anything in particular. In other words, Trump’s penchant for unprovoked whimsy is major problem. Recent history has proved that he acts primarily on impulse. Therefore, the source of my dread is this: Trump is uncontrollable, undisciplined and therefore capable of literally anything.
Don’t forget: This is an incoming chief executive who has admitted to being nukes curious. He has repeatedly expressed interest in the question of why we’ve never used any of our nuclear weapons (minus, of course, two). He has also pledged to significantly augment our nuclear triad (after learning what it is), even though there are nonproliferation treaties in place against such a process. This alone is justification enough for the rest of us to skulk through our daily lives worrying whether this malicious circus peanut wrapped in gold lamé will wake up one morning and decide to pop off a nuclear weapon somewhere either as a test or an attack because whoever decided to tweet something about Trump’s stupid hair.
That’s why it was so alarming this week when we learned that Trump was firing the appointees who run the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is responsible for overseeing our nuclear arsenal. It’s not so much about the firing of these particular officials, which is something that often happens when a new administration steps into the White House. The fear over this decision emerges from wondering about whom Trump will pick to fill those posts. Knowing what we know about Trump’s process, it’s a safe bet that it’ll be sycophants who fit Trump’s dress- and facial hair qualifications: “the look.”
More important, though, will these appointees make it that much easier for Trump to play war with live nuclear ammo? We don’t know, and again that’s the problem.
It’s yet another on a growing list of many reasons why, no, Sen. McConnell, we won’t and shouldn’t get over the election.
Sixty-two million Americans, through their poorly considered, nihilistic votes, have stupidly chosen to shut down the containment grid, Ghostbusters-style, releasing untold horrors into the atmosphere. I challenge anyone to predict what those things will be. But knowing Trump’s vindictiveness, his ignorance and his lack of core values, none of it can be good.