Photograph by Alexander Gardner
Dear Mr. President,
Less than a week ago, while you attended a “rally” in Ohio, you claimed that, “With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s held this office.” You went on to claim that, “No president has done anywhere near what we’ve done in his first sixth months.”
Beyond an unprecedentedly low approval rating, historic levels of chaos both behind the scenes and in the public eye, an overwhelming desire to spend your weekends golfing, and the mockery of the Western world, what have you accomplished?
You have not overhauled the tax code.
You have not built your wall.
You have not replaced the Affordable Care Act.
Whether America was, in fact, “great” before you took office, it’s hard to see just how you could claim that you’ve even come close to making it “great” again.
Now, I will admit, you’ve managed to accomplish a few things, but not exactly what you promised when you were running for this job.
You withdrew from the Paris climate deal. Faced with real, scientifically-verified climate change, our grandchildren surely will despise you for that.
Back in February, you signed legislation making it easier for mining companies to pollute our streams and rivers.
In March, you killed the clean power plan of the EPA, helping coal companies mine on public land and eliminating climate change as a consideration when approving federally-funded projects.
In June, your EPA decided that even though leaks from oil and gas operators disproportionately hurt children, there needed to be a two-year stay on regulations that might reduce such leaks.
By the end of June, you just straight-up scrapped the clean water rule.
But here’s what’s wild: that “more presidential than Lincoln” claim from your rally was not at all the most troubling thing you said. During this gathering, you asked the crowd, “Is there any place that’s more fun, more exciting, and safer than a Trump rally?”
Is that why you’re here? Is that why you’re president? Is this all it amounts to? To slather yourself in cheers in a place that’s “more fun, more exciting, and safer” than anywhere else?
Because, dammit, Mr. Trump — that’s not why you were elected. Being president is hard. It should challenge you. It should confront you with agonizing decisions about your constituents. It should force you to ask difficult, but essential questions about whether health care is a human right, about whether our public education system is worth saving, and what would improve the lives of the majority of Americans rather than a handful of the wealthiest and most powerful. I’m sorry, but your four year term should be anything but fun, exciting, and safe.
Accept difficulty, Mr. Trump. Accept challenge. I don’t mean, “get mad when a news anchor says something that hurts your precious feelings and tweet something offensive in response.” I mean, take upon your shoulders your actual goddamn job: being president of the United States. Being the leader of the free world, as our presidents have been for the last century. Being an example of liberal democracy and a voice for equality and opportunity.
It’s not going to be nearly as much fun as attending a pep rally for yourself, but it might — just might — get you a little closer to that “presidential” ideal you apparently aspire to.