Donald Trump slipped into the Oval Office through a wormhole of confusion about the American identity.
We weren’t winning wars anymore. They just went on and on and on, with inexplicable and deceptive aims and so many lives and limbs and trillions lost.
We couldn’t believe in our institutions, with breaches of trust and displays of ineptitude.
We were moving from a white-majority, male-dominated country and manufacturing base to a multicultural, multilateral, globalized, P.C., new energy, new technology world, without taking account of the confusion and anger of older Americans who felt like strangers in a strange land.
Among many, the allure of Barack Obama’s brainy nuance had given way to a longing for a more muscular certainty.
With the Russians sowing confusion, Trump surfed those free-floating anxieties, that fear of not knowing who we are, straight to Pennsylvania Avenue.
And now, thanks to our barmy president and his staff meltdown, we are finding out fast who we are and whom we don’t want to be.
We don’t want to countenance abusive behavior. And we certainly don’t want men like Rob Porter who have punched, kicked, choked and terrorized their wives to be in the president’s inner circle, helping decide which policies, including those that affect women, get emphasized.
We don’t want the White House chief of staff to be the sort of person who shields and defends abusers — and then dissembles about it — simply because the abuser is a rare competent staffer. Or a man who labels Dreamers “too lazy to get off their asses” simply because they didn’t apply for legal protections in time.
John Kelly served as a character witness not only for Porter, after he didn’t receive security clearance because F.B.I. agents had heard the harrowing tales from his battered ex-wives. Kelly also testified as a character witness for Gen. Robert E. Lee and a former Marine who pleaded guilty to sending inappropriate sexual messages to female subordinates; who drove drunk to an arraignment; and who got charged in Virginia with sex crimes against children.
A military hero like General Kelly who made the ultimate sacrifice of losing a son in war should have a higher standard for integrity and honor, the words he lavished on his disgraced aide, Porter.
We want our president to be a moral beacon, not a ratings-obsessed id. We want a president who understands that sexual and physical abuse are wrong. As a more lucid Trump tweeted in 2012 about Rihanna getting back together with Chris Brown, “A beater is always a beater.”
We don’t want a president who bends over backward to give the benefit of the doubt to neo-Nazis, wife beaters, pedophiles and sexual predators — or who is a sexual predator himself. We don’t want a president who thinks #me is more important than #metoo.
We don’t want a president who flips the ordinary equation, out of some puerile sense of grievance, to honor Russia and dishonor the F.B.I.
We don’t want a president who believes that vile behavior is justified by a Vesuvial stock market.
We don’t want a president who is too shallow to read his daily intelligence report and too obsessed with the deep state to deal fairly with our intelligence agencies.
We don’t want a president who is on a sugar high of ego, whose demented tweets about nukes and crowd size scare even Omarosa.
We don’t want a president who redecorates the Oval as an infinity mirror.
We don’t want a president who suggests that Democrats who don’t clap for him are treasonous and who seems more enthralled by authoritarian ways than democratic ones.
We don’t want a president who promises an A team but surrounds himself with dreckitude, a president who vows to pass “the best” bills but then doesn’t care whether he’s selling steak, wine, condos or garbage policies on matters of life and death that he hasn’t even bothered to read.
We don’t want a president who goes to military school but never leaves; who loves generals but trashes Gold Star parents; who wants the sort of chesty military parade that we mock Kim Jong-un for, a phallic demonstration of overcompensation that would only put more potholes in the D.C. boulevards.
We don’t want a president who makes his version of make-believe real, and who looks with favor on deceit, hypocrisy, conflict of interest and nepotism.
We don’t want a president who merits a special prosecutor, let alone one who could be so easily trapped in lies that he can’t even be allowed to talk to an investigator.
We don’t want a president who treats the hallowed house where Abraham Lincoln once wrote the nation’s most sacred texts as the set of a cheesy reality show.
We don’t want a president who treats the presidency as just another personal business franchise or family employment program.
We don’t want a president who glides through the chaos he craves and conjures, while everyone around him immolates and shivers.
And, finally, we surely don’t want a president who seeks advice on foreign affairs from Henry Kissinger. Ever. Again.