by Rev. Peter E. Bauer

I have now lived through three negative presidencies, from a progressive perspective, those being Reagan, Bush and now Trump. Both Reagan and Bush were clear about their conservative credentials. Reagan was a disciple of supply-side economics, while Bush was an evangelist for compassionate conservatism. Both gentlemen were ingratiating when it suited their interests. They could court favor with those who opposed them, not only in their own political party, but also across the aisle with the other party and with the press. As much as I would vehemently disagree with their policies, I never thought that either leader could be really malicious.

I’m not so sure about № 45.

The pattern so far has not been good: mean reptilian verbal attacks against anyone who disagrees with him; expert manipulation of media resources to drive home his mantra that only he can solve all of the big problems. Appointments now to his administration that are a throwback several decades in terms of American consciousness, and clearly not reflecting any appreciation for diversity let alone cultural competence.Which brings me to Silvio Berlusconi, former Prime Minister of Italy. Not too long ago, Italy was mired in economic complications and graft and corruption, and the Prime Minister was hosting lavish parties at his villa with young underage women. When confronted by the press regarding such said behavior, Berlusconi would rationalize it as another manifestation of “La Dolce Vita.” Somehow, I must admit, I appreciated that depiction of Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren much better than Berlusconi. The latter were funnier and had more class than with the former where you felt like you would get a knife in your back.

Now we have № 45 who no doubt will split his time between the Trump Tower, Mar-a-Lago, and the White House. We have witnessed the closed meetings, the gag order imposed upon the media after the quote “ civil reset “ in relations. The meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan and then having the daughter of № 45 advertise the sale of her bracelet and dress that she wore at the meeting appears to be a bit much. Whoever thought political governance would be reduced to a fashion trunk show ?

We could very well be witnessing the beginning of a new cycle of American Bunga Bunga. Not that we haven’t seen it before with previous Presidential Administrations. From time to time in American political history, there was always been the battle between bread and circuses. However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a high level of circuses regarding what’s happening now.

And we haven’t even gotten through his first hundred days! There was the controversy regarding Inauguration Day with the disputes about attendance; now we have the resignation of the National Security Council Director and more intrigue regarding communiques between Russian officials and the President’s senior officials in his campaign.

There will be those who will say “ we have to give him a chance,” others will note that “he won fair and square.” which is true if you are referencing the electoral college. However, with the popular vote, you’ll have to take up that argument with 2.9 million voters. Either way, I don’t see this as a clear mandate.

My other main concern with № 45, besides the vindictiveness, is the blurring of boundaries. There is no thought whatsoever about bringing in family members into conversations regarding high-level policy and staffing decisions. No real clear detailed analysis as to how to separate financial interests from their impact on policy decision making. No appreciation with abrupt change of protocol such as limiting access to press representatives. His snarling at Nordstrom regarding their decision to drop daughter Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, this even affected the price of Nordstrom stock which took a slight drop. Meanwhile, the largest dam in the United States, located in Oroville, Ca threatens to be breached and it begs the question what is the President doing about the 200,000 displaced persons. № 45 appears to want to perceive himself as a cult hero who will save civilization as we know it. His detrimental Achilles heel is that he has no humility.

I guess I would have a more sunny disposition if I thought all of this was in deed going to make the country better. I fear it will not. Instead, to quote Colin Powell “it will set us back 50 years.”

Yes, both political parties need to do a lot of soul searching as to how they might really meet the needs of working people. They need to become better listeners and leave their protected conclaves and actually go out and spend time with people who are truly suffering, like Robert Kennedy who went and spent time with and listened and empathized with the poor of Appalachia. He became empowered to become a strong advocate for social and economic justice for all.

Now we have dictatorial pronouncements and how much attention, money and power can we grab.

I hope that this party doesn’t last long.

Our present national life and future deserves so much more.

May it be so.

The Rev. Peter E. Bauer is a longtime licensed clinical social worker and minister for the United Church of Christ. A LCL, he is also an Army and Navy veteran.