The White House:
Paul Brandus, Opinion columnist
Published 4: 00 a.m. ET Jan. 16, 2020 | Updated 11: 04 a.m. ET Jan. 16, 2020
The White House: Democrats still in the 2020 race are decent people guilty of promising more than they can deliver. Trump is a nasty guy who attacks and divides.
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” President John F. Kennedy said in May 1961. Eight years later, we did just that.
“I’m … approving new dishwashers that give you more water,” Donald Trump said Tuesday night in Milwaukee, “so you can actually wash and rinse your dishes without having to do it 10 times!” And for good measure, he said we should have toilets that flush better.
Wow! Forget landing men on another celestial body. The way to make America great is cleaner dishes and johns you don’t have to flush10 times. Who knew?
We used to have presidents who reached for the stars; now they discuss their bathroom habits. Can’t we do any better?
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem says Trump once told her of his dream to have his face on Mount Rushmore. This is Trump delusion in full bloom, of course, unless you think better dishwashers and toilets that whisk away poop equate to the accomplishments of Messrs. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.
The White House: Pouring gasoline on flames
But it’s not just that Trump’s ideas are small and, in many cases, harmful, like rolling back scores of clean air and water rules. It is that they are mean. Our greatest presidents — the four men on Rushmore and others — sought to bring Americans together, not pour gasoline on situations that were already inflamed, as Trump relishes doing. Great presidents build bridges, not walls.
As one of our splendid American historians, Jon Meacham, noted recently, “Too many seem more interested in producing heat than shedding light. Our politics rewards the clenched fist and the harsh remark more than the open hand and the welcoming word.” There was no need to even mention Trump by name.
The open-hand-versus-clenched-fist theme is a good description of this still-young presidential campaign. Americans will have to decide which they prefer. Is it Trump’s travel bans, kids in cages, tax breaks for billionaires while cutting food stamps? Or is it asking those who have so much to do a little more for those who have so little? Do we want more of the “lock her up” mentality, or do we extend a hand to our rivals? Being gracious to those with whom we disagree is not weakness, it’s decency, and what’s wrong with that?
The White House: Politicians always promise too much
Watching Democrat candidates slug it out, I’ve heard the usual ideas. “Medicare for All” from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Ambitious carbon emissions goals, topped by Sanders’ plan for zero emissions from transportation and power generation within a decade. And former Vice President Joe Biden, God bless him, has said that if he’s elected president, “We’re going to cure cancer.”
Trump, not to be outdone, promised to end childhood cancer and tossed in AIDS for good measure.
I think the Democrats still in the race are guilty, like all politicians, of promising more than they’ll be able to deliver. Medicare for All, replacing 272 million combustion engines by 2030 (as Sanders hopes) and licking cancer are difficult at best and certainly not as easy as the candidates seem to think.
Just like Trump’s not going to pay off the entire national debt in eight years, like he said back in 2016.
Debate in Des Moines: Who won? Depends on who you think can beat Trump
Here’s the key difference between Trump and the Democrats: Trump’s a nasty guy. He’s a divider. He attacks and insults people. That’s not effective, principled leadership. That’s what sets him apart from the men and women who were on stage Tuesday night at the Democrats’ debate in Iowa. The Democrats all have very human flaws but are fundamentally decent people with commendable records. Which is a lot more than we can say for the president. That’s the difference.
What Trump doesn’t get is this: We Americans are aspirational and respond to inspiration. “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies,” Lincoln said in his first inaugural address, on the brink of the Civil War. “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” he said in his second, after nearly four years of war.
Our 45th president, a deeply malevolent man, has never understood much less practiced Lincoln’s benevolence. This helps explain why his dream of joining the Great Emancipator in the Black Hills will always remain, for him, just that: A dream.
Paul Brandus, founder and White House bureau chief of West Wing Reports, is the author of “Under This Roof: The White House and the Presidency” and is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter: @WestWingReport
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