Last week, as the shape of the new White House regime started to become clear, I interviewed three experts in national politics to ask them what they expect to be the initial fallout from Trumpism, and what Americans who are aghast at this can do about it. Comments from Joel Berg of Hunger Free America and Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research appear in this week’s Village Voice; my interview with David Cay Johnston, New York Times tax reporter and author of The Making of Donald Trump, is below:
The biggest concern is this: Right now, while he has no operational duties, Donald Trump can appear to be thoughtful and conciliatory and presidential. Once he is sworn in, he will be under unbelievable stress. And he doesn’t have the emotional stability and maturity to deal with what’s going to happen. Donald, for example, will know certain national security matters that he must not reveal or speak about, and he will get beaten up on them in public by politicians, by pundits, by demonstrators. And this is a man who couldn’t even contain himself over the remarks on a daytime TV show by a not particularly well-known actress, Rosie O’Donnell, or the weight of a Miss Universe from 20 years ago. So the real deep concern here is he is not emotionally, psychologically, educationally, intellectually prepared for the enormous obligations there are here. I’m very concerned about the erratic behavior that we’re going to see.
That concerns me a great deal more than what we are about to see the Republicans do. Remember, the Republicans are not united, they are very divided. But they are clearly going to take what remains of the social safety net, and other than Social Security and Medicare, they are going to rip it to shreds. They’re not stupid — so, for instance, Obamacare will not just end in 100 days after the inauguration; they will phase it out over several years. They are going to take all of the controls they can off bankers, and if there’s any lesson we should know, it’s that unregulated banking leads to disaster.
They are going to do some stupid awful things that are very damaging. But all of those are far less concerning than having a man in the White House who is a 13-year-old boy in a 70-year-old man’s body. Every single human being went through a year — 11, 12, 13, 14, somewhere in that range — where we transited from being a child to being an adult, and it was an awful year for everybody I’ve ever known. I have always said, be glad you’re not Donald Trump, because imagine spending your entire life trapped emotionally in that year.
I think it’s very important that there be significant protests, but more important that they be 100 percent peaceful, because if there is violence, it plays into Trump’s hands. If you are concerned like I am that he may at some point effectively suspend the constitution, whether he technically does that or not, you don’t want to give him a pretext to do that. And here’s an important point people should always remember, you can look it up in the constitution, in the 5th amendment: Habeas corpus is not a right, it is a privilege. “The privilege of habeus corpus shall not be suspended except in times or war or insurrection.” Obama did a bunch of things that expand the power of the executive, and the serious thoughtful liberals were very concerned about it — and now you’re going to be seeing why.
What we should be grateful for: The framers created a conservative institution. That’s why it’s endured. It takes six years to completely overthrow the government peacefully. Six years. So the passions of the moment are not going to get out of hand. And we should be grateful for that. There are limits on the president. I’ve written that I’m concerned that Donald has no idea what the duties, powers, and limits are of the presidency. He talks about the president like he’s a dictator.
Then, look at the people around him. He’s got Rudy Giuliani, I don’t have to tell you anything about him. Mike Pence taking over transition, he’s an ideologue whose views of the world I find offensive — but he’s not crazy. And as best I can tell he’s not motivated by revenge — he’s a Christian, he cares about other people. You can do business with him. You can’t do business with Christie or Giuliani.
Look, Trump is not going play a big role in picking 8,000 appointees. In this sense, he’s going to be much more like Reagan. Ronald Reagan picked a handful of things he cared about, and then he didn’t pay attention to the rest.
And by the way, the things people are angry about — 13 million people lost their homes, and nobody was prosecuted in Wall Street? They’re not going to go prosecute anybody in Wall Street! The people who voted for this, they are going to rue the day that this happened.
So we should be very worried. I may be wrong about this, and if I’m wrong, I’ll be the first person saying it. But I think the odds of that are significantly smaller than that he was going to get elected.