It's OK to Exhale Now

GELFAND’S WORLD--Donald Trump is defeated for reelection. 

And with that announcement, another of similar import: Pfizer has just announced that its Covid-19 vaccine is pretty effective. We can join in discussing the timing of the vaccine announcement as the predictable conspiracy theories develop over the next few hours. But for the moment, we can predict that Joe Biden will take office as the luckiest man alive. 

But today, in this column, I've been invited to write the "exhale" column as in the fact that we can all stop holding our breath over the election returns. 

One little witticism, such as it is: What is the definition of a real political junkie? It's anybody who is still checking the presidential election returns on Monday, November 9. 

But for now, it's the fact that I can exhale. Actually the question, "Can I exhale now?" was asked by a relative in a phone message. It arrived 48 hours after the polls closed, and my advice was, "Almost." So now, you can exhale. Take a deep breath and fully relax for the first time in four years. 

This and dozens of other thoughts are swirling in my head as I consider how bad it's really been and how nice it is that in a few weeks, we won't have to listen to organized lying coming from the mouths of government servants. We've been told the official lies about climate, about our exploding cities, and about healthcare these four straight years. Constantly being lied to has its effects on our mental health and yes, on the continuing deterioration of the world's climate. 

So there is -- for me and most of the people around me -- a great jubilation that Donald J Trump will not be taking the oath of office on January 20, 2021. Maybe it's not yet time to say, "Our national nightmare is over," but the bad dreams will be less severe. 

Mostly, it is relief. Donald Trump had an obscene talent for picking cabinet secretaries and Attorneys General who worked to undermine the good things that previous generations had accomplished. I actually wasn't quite so concerned about the fact that Trump used his position to fill his own pockets. It's true he encouraged foreign powers to use his hotels and made a few bucks from the Secret Service every time he took a vacation at one of his golf courses. (And he took a lot of vacations.) That money was unethically accumulated, but it was a drop in the bucket compared to our overall federal budget. 

But how could any normal, sensitive human being fail to be stricken by the damage to our natural environment, as Trump reversed the creation of national monuments just to violate Obama's heritage. The man had a talent for doing destructive things in a petty way. And while this was going on, Trump continued to deny the reality of global warming. He pretended to some great, deep knowledge of all things rather than admitting that science is hard and everybody (scientists included) needs expert advice coming from a number of directions if you are to function as a scientifically literate administrator. I think we all understand that Trump pretended to knowledge of global warming in order to please the wealthy people and corporations with holdings in the fossil fuel industry. He was that small a man. 

I suspect that for the American people, the reason to line up at dawn and cast ballots against Donald Trump came from the unending irritation of listening to the man talk. He was very good at wounding his opponents with those insulting adjectives: "Little" for senator Rubio, "Crooked" for Hillary Clinton, or "Sleepy" for Joe Biden. I suspect that after a while, the great mass of decent people found this to be unacceptable. It was going too far. It was, paradoxically, Trump's greatest strength as a campaigner when he spoke to his cultists, and his worst public vice when the rest of the American people heard him. 

So if the next President wants to use language like, "My good friend Mitch McConnell," I won't go into a tizzy. It's the way that polite politicians speak of and to each other. If Joe Biden can somehow extract an extension of the Affordable Care Act with a public option (they can call it the McConnell -- Schumer Act for all I care), that will be OK with me, because it would signify millions of Americans no longer have to live in fear of ruinous medical bills. 

Hopeful thinking such as this happens every time there is a presidential transition. Once in a while, we see our wishes fulfilled, as we did when Obamacare was passed. 

And there is the rest of the world to consider . . . 

Late in Trump's 2016 campaign and early in his administration, it became obvious that he wasn't playing straight with our closest allies. The NATO alliance has been the backbone of the international security apparatus since shortly after WWII, yet Trump seemed to be doing everything he could to undermine NATO's strength and to damage our credibility with our allies. Careful observers pointed out that whatever Trump's motives actually were, he was acting as if he were Vladimir Putin's puppet. 

That has never really changed. Everything that weakens American and European strength furthers Putin's approach to foreign policy. It's not unusual for a country such as the Soviet Union (and now Russia) to attempt to weaken it's neighbors. It is unusual for a President of the United States to assist in that weakening. Foreign policy experts still remember Trump's craven kowtowing to Putin at the Helsinki meeting. And it shouldn't be ignored that we are currently faced with a North Korea that has developed nuclear weapons capability and is in the process of developing intercontinental missiles. Trump bragged about how much better he has done with North Korea, but the burden will fall on his successors. 

Was this the worst president in American history? Some will argue that Buchanan was worse, but for sheer unadulterated lack of nobility, Trump is by far the lowest. 

It's a revelation to consider that even now, Trump can disappoint. His failure to concede the election is unparalleled in modern American politics. Rumors abound that members of his staff (and even some of his family) have been telling him to concede. The fact that this would be necessary says it all. The president is a great big crybaby, and that is the best you can say of him. It may be that someday, Donald J Trump will be recognized to have suffered a case of some specific genetic disorder, or the diagnosis of malignant narcissism (as a real and unfortunate disorder) will be more fully recognized. But none of this is an exoneration, just as there was no exoneration for his high crimes and misdemeanors.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net)