By Senator Lena C. Taylor
The one thing that Donald Trump’s run for office and subsequent presidency has taught us is that we need to tighten up our game. After enduring one “unprecedented” situation after another with Trump, it is clear, that the American people often got played by a man unwilling to respect rules, laws, decorum and our fundamental belief in democracy.
While we await the presidential election results, we have had time to review the last several years of Trump’s leadership, administration and practices. Many of us were floored to learn just how much of our system of being a candidate for the highest office in the land is based on a “gentleman’s agreement.” We were clueless about the range and scope of things that a president could get away, as long as you had a group of party enablers controlling the system of checks and balances. We learned that an imbalance of ethics of elected officials, often left the executive branch devoid of meaningful checks on its power. We were shaken to our core when we realized that the nuclear codes and all of our nation’s secrets were entrusted to someone who was clearly unstable.
Whether it was the refusal to provide tax returns, honestly dealing with the emolument’s clause or an inability to determine Trump’s business conflicts of interests, citizens have been handicapped in understanding the motivations behind the positions, decisions and actions of the president or his administration. The use of tax paper dollars to prop up fledgling Trump golf courses, private companies and governments, booking stays at his hotels to curry favor and no clear line between his business interests and his role has president, are cause for serious review and implementation of enforceable rules regarding future practices.
Frankly, the country was not prepared for a snake-oil salesman to win the White House. Nor were we positioned to deal with the blurring of lines, such as using the people’s house, for purely political activities (Hatch Act violations). We had no immediate course of action for the president’s deception regarding the severity of COVID-19. When the administration refused or was slow to get needed supplies to address a major health pandemic, states often had to fend for themselves. The administration won’t be held accountable for the lives lost unnecessarily. Trumps aides, who caused 545 children to be intentionally separated from their parents, won’t pay a personal price for these injustices.
The list of inappropriate, questionable, or outright illegal behavior, by the 45th president and his administration are long. For example, we need clearly defined rules on the use of “acting” appointments to get around congressional confirmations of federal appointees, protections for inspector generals and those that are retaliated against by the president.
Bottom line, we need to review what is encouraged and what is required of a U.S. President. Trump has shown the weaknesses in our systems and now is the time to fix them.