August 19, 2019

“Assessing the Trump Presidency” Revisited

A friend reacted to my essay, “Assessing the Trump Presidency,” and that reaction led to a lively exchange of texts. Following are the most significant parts of that exchange:

FRIEND: I read your essay “Assessing President Trump” and found it interesting. Even so, I have some points of disagreement with you. While it is appropriate for you to applaud his accomplishments, I think you understate his offenses. I am disturbed by Trump’s enjoyment in making very derogatory statements that he simply must know are offensive and divisive.

VRR: As you know, I agree that he has some troubling faults—I spent over 40 percent of my essay discussing them. Yet as I pointed out there, the question is whether those faults are more or less important than what he has done for the American people. I believe a careful examination reveals that what he has done is far more important.

FRIEND: He comes across to me as a very bitter and angry man who is stirring up his base for a very bitter, divisive and hate-filled campaign which no other leader has done before in the US.

VRR: To be frank, I think you’ve been watching too much CNN or MSNBC. I say that because the very language you use—“bitter,” “angry,” “divisive,” “hate-filled”—has filled their reporting for three years. People who watch only those networks naturally absorb that point of view and consider it to be the truth. In time it becomes an unthinking default response whenever his name is mentioned.

FRIEND: I agree the press have not been on his side, but I am not referring to what the press has said, just what he says, states and writes. After all, media opposition doesn’t make him speak the way he does. All they do is report what he says in his speeches and in his tweets, and judge him accordingly. If he didn’t say and tweet as he does, the media wouldn’t be able to report it. Trump is who he is, and they are simply holding a spotlight to that reality.

VRR: More like a large magnifying glass than a spotlight. But that aside, you seem to be suggesting that he has behaved in a vacuum and his statements have had no context. But that is not the case for him or any of us. People can be angry for no good reason, to be sure, but they can also be provoked into anger.

Let’s put ourselves in his place for a moment. How would we react if hour after hour, day after day for two years we were falsely accused of having traitorously colluded with Russia and stolen an election?  Would we remain silent or proclaim our innocence at every opportunity? Then when our accusers added the charge that our responses were too loud, assertive, and rude would we apologize and be silent or raise our voices even more to defend our reputation? And when the charges continued to be leveled even after the Mueller Report proved them wrong, would we be more or less upset and combative?

Unless we have a saintly level of self-control, it is more than likely we would be just as outraged as the President and our responses just as angry as his.

FRIEND: But it’s not just his anger. It’s his divisiveness. Anyone whose aim is to divide is dangerous. We have seen this throughout history. I am not sure Trump has a moral compass to guide him; he certainly does not seem to be rooted in the Christian faith.

VRR: Again you accuse the President of dividing people, only now you claim he does so intentionally. Furthermore, you suggest he is amoral and unchristian. I find those accusations stunning.

To call an action immoral is legitimate; to claim the person acted intentionally is not legitimate without clear evidence of intention—for example, the person’s direct admission. And to equate acting immorally (even habitually) with having no “moral compass” is presumptuous. As to whether Trump is “rooted in the Christian faith,” I don’t know, nor do you. That determination is God’s to make. Christians are expressly forbidden to speculate about the matter.

I find it curious that Trump’s Christianity is often questioned but no one has raised a similar question about Kathy Griffin posing with a (fake) bloody Trump head, Robert DeNiro expressing the desire to punch Trump’s face, Madonna saying she’d like to “blow up the White House,” or Hillary Clinton calling fully half of Trump’s supporters a “basket of deplorables” and characterizing them as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it.” Not only do legions of liberals call him and his followers those names; they also defame his wife, his grown children and his young son.

As if all this were not sufficiently provocative, these people (who apparently don’t own mirrors) blame Trump for being negative and spawning divisiveness! In turn, rather than pointing out the absurdity and hypocrisy of that charge—not to mention its uncharitableness—the mainstream media repeat it ad nauseam and far too many of their readers/viewers dutifully join the chorus.

Little wonder why Trump has gotten angry and his supporters have become increasingly exasperated with Democrats and the media.

Copyright © 2019 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved.

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Written by
Vincent Ryan Ruggiero

VINCENT RYAN RUGGIERO, M.A., is Professor of Humanities Emeritus, State University of New York, Delhi College. Prior to his twenty-nine year career in education, he was a social caseworker and an industrial engineer. The author of twenty-one books, his trade books include Warning: Nonsense Is Destroying America and The Practice of Loving Kindness. His textbooks include The Art of Thinking and Beyond Feelings, both in 10th editions and available in Chinese as well as English, Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues, and A Guide to Sociological Thinking. His latest book, Corrupted Culture: Rediscovering America's Enduring Principles, Values, and Common Sense, is available at Amazon and in bookstores. Professor Ruggiero is internationally recognized as one of the pioneers of the Critical Thinking movement in education. Earlier in his career, he published essays in a variety of magazines and journals, including America, Catholic Mind, The Sign, The Lamp, and Catholic World.

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1 comment
  • Thank you for saying everything I have pointed out about President Trump. As an American of Mexican father, I have been called a racist and a self-loathing Mexican because I support our President. When I counter their accusations about the President and the double standard given to other Democrat leaders, their immediate reply is “That is irrelevant or I don’t care about that guy/girl. President Trump’s tweets do not upset me because the Democrats have been rude, condescending and whenever they accuse others of the wrong doing that they themselves are doing. When I hear other’s complain about how un-President-like Trump’s tweets are, I just smile. Because finally someone is willing to fight back and defend himself. The news media is not reporting unbiased and accurate reports, in my opinion, they have many times left out important details in stories creating a slant to support their views.

Written by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero
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