WASHINGTON – When President Trump strides into the Oval Office in the morning, there are at least two people breathing in that body. One is the super-energized conservative populist who is undoing and amending executive orders that President Barack Obama rammed through in his second term. The other is a vain, thin-skinned bully given to great and elaborate fantasies, hallucinations, if you will, about his life and his election.
One is Trump’s totally absurd claim, shared in a bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders, that up to 5 million illegal or fraudulent votes were cast in New York and elsewhere last November.
These “crooked” votes cost Trump his popular mandate, according to him. Democrat Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote by 2.9 million. Trump became one of a half dozen men who lost the popular vote but won election through the Electoral College.
New York State is a perfect place to examine this wild claim. Clinton crushed Trump in New York City, where they know him best. In Queens, where he was raised, Clinton beat him 3-to-1. Even in Erie County, Trump lost by 19,000. Voter fraud in Buffalo, where the population is stagnant?
What makes Trump’s claim preposterous is that Clinton defeated him statewide by 1.7 million votes. And the turnout was down, about 3 percent. About 40 percent of eligible voters stayed home.
Less than a week into his 208-week term, the president’s reveries have dangerously crossed over into policy, with Trump himself pressuring the National Park Service into validating his false claims about the crowd at his inauguration, ordering an official probe into voter fraud and insulting the whole Mexican nation.
Trump did this by mouthing off about imposing a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports to pay for his border wall. Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, promptly and predictably called off a scheduled visit to the White House.
Many of Trump’s serious proposals are controversial, yet they are supported by many (if not a majority of vocal liberals in Buffalo and Manhattan). They include a temporary suspension of immigration from war-torn countries of the Middle East and South Asia, tightening controls of illegal immigrants on our Southern border and the retention of James Comey as director of the FBI.
Trump will try to cut back on the federal bureaucracy, bloated by Obama’s dysfunctional health care regime, and excesses in regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency, and those in the Department of Health and Human Services assigned to harass the Catholic Church and Evangelical Christian charities and businesses.
Trump’s new directives menace “sanctuary cities,” which harbor immigrant felons, and reverse Obama’s bar to construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota pipelines. Most welcome is Trump’s enthusiastic support of manufacturing in the U.S. But its effect on New York is problematic where taxes and regulation have turned efforts by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to promote new factories into a game of winners and losers.
Worse, state legislators are trying to muscle in on the Buffalo Billion II, to turn it into just another political patronage machine.
But with all this presidential energy, who can put a brake on Trump’s rampant phantasmagoria? Not counselors Stephen Bannon, Kellyanne Conway or Jared Kushner, his son-in-law. Not his wife, Melania, or daughter Ivanka. Not Vice President Pence; not chief of staff Reince Priebus.
So, where are the grown-ups in this new government? If someone cannot be found to curb the president’s fantasies, instead of indulging them, then this entire populist movement will come crashing down in short order.