Conspiracy Theory

Early Saturday morning, before the sun came up over most of the nation, President Trump announced he would do the country a favor and not attend this year’s Kennedy Center Honors scheduled for December. He made the decision, according to a statement, to allow this year’s honorees to “celebrate without any political distraction.”

Three of the honorees had previously announced they would not attend a White House reception for the event in protest over Trump’s policies and general demeanor. So the president employed his emerging — you can’t fire me because I quit — strategy when dealing with people who disagree with him. A few days earlier the president disbanded two White House business councils when the chief executives of several large companies resigned their appointments in protest over the president’s handling of events in Charlottesville.

Let’s not allow the Trump news cycle to lead us to forget what happened in Charlottesville. Three people died there as a direct result of President Trump’s mean spirited leadership. One, a young woman, was deliberately struck and killed by a car driven by a Trump supporter. The driver’s mother told a local television station she did not know her son was going to a white supremacist event, she only knew “it had something to do with Trump.” Similarly, the white nationalists emboldened to advance Nazism in this country have said openly they are Trump supporters and have praised Trump for comments he has made that they consider supportive. The president has created a safe environment for this ilk.

In the case of the Kennedy Center Honors and the elimination of the business councils, the White House tried to frame the president’s decisions as noble gestures. In reality, both decisions show he is facing a leadership crisis brought on by his self-centered personality which lacks the basic traits of humanity that would allow him to function competently as president.

The evening of December 3, as hundreds gather at the Kennedy Center to honor five American artists, the box reserved for the president and the first lady will be empty. A fitting symbol for the Trump presidency. Everyone will know why the box is empty. Because Donald Trump has chosen to secure power for himself by dividing the nation. He doesn’t want to use his power for good, he only wants to hold it. His decision to skip the December event suggests we will only see more of the same from him over the next three and a half months. There is no strategy to change course, ask for forgiveness, or seek reconciliation with the majority of Americans who are troubled by his failure to lead.

From the first day of the Trump administration, many were willing to grant him a chance to grow into the role of president, but anyone who watched him and listened to him during the campaign should have known this is how things would turn out. He is obsessed only with standing on the top of the pile. He doesn’t care what the pile is made of. Some of his closest advisers have stated publicly that Trump’s campaign for the White House was rooted in revenge for the humiliation he suffered at the White House Correspondent’s dinner in 2011 where he was roasted by President Obama. Revenge is usually not a source of leadership.

It is more than evident the American people gave Donald Trump a job for which he was not prepared. He does not seem to understand what it means to be president. He rarely leaves the cocoon of the White House, or his various vacation properties, except to attend staged rallies meant to demonstrate that he still retains an active base of supporters. There are few signs he has any patience for the work or any agenda beyond dealing with any issue passing within his line of sight. He has no appreciation for the concept that people look to the American president to set an example and even if he did he is only capable of setting bad examples.

Some are hopeful that the removal of Steve Bannon as Trump’s chief strategist is a chance to start over. If Bannon’s time in the White House is to be judged based on his title, he failed. His main tactic was sowing chaos, but the chaos achieved nothing for the country.

Bannon’s departure shows that President Trump’s first set of decisions on staffing were flawed. Bannon is only the latest top adviser to be forced out. He and others who left before him, were unqualified for the jobs they held based on experience and temperament. More than half a dozen similarly unqualified people still serve on the White House staff very close to the president. They include Trump’s daughter and son-in-law. None has shown an ability to convince Trump that his means of conducting himself is destroying his presidency or hurting the country.

We are left with the impression that a day at the Trump White House is spent managing the president’s moods. There is no time for anything else. There is little sense of responsibility to the country. Each day is measured by answering the simple question: Was this a good day for Donald Trump or one in which reality encroached on the fantasy that his presidency is the most successful in history?

There is no way out of the nightmare. Impeachment is always part of the background discussion, but there is no appetite in the Republican controlled Congress to move in that direction. Resignation would never occur to a president as self-isolated and delusional as Trump. The preferred method for dealing with him is to withdraw all contact and render his presidency irrelevant.

Immediately following Trump’s election a self-described resistance movement began. In the last few weeks, that movement has been replaced by a series of uncoordinated yet interconnected boycotts. Foreign leaders are working around the American government until the next election. Republicans on Capitol Hill are refusing to take leadership from the White House and do little to push back against criticism of the president. Business leaders have ended their honeymoon with the president who claimed to represent their interests. If the trend continues, Trump will learn the hard way that a president accomplishes nothing without the help of others. Leadership is not about pointing in one direction or another, it is about getting others to follow. No one follows a person of Trump’s character.

This may be the way the Trump presidency ends. Not with a Nixonian wave from the door of Marine One, but in solitary confinement. An angry man with no friends and no supporters slouching in failure as he rides up a golden escalator into his glass and marble tower.

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Dean Pagani

Dean Pagani

Photojournalism for Brands and Ideas.