Opinion |

The Worst Man in America Is No Longer President

The ‘pro-life’ president ended his term with unprecedented executions, a health crisis rivaling a world war and a climate catastrophe. Thank God he’s gone

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville, Florida. September 24, 2020.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville, Florida. September 24, 2020.Credit: Tom Brenner/ REUTERS
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

Early on in his presidency, many of us Americans feared that Donald Trump would turn out to be Hitler. Our fears were misplaced. We should have been terrified that he would turn out to be Donald Trump.

Back then, I remember hoping that he might, as some of his more reluctant voters indicated, grow into his majestic office, take on its knowledge with its power. Perhaps, as one supporter put it, “When you get to know him, you’ll see the man he really is.” Well, we got to know him. We’ve seen the man he really is. Donald Trump is the worst man in America. Thank God he’s gone.

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The man who campaigned on the principle that “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters,” just ended his term in office with a killing spree. The man who began his term proudly tearing away children from their asylum-seeker parents and stuffing them into chain-link cages spent some of the final days of his presidency executing more prisoners than the last 10 presidents combined. Such was his zeal that federal officials carried out one of the executions while an appeal was still pending. A court then dismissed the appeal as moot, on the grounds that the man was already dead.

Trump allowed nothing to stand in the way of his spate of lethal injections – not his election defeat, not the invasion of the Capitol, not his impeachment and certainly not the impending Biden inauguration. On the contrary, the last of the killings was just Saturday, five days before his term expired. In fact, his term ended before he could put into practice a post-election “midnight,” or last-minute regulation enacted in late November by his Department of Justice. The directive authorized the revival of what Amherst Prof. Austin Sarat, an authority on capital punishment, called “ghoulish methods,” which include hanging on gallows, electrocution and death by firing squad.

In an expression of uniquely Trumpian cruelty, not to say sadism, the regulations were written so as to take effect on Christmas Eve. This is the essential Donald Trump, ignoring a horrific and monumental national emergency that is the coronavirus in favor of an insane rush to oversee the killing of inmates on death row. Why? In part, it was a last side of red meat thrown to his base, and in part because President-elect Joe Biden opposes the death penalty. Thank God he’s gone.

Despite Trump’s declarations that he is so very “pro-life,” he has no rival as a destroyer of American lives. By next week, as many Americans will have died of COVID-19 as the total number of Americans killed fighting for their country in World War II. Trump’s aggressive, evangelical-toadying disdain for science; his contempt for Obama administration preplanning for pandemic crises; his obsessively gleeful orchestration and exploitation of super-spreader events; his championing of the bogus “liberty of the individual” over urging his adoring followers to do something as simple and potentially life-saving as wearing a mask – all of it, taken together, wrought unprecedented catastrophe.

With only 4 percent of the planet’s population, the richest of all countries now accounts for over 20 percent of the world’s coronavirus deaths, writes scientist Michael Riordan in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: “Through his actions and inactions, this callous, self-absorbed president and his administration are responsible – by standard statistical measures – for well over half of all U S. coronavirus deaths.” Thanks to Trump’s malign neglect, emergency services and hospital ICU wards became war zones long before Capitol Hill turned into one.

Meanwhile, Trump’s ardent, if artful, encouragement of gun nuts, neo-Confederates, neo-Nazis, QAnon sympathizers and their political enablers has often – perhaps intentionally – kept his devastating environmental actions out of the limelight. Boasting of taking the United States out of the Paris climate accords and dismissing all scientific evidence of climate change, Trump sang the praises of “beautiful coal” and rapid expansion of fossil fuel exploitation into national parklands and Native American sacred sites. The scope of Trump’s largely behind-the-scenes environmental deregulation measures was staggering.

Let’s look at just one of them. “The Trump administration has shockingly reached a new low in its treatment of wildlife. Allowing the killing of bear cubs and wolf pups (and hibernating and nursing mother bears) in their dens is barbaric and inhumane,” Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife, said last May after Trump officials reversed an Obama administration ban on a range of cruel hunting and fishing practices in areas of Alaska.

What kind of leader takes an action such as this, rather than to focus on conducting his nation’s defense at the height of what amounts to a world war? A lonely, vicious failure, sick with hatred and envy of his predecessor, who just coincidentally happened to be Black. A cowardly, pathologically insecure, frighteningly vindictive, tyrant-admiring 12-year-old in the bloated body of an over-the-hill sexual predator – one who no longer can rely on the wasted fortune of late daddy Fred Christ Trump to bail him out of his messes.

A serial bankrupt who has only learned how to do one thing well: to trigger. To trigger his opponents, whose anger, in turn, delights and turbocharges his own base – which, like his fortune, is fast slipping through his gloved fingers.

In his place, any halfway normal person would have done their duty and saved as many lives as humanly possible. Trump couldn’t be bothered. Now we know him all too well. He’s no Adolf Hitler, but we also know this: If Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States in 1940, he would have let Hitler win the war.

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