The end of the year is always a great time to assess we where are in life.  What is going well and what do we need to change concerning professional life, personal life, families, etc.  Many people make promises, some to keep and some to fail.  What about the Government?  Is there any introspection amongst our leaders?  Probably not, but there should be.  We the people deserve so much better than we have been getting from Congress and the President.  So, let’s do the review for them.  It isn’t pretty…

    We sit here in the middle of the third government shutdown of the year.  Before he was President, Donald Trump asserted that a government shutdown was a failure of presidential leadership.  I find myself now agreeing with him on this point.  Extremist pundits cheer such crises because they benefit from such fights.  These are failures of leadership.  Nobody wins, everybody loses.  Innocent people get hurt including hard-working, dedicated career federal employees, many of who are forced to work without pay.  As this drags on, they will struggle to make mortgage payments, insurance or treatment payments,tuition payments, or even just put food on the table.  American and foreign tourists who are in the middle of long-planned vacations are denied entry to some of our most impressive and important sights and parks. Each of these shutdowns was avoidable and unnecessary but was caused by cowardice within the government.

    Cowardice could be a good theme for the 2018 political year.  Although Republicans have been in total control of the government, Democrats have not shown much courage either.  For decades, both parties in congress have failed miserably to fulfill their legislative and leadership obligations and the country is suffering.  They ignore the skyrocketing national debt, with record deficit spending, extraordinary debt interest payments, and impending national catastrophic crises on the horizon.  They waste money today and ignore the consequences of the future.  Tax cuts,especially those that benefitted only the elite, were grossly irresponsible with devastating impact on the debt.  The2018 Trump budget added over one trillion dollars to the debt in just one year!  So much for campaign promises. 

    Congress utterly failed to address much needed immigration reform for decades.  Although President Trump has brought the issue to the forefront of discussion, he has unfortunately focused on hate, division, and fear rather than seeking practical solutions and encouraging Congressional action.  Bi-partisan effective bills were poised to pass both houses of Congress by overwhelming majorities, but Republican leaders, specifically Speaker Ryan, refused to allow a vote.  DACA should have been easy.  The country desperately needs major improvements in the process, definitions, standards, etc., concerning immigration.  Even worse, there is a resulting disturbing rise of intolerable hatred in this country against racial,ethnic, and religious minorities. 

    Trump has done extremely poorly in one of his most critical roles –Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. It appears Trump’s view of his role is that of a 9-year-old boy playing with his little green plastic soldiers.  There is no requirement for Presidents to have military experience.  However, throughout his life Trump openly disparaged our military.  He avoided Vietnam by his father bribing a doctor to write a note with a fraudulent diagnosis of bone spurs.  This for a man who played collegiate football, tennis, and squash.  Trump should show much more respect and deference to the military.  Instead, he chose not to learn anything about how the military operates, ignored important,long-standing protocol, abandoned all decorum around troops, and abused those who selflessly serve and defend the nation. Trump grossly mistreated soldiers and families, most of whom have endured multiple deployments and missed many holidays and special occasions,with his blatantly partisan election stunt wherein he sent thousands of troops to the border weeks before the election and throughout multiple holidays.  This entirely unnecessary action was a disgusting misuse of his authority and incredible waste of resources. 

    Trump failed again when he finally visited troops overseas, displaying unprecedented cowardice and shockingly inappropriate partisanship.  He was clearly shaken and afraid from his trip, something his predecessors have done for decades without such ridiculous displays of fear.  His remarks to the soldiers should have been words of encouragement.  Trump instead impermissibly treated the visits like his infamous campaign rallies wherein he attacked other government leaders, railed on controversial domestic policy issues, displayed his typical extremism, and fomented division and mistrust. He even blatantly lied to the them about fighting for a 10% pay raise that he never gave them.  His conduct violated important rules and standards as well as decades of tradition and respect.            

    Secretary of Defense James Mattis was among the most respected and important members of Trump’s administration. He tried to stick it out and serve loyally despite multiple disagreements over serious issues.  When Trump suddenly announced he was pulling out of Syria, Mattis did the respectable thing and resigned.  He planned to remain for two months, so he could avoid the inevitable chaos and disruption that would interfere with crucial scheduled NATO meetings. Not only did Trump insist he leave immediately (thus threatening the success of the meetings), he did not have the courage, class, or integrity to speak to Mattis.  Trump directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, not Mattis’ boss, to call Mattis on the phone and do the President’s dirty work.  More pure cowardice. 

    On the topic of Syria, that was more evidence of Trump incompetence and cowardice.  Although we have not had a clear Syria policy, Trump’s abrupt change was not about U.S. strategic interests.  It was about his personal financial interests in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, et al, which he again placed above the nation’s national security and long-term interests.  In a secret phone call with Turkey, Turkey threatened the U.S. to remove its troops from Syria because Turkey planned to eradicate the Kurds.  Trump immediately acquiesced in an act that defied all logic. The U.S. role is to tell Turkey we would block such a despicable act of genocide.  The Kurds have been key steadfast allies in our wars in Iraq and Syria.  We owe them gratitude, not a green light to Turkey to slaughter these oppressed people.  He intentionally failed to coordinate with Congressional leaders, NATO allies, et al, and blindsided our own military.  Trump is shamefully serving the pronounced interests of Russia, Iran, and Turkey against our own interests.        

    President Trump was also flummoxed during the alleged summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and yet again abdicated his responsibilities.  No U.S. President has ever met with North Korean dictators and for good reason. This brutal regime tortures, starves, enslaves, and oppresses its people while continually escalating conflict with the U.S., South Korea, Japan, and others.  The very meeting with a U.S.President was a big victory for Kim.  Not only did he get to meet with the U.S. President, Trump instantly gave Kim one of his biggest objectives, the cancellation of U.S./South Korea military exercises which have long since been considered vital to the U.S./South Korean alliance and military preparedness. Trump did not get a solitary concession from Kim.  In fact, North Korea has not just continued,but actually escalated its nuclear weapons and missile testing programs.  Another win for a U.S. enemy, another loss for the U.S. by Trump.  But at least they fell in love (how ridiculous).  He lacked the courage even to stand up to a North Korean dictator.     

    The Trump Presidency will always be marked by the disaster in Helsinki,the first Trump-Putin summit.  As he is unfortunately prone to do, Trump immediately capitulated almost every U.S.interest in complete, inexplicable deference to Putin, arguably our biggest adversary, if not enemy.  He acceded to Russia’s invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, interference in Syria including war crimes against innocent people, and of course ongoing interference in U.S. elections.  There is incontrovertible evidence of Russia’s election meddling, thus Trump’s denials fly in the face of logic and amount to succor to our enemies while he is played as a sucker.  Trump’s performance was atrocious, unacceptable, and entirely contrary to U.S. interests.  He stood next to a hostile, ruthless dictator and reprehensibly took his side over the entire U.S. intelligence community and Congressional leadership, outright denied Russia’s interference in our electoral systems, and thus acquiesced to continued Russian attacks against our country.  Maybe they fell in love, too… 

    While Trump was cozying up to our enemies, he was alienating our friends and allies.  The NATO meetings have been extremely troublesome.  NATO is a large,complex alliance and there are certainly going to be disagreements and contentious issues.  Nevertheless, NATO has for over 70 years been the source of stability in the world, promoting defense, trade, and democracy.  The U.S.has benefitted from NATO as much as we have led and supported it.  Trump has done more damage to the alliance in his short time as President than has ever been done in NATO’s history.  He has sown division, lost trust, and created confusion.  Russia no longer views NATO as an impediment or deterrent to its territorial ambitions and efforts to undermine freedom and democracy.  The critical G7 meetings were similar failures. Trump’s lack of intelligence and unwillingness to learn policy cause tremendous insecurity.  Consequently, he is not able to speak at the same level as the other leaders and this impedes his ability to form any relationships. It appears none of our friends and allies respect him.  Surely, they smell his cowardice as well as his ignorance.              

    President Trump irrationally announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the crucial Paris Accords when he did not even understand the contents of the agreement.  The Trump Administration is so conflicted and insecure over their widely unpopular views of the environment and climate change that they have been trying to erase the very words from government lexicon.  As if simply denying the situation somehow changes it and reduces the negative stigma from the foolhardy decision.  Although many Republican leaders work against the environment at the behest of their big business masters, 70% of the country believes it is an important issue that deserves immediate attention.  Reasonable measures to better balance the impact on the environment will not cripple the economy.  In fact, clean energy and sustainability create good jobs.  Trump’s“policy” is just more intellectual dishonesty and putting the U.S. on course to become a pariah nation.  He lacks the courage and intellect to do the right thing.       

    Where President Trump was most effective this year was in promoting hate and divisiveness.  When many thought our politics and declining civility could not sink lower, Trump found a way.  His personality drives him to create conflict and he thrives on making everything a fight. He needs an enemy.  This is the mark of a person who lacks confidence in his own positions that he must completely denigrate all who might disagree, even those who do it respectively.  The climate of constant and total dishonesty he creates is extremely detrimental to the country,causing so many Americans to lose respect for the office of the President.  Trump’s ongoing campaign against the media is contrary to our values and the Constitution. There will always be criticism of the media, certainly of individual journalists, but freedom has always depended upon the free press and we endanger ourselves by embracing concepts such as the media being the enemy of the people.  Donald Trump has proven he is afraid of truth and cannot accept any hint of challenge, thus he attacks the media.  More despicable behavior and cowardice. 

     2019 promises to be the year when Special Counsel Robert Mueller completes his investigation into Russian 2016 campaign interference and Trump campaign misconduct. Meanwhile 2018 has been the year of the Trump cover up.  First, the Russia Caucus (formerly the Freedom Caucus) in the House led by Reps Nunes, Jordan, Meadows, Gohmert, Goodlatte, and many others disgraced themselves attempting to prevent disclosure of Russian and Trump impropriety against our own national security and election integrity interests.  The administration has been rife with corruption at unprecedented levels.  There have been record number of cabinet officials and white officials resigning, rats abandoning the sinking ship.  Seems none, except Nicki Haley, leave with their dignity and integrity intact.  The Republican controlled Congress, specifically the House Oversight Committee, has not held one hearing or issued a single subpoena concerning any of the rampant administration corruption.  Drain the swamp?  Perhaps he meant reign of the swamp.