From the Boundless Reservoir — June 8, 2017

During the Era of the Trump Presidency

Hello all!

I’ve been ruminating on several things since I last wrote. I think where I want to start is with this: in my view, I think where we currently are with this administration is very dangerous. As best as I can tell, Trump is backing himself further and further into a corner, and I suspect the James Comey testimony today will only further getting his back up against the wall. Given how impulsive, reactive and apparently irrational he is, I suspect he will continue to lash out in more and more disruptive and destructive ways. When an animal is cornered, it can get really vicious.

Since losing or backing down does not seem to be part of his vocabulary, and he has yet to demonstrate a willingness to hold himself accountable or take responsibility for much of anything, my guess is that he will keep undermining and cutting the legs out from underneath the people around him (it isn’t really surprising that Jeff Sessions, one of his first and most vocal supporters, offered to resign, is it?) and that an increasingly fewer number of really competent people will have the stomach to come work in the administration. The person James Mattis had wanted his deputy in the Defense — a really competent woman names Michele Flournoy with a long track record of public service — turned the job down after being interviewed by Trump’s inner circle of aides.

I don’t think this ends well. I wouldn’t be shocked if Trump stroked out or had a heart attack. To be clear, I’m not wishing or hoping for that. But, he looks terrible, has apparently gained a bunch of weight and reports from all over the spectrum say he’s isolating himself and that he’s regularly “erupting” in anger at the people around him. At any age, those aren’t good signs — but north of 70, it’s very, very bad. If he manages to avoid that future, I don’t see any path he takes that in any way defuses what has been ignited. Do any of you? He’s managed to completely piss off our closest allies, while cozying up to some of the worst and despotic leaders on the planet. He goes to Saudi Arabia and says he’s not there to lecture them (and, god knows, he shouldn’t!), but then goes to Europe and does just that. Let’s sing the praises of leaders that are massively violating basic human rights (Erdogan, Duterte, etc) and come down hard on Theresa May and Angela Merkel. This man is singlehandedly disrupting global geopolitics in a way that seems to me completely inconsistent with what we say are American values.

Update — I’m writing on the plane flying to Manchester, NH for my son’s high school graduation. On the first leg of my flight east, I watched some of the Comey hearings. Here’s what you can be sure of: the Republicans that are supporting our pres will grab certain things that were said or not said and the Dems will do the opposite, as will the left leaning and right leaning commentators. And, Trump will likely tweet away (unless someone around him manages to restrain him — a Herculean task if there ever was one!). My view? Comey is a man of integrity. As one commentator I heard say “maybe not always great judgement but has integrity.” I hated that he did what he did right before the election — in my view very bad judgement. But, that’s not my call to make.

Said another way, would I trust Comey well before I would trust Trump, who has demonstrated a predilection for lying? Absolutely, no question. And, as I viewed him responding to questions, he seemed thoughtful, measured and circumspect. Here are my main take-aways: this is going to roil up the whole mess of choppy seas we’ve been attempting to navigate. Richard Burr (R-NC, head of the committee) seems to be taking it very seriously, and not in a partisan way (which I would not say about Mark Warner — he seems very partisan). And, finally, the biggest thing for me? John McCain was either drunk or needs to retire today. If you didn’t watch it, don’t. It’s embarrassing — hard to be with. He kept confusing Comey for Trump, and couldn’t get the simplest thing Comey said to him straight. And, he either ignored or couldn’t hear the gavel that repeatedly struck indicating his time ended. Boy oh boy, I would not want him representing me! At the end of it all, the analysis and deconstruction is fine — but, if you want to really form some view of your own, you need to see it for yourself — and be very watchful for your own confirmation bias.

One more thing I want to poke at. In the light of the latest attack in London, a freshman congressmen from Louisiana (Clay Huggins) posted on his Facebook account: “Kill them all, For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.” This is not some fringe element radio host or leader of an Alt-Right movement. This is an elected member of the US Congress with over 200,000 Facebook followers. But here’s the thing that I got to confront — I had very similar thoughts. When I heard about the van hopping the curb and running down people on London Bridge, I “knew” immediately it was Islamist terrorists, and the thoughts I found myself having ran something like this “we need to just take them all out. Just end it.” I didn’t ask to have those thoughts, and I didn’t sit down to really think through what happened so I would have some thoughtful response to the events that took place. I know I’m not even remotely alone in having those thoughts. I think it is critically important for us to own the thoughts we have, and relate to them as what they are: brain generated patterns that get triggered by some event, some occurrence in the world. I had no say over the thoughts that showed up any more than Trump has over the thoughts that show up for him. I think the muscle for all of us to continue to develop is the muscle of letting those thoughts, those emotional responses, those reactions, just be — hold them as something interesting. Not to resist, not to pretend they’re not there, or to be ashamed of. But to continue to examine them — like “check that out — look at these interesting thoughts I’m having.” I think it is in that practice that we can create freedom from the default views we ended up with.

There you go. Be good to yourself and the people around you, and when you’re not, what an opportunity to clean it up and own our humanity!! And then be good to people. You know, we just never know what people are dealing with, what demons they’re wrestling with. Grounded, centered and connected.

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