While I am hesitant to borrow the title from Thomas Paine’s famous Revolutionary War pamphlet, I believe this is exactly what is needed in this country right now — a dose of common sense. While much of this discussion will focus on why Donald Trump should not be re-elected in 2020, the real issue is that Trump is just a symptom of a deeper problem. The real problem is that, in this hyper-partisan era, too many Americans put more emphasis on party loyalty or a politician’s position on some “hot button” issues than on character, integrity and competence. This shows a clear lack of critical thinking and common sense within some segments of the population and particularly, within the two major political parties.
Before I go further, let me make clear that this is a non-partisan discussion. I am a retired U. S. Army officer and a political Independent who strongly believes that we should put character and competence foremost when selecting our leaders at all levels of government. There is more information about me and my background at the end of this article if you are interested.
As an Independent, I am no more a fan of the Democrats than the Republicans and I am not here to sing Joe Biden’s praises. My purpose is to argue that, even if you support Trump’s policies, he is still totally unfit to serve as our nation’s leader. This is also true if you only support Trump because you are afraid that Biden and Democrats are going move us towards socialism. While I can understand where this fear is coming from, it is still not a good excuse to support Trump, who has repeatedly shown over the last 3½ years that he lacks the character, integrity, and competence to be President. Also, despite his best efforts to ignore the Constitution and rule like an autocrat, Trump has been unable to do so because of our constitutional set of checks and balances. Similarly, even if Biden is elected and tries to adopt the most radical, progressive policies, he will be unsuccessful in turning us into a socialist state because the Constitution prevents such rapid and radical changes.
My hope is that those who read this will not only vote to ensure that Trump is not re-elected but that we can start a movement to stop electing others who either lack integrity or put party loyalty above integrity and competence. There is a cynical view among many Americans that all politicians are dishonest and corrupt. However, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if we accept it and do not hold our leaders to higher standards of honor and integrity. An example of choosing integrity over party loyalty is Alexander Hamilton’s support for Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1800. Even though they were bitter political rivals, Hamilton decided to support Jefferson over Aaron Burr, the candidate from Hamilton’s Federalist Party, because he knew that Jefferson was a principled man and Burr was not. Hamilton wrote: “Mr. Jefferson, though too revolutionary in his notions, is yet a lover of liberty and will be desirous of something like orderly Government — Mr. Burr loves nothing but himself — thinks of nothing but his own aggrandizement — and will be content with nothing short of permanent power in his own hands.” I think Hamilton’s description of Burr’s character (or lack thereof) is also a good fit for Trump!
To prove Trump’s total unsuitability to be President and his demonstrated lack of competence, I will only use his own words, tweets and actions. This is because Trump and his supporters will dispute any reports from what they call the “Fake News”, particularly when a media outlet has caught Trump in another lie or misstatement. While I am also no fan of what Trump calls the “lamestream media” which tends to sensationalize things for ratings and whose journalistic integrity is at times questionable, Trump’s virulent attacks on the media to the extent of calling it the “ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE” as he did in a tweet on Apr 5th, 2019 is but one example of why he is unfit to be President. This is because a free, independent media is a critical part of any democracy.
So that this article does not run to 50 pages like the original Common Sense pamphlet, I am including only a few representative actions, tweets and quotes from Trump to prove my point. If you are interested, I have posted an addendum to this article that includes the full text of Trump’s tweets and comments mentioned in the article and other sources where you can find even more outrageous comments or tweets that Trump has made. There are also tweets and quotes demonstrating the points I made above about Trump’s attempts to rule as an autocrat and his attacks on the media. (https://firstname.lastname@example.org/common-sense-2020-addendum-4cb1202e83e). Also, since the article below and the addendum listed above only list Trump’s outrageous tweets and comments through July 31st (and he keeps making them!), I have posted another addendum with some of the more offensive and outrageous comments Trump has made since July 31st and I will update this regularly. Here is the link: https://email@example.com/common-sense-2020-more-outrageous-trump-comments-tweets-865ceaa67a34
Below is a list of some the traits of an effective leader that I learned at West Point and in the Army with examples from Trump’s actions, tweets and words that show how he has failed to demonstrate these traits.
1. Good leaders put the welfare of their people and organizations over their own self-interest. Trump’s refusal to wear a mask, promotion of unproven treatments and inconsistent messaging about COVID-19 public health measures discussed above is one example of him putting his political future above the welfare of the American people. Another is his constant refusal to either accept or to minimize Russian interference in the 2016 election to the extent of failing to support the U.S. Intelligence community’s conclusion about this during a July 16, 2018 joint press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Trump is evidently so concerned about his own political legitimacy that he would betray our nation’s intelligence agencies in front of Putin and the entire world! Yet another example is Trump’s recent claims that the 2020 election will be “be the most RIGGED Election in our nation’s history” because of mail-in ballots and then suggesting on July 30, 2020 that the election be delayed. Thus, despite overwhelming evidence that mail-in voting is not rife with fraud, Trump is clearly trying to cast doubts about the upcoming election for his own political benefit. Furthermore, in a July 19, 2020 Fox New Interview, Trump refused to state that he will accept the results of the 2020 election if he loses!
2. Good leaders set the example. The most recent example of where Trump falls short here is that, even after his own administration recommended that everyone wear masks in public on Apr 3rd, he refused to set the example by wearing a mask in public until the 99th day of the COVID-19 pandemic during a July 22nd visit to Walter Reed Medical Center. He compounded this lack of leadership by holding campaign style rallies where neither he nor many of the participants wore masks or practiced proper social distancing. These included a rally in an indoor arena in Tulsa, OK on June 20th, an event in a tightly packed church in Phoenix, AZ on June 23rd and an outdoor rally at Mt. Rushmore on July 4th. He also retweeted a dangerous tweet from former game show host Chuck Woolery on July 13th that included “… Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, …” and on July 27th retweeted a tweet from Dr. Stella Immanuel with a video in which she touted hydroxychloroquine as a “cure” for COVID-19 and stated that people “do not need to wear masks”. This is not the example a leader should be setting during a worldwide pandemic that has killed over 150,000 Americans!
3. Good leaders treat people with dignity and respect. Trump is very disrespectful towards anyone who opposes or criticizes him. He insults people publicly and calls them by nicknames like “Crooked Hillary Clinton”, “Cheatin’ Obama”, “Sleepy Joe Biden”, “Crazy Bernie Sanders”, “Nervous Nancy Pelosi”, “Lyin’ Ted Cruz”, “Psycho Joe Scarborough”, etc. He has insulted numerous people on Twitter and in public statements using terms like “nut job” (Anthony Scaramouci, Joe Scarborough, Ann Coulter), “dummy” (John Bolton, Brian Williams, John Sununu), “lightweight” (Paul Krugman, Justin Amash, Beto O’Rorke), etc. Can you imagine George Washington publicly calling Thomas Jefferson “Tricky Tom” or Abraham Lincoln calling Steven Douglas “Slimy Steve”?
4. Good leaders surround themselves with competent subordinates. Trump’s track record with his subordinates has been abysmal. One example is giving his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kusher jobs as “Advisor to the President” when neither of them had any experience in government or relevant qualifications. This is blatant nepotism that somehow has been accepted without much outcry. Other examples include the numerous senior administration officials who have either resigned or been fired. After these officials left (or sometimes even while they still were in office), Trump insulted them and claimed they were unfit for or did a poor job in the positions Trump appointed them to. Some examples of this include Attorney General Jeff Sessions (“not mentally qualified to be attorney general”), National Security Advisor John Bolton (“a disgruntled boring fool who only wanted to go to war”), Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (“the world’s most overrated General”), Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (“dumb as a rock and totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State”), etc. These comments are not only more examples of Trump’s failing to treat people with respect but also beg the question about Trump’s judgement and competence if he has repeatedly made poor decisions in choosing his key subordinates!
5. Good leaders are honest. Some media sources claim that Trump has made over 20,000 false or misleading statements since he has been in office. Even if you do not trust the media, it is still easy to find many things that Trump has said that are obviously not true. One particularly egregious example is his tweet on Mar 24th, 2019 about the Mueller Report that, in part, said “Complete and Total EXONERATION”. This is patently false since the Mueller Report clearly states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”. Also, even though Attorney General Barr’s statement about the Mueller Report tried to put Trump in the best possible light, it also states that the “Special Counsel states that while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” However, Trump chose to ignore both statements to tweet something that was untrue. Other examples of Trump’s lies include a Nov 27, 2016 tweet stating that he won the popular vote, his statement on Dec 27, 2017 that his administration passed more legislation in its first year than any other, his Nov 1, 2018 statement that “President Obama separated children from families”, his Apr 25, 2019 tweet claiming that he never tried to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, his statement on Mar 6, 2020 during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic that “anybody that wants a test can get a test”, his statement on July 28, 2020 that “you can look at large portions of our country; it’s — it’s corona-free” and on and on and on.
6. Good leaders show humility. Trump has repeated talked and tweeted about how smart he is to include a tweet on Jan 8th, 2018 where he called himself a “a very stable genius”; an Aug 31st, 2019 statement where he said “I am the chosen one” and an Oct 7th, 2019 tweet where he mentioned his “great and unmatched wisdom”. Even if these were meant to be tongue in cheek (and there is no evidence that this is the case), this is despicable. Other examples of Trump’s boasting include saying that “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it” during his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination on July 21, 2016 and saying that “ I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me” during Oct 16, 2016 campaign rally. These last two statements are particularly outrageous since Trump had never served in the military or government when he made them!
There are many other examples where Trump’s actions, words and tweets clearly demonstrate that he is totally unfit to be our President. However, as mentioned earlier, I don’t want this to go on for 50 pages like the original Common Sense pamphlet because, unlike in colonial times, I think that many people nowadays have neither the time nor the patience to read something so long. But there several other particularly heinous acts by Trump that I must mention before I close. The first is his cowardly betrayal of our Kurdish allies in Syria in the fall of 2019. I find this especially distressing because I served with and became friends with a number of Kurds when I was in Iraq in 2005. Another despicable act (or actually lack of action) is Trump’s dismissal of, and failure to effectively respond to, reports of Russian payments of bounties to the Taliban for killing American servicemembers in Afghanistan. As a U.S. Army officer, I swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and then did so in over 23 years of active duty service. Thus, I find these acts, along with Trump’s attacks on the Constitution and his betrayal of the U.S. Intelligence community in Helsinki which were discussed earlier, as clear evidence that Trump has failed to live up to the similar oath he made when he was sworn in as President! (NOTE: There is more information and some quotes and tweets from Trump about the betrayal of the Kurds and Russian bounty fiasco in the addendum to this article: https://firstname.lastname@example.org/common-sense-2020-addendum-4cb1202e83e.)
Some of Trump’s defenders say that he is an “unconventional” politician or that this is just “Trump being Trump”, as if this is acceptable. No, we must expect more from our leaders and cannot accept Trump’s atrocious behavior! To put it in Trump’s vernacular, he acts like a total jerk. Here is the acid test — do you think Donald Trump is a good role model for your children or grandchildren? Would you really want them to behave in a preening, arrogant, insensitive, bullying and dishonest manner like Trump? If the answer to this question is no, then you should agree that Trump is unfit to be President!
I am sure that this article will not convince the diehard Trump supporters that they have placed their faith in the wrong man. However, I hope those who have not yet made up their minds will take what I have said into consideration. Even if you do not like Biden or agree with his policies, he is still a better choice than Trump. We cannot afford another 4 years with such an amoral, despicable man in the White House. Hopefully we can elect someone in 2024 who is much better than either Biden or Trump and who can repair the damage that Trump has already caused to our country and any further damage Biden may cause. We must start electing people with integrity and competence and we can start this process by NOT re-electing Donald Trump!
Kurt Webber is a West Point graduate and a retired Army officer. He served on active duty for over 23 years in Infantry and Special Forces units and taught at West Point. His service included a tour in Iraq in 2005, volunteering to come back on active duty after initially retiring from the Army in the summer of 2001. He retired from a second career teaching Information Technology in community colleges in 2017 to devote his time to numerous volunteer activities that include founding and running a program to serve veterans and first responders, Boy Scouts and Rotary.