Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Case for Impeaching Donald Trump

Donald Trump should be impeached.  At least this is the sentiment of the most partisan Democrats and across the social media chatter even though he has barely been in office two months.  But has President Trump done anything that is or likely would constitute an impeachable offense?  The answer is that it depends, but simply put, if he has committed offenses at least as serious as what Bill Clinton was impeached for then the answer is yes, but it is still too soon to tell.

What does it mean to impeach a president of the United States such as Donald Trump? There is a lot of popular confusion over the term.  Article II, section four outlines the process for impeaching and removing a president from office.  It declares that the president, vice-president, and other civil officers of the United States can be removed from office by “impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”  Removal of the president is a two-stage process.  First a major of the House of Representatives must agree on one or more articles of impeachment.  If that happens, the House then appoints a committee to lead the prosecution of the articles.  The Senate then must hear the articles of impeachment in a trial-like proceeding over which the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides.  It takes a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict and if that happens, the president is removed from office.  Think of House impeachment as similar to indicting one for a crime of which then the Senate  is a trial to determine guilt.

What would Trump have to do to constitute an impeachable offense?   Article II, section four lists three possibilities.  Treason is the first, and the Constitution defines that to be engaging war against the United States or giving our enemies Aid and Comfort.  Treason is a high bar to meet, really historically requiring  something where it involves military action or issues that directly address national security.  So far there is no indication that this is what Trump has done and thus this is an unlikely impeachable offense.

The second possibility is bribery.  Bribery would be accepting payments in return for the performance or conveyance of government services or favors.  Given Trump’s extensive business holdings and refusal to divest himself of them, there is a possibility that the conflicts of interest that he personally has could rise to a constitutional level problem that would merit an impeachable offense.  For example, allegations of Russian business connections and how they might be impacting  Trump’s foreign policy decisions might be a form of bribery.

Finally, there is the phrase high crimes and misdemeanors?  What does that mean?  In adopting this phrase the constitutional framers employed language that had existed in England since  1386 when the Parliament used the term to refer to a variety of actions including the misappropriation of funds or dereliction in the performance of official duties.  Mal-administration comes to mind as a close meaning, although when that word was proposed at the Constitutional Convention by George Mason, James Madison objected to it and substituted high crimes and misdemeanors in its place.

An alternative meaning for the phrase was offered in 1970 when the House of Representatives tried to impeach Supreme Court Justice William Douglas.  The Congressman Gerald Ford said an impeachable offense was “whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”  In truth, Ford is correct–impeachment is a matter of political judgment where Congress ultimately decides the fitness of a person to serve in office, such as president.

There have been three serious efforts to impeach presidents of the United States.  In 1868 the House voted on 11 articles of Impeachment against President Andrew Johnson.    The core of the charges were allegations that Johnson illegally removed Secretary of War Ed Stanton in violation of the Office of Tenure Act.  Lurking behind this impeachment were political fights over how Johnson–a southerner–was going to support the Reconstruction agenda of the Republicans in Congress.  Johnson survived removal from office when his conviction in the Senate fell one vote short of the two-thirds requirement.

Richard Nixon was the second president where there was a serous effort to impeach.  In 1974 the House Judiciary Committee recommended three articles of impeachment against the president-- obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress–arising out of Nixon’s refusal to cooperate with them and the special prosecutor in terms of the investigation surrounding the Watergate break-in.  Nixon opted to resign instead of facing an impeachment vote.  All these charges represented serious claims about a president breaking the law and refusing to cooperate with a criminal investigation.  They also spoke to clear abuses of presidential power.

Finally in 1998 the House voted two articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton–perjury and obstruction of justice–arising out of investigations into his sexual relationship with white House intern Monica Lewinsky and the sexual harassment law suit filed by Paula Jones against him.  The Senate acquitted him, mostly along a straight party-line vote.  For some, the charges were partisan and political and less having to do with Clinton’s real performance as president but for others there was real evidence of lying under oath that merited removal.

In the two cases where the House actually voted on Articles of Impeachment partisanship or political differences seem to be at the heart of the charges.  With Johnson arguably there were also questions about mal-administration, but it is hard to argue that with Clinton.  Perhaps the most serious charges of impeachment were against Nixon, and not surprisingly they garnered bipartisan support.

So how does all this apply to Trump?  So far his presidency has been marked by either non-or  mal-administration.  It has largely been ineffective in getting much done, and it is mired in a host of controversies that include allegations of Russian involvement in his campaign and perhaps administration.   An FBI investigation may clarify these allegations.  There are other concerns too about his competence and fitness to be president.  All of these are possible grounds that constitute high crimes and misdemeanors, yet it will take a lot to convince a Republican House and Senate of  that.   However, if history is a guide, the allegations against Trump are at least as bad as those against Clinton, and if the FBI investigation yields more proof, or if Trump remains the ineffective president  his is starting off to be, impeachment is a possible remedy.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Trump Presidency versus the Deep State

The Trump presidency is fraught with contradictions.  Among the most notable is the degree to which
the Steve Bannon war on the “deep administrative state” is at odds with a presidency aimed at making America great again.  To achieve that goal–whatever it means–it requires the Trump administration to take control of the political machinery of the state to secure policy goals, not seek to destroy it as Bannon and many Republicans aspire.
There is an old adage that the skills need to become president are different from those to be president. Presidential campaigns depend on media skills, crafting narratives and messages, and on fund raising among other things.  While some of these skills might also apply to being president, campaigning is different from governing.  Governance is more than words and rhetoric; it is formulating public policies and setting agendas.  It requires the coordination of multiple agencies and officials, working with Congress, proper use of discretion, implementation, and the oversight of programs.
Campaigning is easy, but governing is hard.  Fortunately there are careerists and a civil service in Washington that transcends presidents to maintain institutional knowledge about how to run things.  There are the 3,000 or so members of the Senior Executive Service–the most senior careerists who  run the major government agencies and programs.  There is the foreign policy establishment that generally directs the US national security and diplomatic functions of the country.   All of this is what makes the federal government work and gets things done.   It assures stability, consistency, competence.  This is the real  deep state–not the deep state of those conspiracists who still think there was a second shooter in Dallas in 1963 or who think there is a CIA coverup over area 51 in New Mexico.   Or the deep state of anti-Semites, racists, misogynists,  and homophobes who see CNN and the NY Times in a plot to oppress white Christian men.  Trump needs the real deep state–the administrative state– but he is at war with it.
Trump’s presidential campaign as an outsider was not atypical of many recent candidates.  He ran as the outsider, as someone who would “drain the swamp” of Washington.  Yet the Trump candidacy and now the Trump presidency went further.  It saw a virtue in no government knowledge or experience.  It naively believed that a bunch of real outsiders with no government experience could simply come in and get things done, such as building a Mexican wall, crushing Isis, imposing tariffs, forcing renegotiation of trade agreements, and demanding changes to health care.   To accomplish any of these tasks a president and his staff have to have a plane, and people who can execute it.  So far it does not appear Trump has either.  He is literally a man without a plan–except for one–to also destroy the current administrative state, if Steve Bannon is to be so understood.
The entire foundation of anything the Trump wants to do rests upon the deep or the administrative state.  Executive orders in part get their power from administrative law and regulations.  The ability to move on any of the issues that Trump says he cares about requires there to be a strong and viable administrative state.  Yet this is the very state Bannon wants to see wither away.  Take away the administrative state and Trump will be weak, ineffective president.  That appears where the Trump presidency is now.
The efforts to destabilize the government only weaken it.  The failure to get hi appointments named and confirmed weaken the state.   The failure to listen to those who know better or how to get things done weakens the state.  Trump may simply not realize that his tactics are at odds with policy views.  Or perhaps what Trump wants and what Bannon wants are two different things.  Trump may want to build, Bannon wants to destroy.
Back in the 1960s when people were still waiting for the revolution to occur political scientist Robert Dahl wrote a book called After the Revolution?  He pointed out that after the revolution someone would still have to pick up the garbage, make sure the streets are paved, that sewage goes down sewers, and that all the other functions that we cherish as part of civilization would go on.     Revolutions to improve the quality of life still require authority, structure, and organization, unless of course you are a complete anarchist and either don’t want that or think that a modern society can spontaneously govern and structure itself.  Maybe that is what Bannon thinks.  However the track record of complex systems simply self-ordering themselves in ways that are beneficial to all is not very good.  Free markets and capitalism are the most notable failures in that aspect.
The point here is that contrary to the simplistic view that the state is going to wither away and  allow Trump to be a strong and effective president, the two cannot stand together.  The Trump presidency is actually pursuing policies that will largely make it less effective and competent than many hoped or feared.  The contradictions of the Trump style of anti-governance doom his presidency, and perhaps setting it up to be crushed by the deep state that it resents but needs.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Democracy, Politics, and the War on Science

What is a fact and how do we know when something is true?  These are not just philosophical questions.  In this era of intense partisan polarization, especially in the United States, the very notion that both objective facts and truth exist is contested.  Contrary to the assertion of former US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who once declared that Aeveryone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts,@ it now seems that each person and political party does have their own facts and truth. Why? Simply putBscientific facts and truth are not the same as political facts and truth; democracy and science are often in conflict.
For 30 years, I have taught American politics, law, and public policy.  As someone with graduate degrees in astronomy, philosophy, law, and political science, my research and teaching  centers on how policy making can be more evidence-based. In most aspects of our lives and in business we are taught to draw upon the best available evidence before making decisions. The same should be true for politicians and government.  Decisions crafted on political myths and faulty or no evidence yield bad public policy, causing a waste of taxpayer dollars and failed or ineffective programs.  Yet too much policy is crafted without real evidence. 
There are many reasons for this.  One can clearly point to intense interest group politics and the corrosive impact of money on politics as possibilities.  There is also a deep-seated distrust in American culture that disdains intellectualism and intellectuals, as told by historians such as Richard Hofstadter. But perhaps most importantly, there is a profound difference residing in how scientists and politicians gather facts and think about the world.
Scientists (and most social scientists) ascribe to the scientific method. It is a rigorous approach ideally using controlled experiments where the inductive process of gathering discrete data is aggregated to test hypotheses. Statistical sampling is often employed as ways of estimating the probability that some samples are truly representative of the phenomena being studied.  One cannot examine every molecule in the universe to conclude about all of them.  Good samples allow for generalizations, but there is always a slight probability of error.
For scientists, facts are rigorously tested but cannot be proved with 100% certainty.  Science is about falsifying claims.  Scientific knowledge is also incremental, built upon what is previously known like with bricks upon one another to construct a wall.  Scientists have built a wall of knowledge, facts, and truth.  The laws of gravity, Einstein=s famous e=mc2, and 1+1=2 are examples.  Scientific facts and truth have made telephones, television, the Internet and the cure for polio possible.  If one denies scientific truth one might as well deny civilization.
But scientific knowledge is different from political knowledge.  What is political truth, especially in a democracy?  It is what 50% plus one of the population saysBmajority rule.  For elected officials, what counts as facts and truths is what they learn from their constituents.  A politician=s world is not of controlled experiments, hypotheses, and statistically valid samples; what counts as valid evidence in making policies are the stories and interests of constituents.  Hearing something from voters is powerful evidence to someone who many need their support in the next election.  What is true has less to do with rigorous method of investigation than it does with how some assertion plays well with the media or voters.
On occasion, scientific and political truths or knowledge converge, resulting in good public policy.  But historically they do not.  The tension between scientific or expert knowledge culled from rigorous testing versus political knowledge based on majority rule is deep and has existed since Plato discussed it nearly 2,500 years ago. This is the technocracy/democracy gap.  Some have more or specialized knowledge compared to others. Should the people defer to the experts or choose for themselves what they consider true?
 While science and democracy are in tension, how do we explain the partisan war on science between Democrats and Republicans in the US?  Battles over global warming and alternative facts are sourced in competing economic interests that support or sustain specific biases or factual world views.  The two parties represent divergent interests, creating financial interests in rival conceptions of truth. Right now, Republicans are representing interests generally hostile to science, including energy companies that wish to deny climate change, or workers who fear automation will un-employ them.  But this could change.
The gap between scientific and political knowledge might be bridged with more scientific education in schools.  It might also be good if we elected more scientists to office.  Together they might create conditions that make the political process more hospitable to science, yet there is no guarantee.  Differing economic interests drive scientific skepticism, as does simply fear and prejudice and something needs to be done to address both.  Yet even with all that, the challenge for scientists is convincing the public and politicians that science is not a threat but that its enables and enriches our society, not hurts it.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Tu Madre! Trump’s Crueler and Coarser America


President  George H. W. Bush was once mocked for envisioning a “kinder and gentler” America and then failing to do anything to realize it or produce the “thousand points of light” that he wanted for the United States.  If only we could have such rhetoric again from a president we would be much better off than we are.

Trump’s America is a mean and petty country.  We learned that during the election with his demeaning of almost everyone under the sun, ranging from immigrants and Muslims to military personnel who were prisoners of war.  He denigrated and vilified women by reducing them to their sexual organs, and he mocked the physically handicapped. It took him days to acknowledge that anti-Semitism is wrong. And now, with his reversal of a Obama legal interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he displays insensitivity and cruelty to transgender children.  And his base cheers.

Why is Trump so cruel, why is his base so hateful?    Why do they think it is okay to be mean to those who are weak, to those with whom they disagree, to those who are the less fortunate.  The quality of mercy should not be strained; it should be the mark of real strength and leadership to reach out to those with whom we disagree and embrace them.  As Abraham Lincoln beautifully said in his Second Inaugural speech regarding the South:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Trump does nothing to appeal to the better angels in all of us.  His is not a JFK speech of asking “not what this country can do for us but what we can do for our country.”  It is even worse than asking if you are better off now than four years ago.  Instead, his “America first” is me first and the rest of you can “F–k off.”  I want to believe that the United States and most of its people are better than that.   But the real danger of Trump is the lack of leadership when it comes to respect for human dignity,  embolding instead hateful rhetoric and behavior.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Two Walls of American Political Discourse

The Trump presidency shows how the United States is trapped by its own
political walls and  tradition, creating a problem both for the Democratic and Republican parties.  The problem is that the current range of political options to address many of the most entrenched policy issues in the United States is caught between failed fundamentalist market solutions of the Republican Party and the neo-liberal regulatory proposals offered by the Democratic Party.

Louis Hartz’s The Liberal Tradition in America is a classic book often forgotten.  It describes a country that was born of a liberal tradition indebted to the political philosophy of John Locke. This is an ideology of limited government, protection of individual rights, and a belief in the centrality of private property.  Hartz contends that the American political tradition demonstrates a core political consensus around these values, with historians such as  Richard Hofstadter, Daniel J. Boorstin, Clinton Rossiter, and Henry Steele Commager argue the same, alleging that there is a powerful core ideology in the United States favoring these liberal values, along with a commitment to market capitalism.   Hartz once correctly argued that the reason there is no viable socialist tradition in the US is because of the strong consensus and support for market capitalism.   McCarthyism and disdain for truly progressive politics are both a product of the liberal consensus and xenophobia and the paranoid style of politics that historian Richard Hofstadter described.  In effect, there is a left wall to American politics beyond which is appears no politician can go, with market fundamentalism describing the right wall.

At its core, American politics has that of a liberal capitalist (representative) democracy.  Markets are presumed good, government bad, and government intervention into the economy to address market failures is a last resort, not a first policy option.  New Deal and Great Society regulation is the exception and not the preferred first approach to solving social, political, and economic problems.  Contrary to what many may think, both the contemporary Democratic and Republican parties ascribe to this belief, with the latter clearly favoring more market fundamentalist solutions while the former endorses more regulatory approaches at times.

How its political tradition affects politics in the United States is playing out now under the Trump presidency.    In many ways the reason why Trump got elected and his message resonated so well with so many is that the political-economic institutions have not benefitted the majority of Americans for the last 40 years.  It is not necessary to recount here the statistics pointing to the widening gap between the rich and poor since the 1970s, producing what is today the most maldistributed US economy since the 1920s.  Many feel they are no longer living the American Dream, and there is ample evidence to support that.  In part, the reason why so many have been left behind is that American public policy since the 1970s has not favored the middle class or the poor, working instead to the advantage of the already most affluent.

Both the Democrats and the Republican Parties have been guilty in not addressing the needs of the former, but the Republicans clearly have pursued  policies more supportive of the rich than the working or middle class.  And now under Trump, Ryan, and McConnell, their embrace of market fundamentalism will do little to help those who voted for them.  Instead, if the history of the last 40 years has shown anything, less regulation and more markets fail to address issues such as economic inequality, health care, the cost of higher education, and the loss of jobs overseas.  There is little evidence that even if the Trump-Ryan-McConnell agenda gets enacted, it will help those who most need help.  The right wall of American politics–market fundamentalism–cannot solve many of the most entrenched problems the United States confronts.

But conversely, the Democrats are trapped by a different wall.  In many ways the crisis of this party is all about the limits of regulation.  The timid regulatory politics that mark Democratic politics from Carter to Obama had limited benefit to the poor, working class, and the middle.  At some point, minor redistributive politics and limited market regulation is not enough. Bolder and broader solutions may be required.  Yet there is a left wall–the wall that defines the limits of progressive politics– as political scientist Charles Lindblom calls it, which imprisons what the Democrats can offer as policy solutions.

The irony of the Trump era is that his call for a wall is a wonderful metaphor for the limits and poverty of American political solutions offered not just by him and the Republicans, but also by the mainstream Democratic Party now.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Constitution 7, Trump Administration 0.

But it is still early in the first quarter and we know what happened to the
Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl.
It was no surprise at all that Trump lost in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals when it came to his travel ban.  Even though the decision was not on the merits but only on the stay, the Court indicated that the challengers were more than likely to win on the merits when it came to two constitutional claims–a Fifth Amendment Due Process claim regarding revocation of travel privileges without hearings, and a First Amendment Freedom of Religion claim.  The Trump administration lost because it was sloppy.  The executive order–as with most of them–are more showmanship than substance.  His Administration is full of a bunch of amateurs who do not know how government works and they think they can flout the law and rules and do whatever they want.  And Trump himself is unwilling to listen and take advice from those who k ow their way around Washington.
Trump’s performance after three weeks is a reminder of what I have been arguing for weeks.  There is this amazing document out there called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that has nifty things such as checks and balances, separation of powers, due process, equal protection, federalism, and an independent judiciary.  These structures actually do work and mean something.  They were meant to frustrate rapid political change, to make it difficult for a–as James Madison described in Federalist Paper number 10: “[M]majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
For all those liberals or conservatives who moaned that they could not get rapid or significant political reform accomplished, in part the reason was the structural design of the Constitution meant to prevent that. Thus, for the Trumps and Jason Lewis types of the world who whine that politics in the United States is played between the 40 yard lines, guess what?  It was designed to do just that.  We may live in a time of polarization where many want to go for the Hail Mary pass but the reality is that in politics as in football, such plays seldom work.
But having said all the above, remember it is early still in the first quarter and lots can happen in this political game.  There will be many forces converging that will tame Trump.  The foreign policy establishment that is so powerful in Washington is already constraining Trump when it comes to China.  Week three into his term and the Iran Nuclear deal is not torn up.  No one sees the first brick being laid along the Mexican border.   Free markets and returns on investment will largely doom many of the ideas to bring back coal and kill off renewable energy.  
Yet complacency is a real danger, and Democrats are hobbled by it.  Across the country one hears repeated talk of impeachment, or of the idea that Trump will be so inept that he will bring himself and Republicans down in 2018 and 2020.   Thus, the complacency is the idea that Trump is so bad voters will return to their senses and vote for Democrats and the DFL in two or four years.   One might as well wish for a pony.  This was Clinton’s strategy in 2016. Remember, in part she lost because she had no narrative, no message.  She assumed voters were hers.  The Democrats thought their policies for the last eight if not more years were fine and that they did not need to do anything wrong.   If only it were not for the FBI Director Comey letter or some other freak occurrence such as the Electoral College, she would be president.  She was not the problem, the message was not the problem, the strategy was not the problem, it was someone, somebody, or something else that was to blame.  That seems to be the message of the 2017   Minnesota DFL listening tour according to my friends who have attended.  It is less listening and more about what we were right and the tide is now turning to the DFL and Democratic party advantage.
The reality is that  Democratic party policies, narratives, and strategies,  for the last generation were part of the problem.  From Bill Clinton to Barack Obama the Democrats failed to treat seriously the needs of the working class.  The bailed out the banks but ignored the homeowners after the crash of 2008.  Obama never moved on minimum wage when he could, he failed to push for the Employee Free Choice Act to help the labor unions, he did nothing to address the role of money in politics.  Democrats across the country supported tax cuts that favored the rich.  No, they did not support the wholesale attack on the welfare state but neither did they endorse a major restructuring of it to improve it.  Instead, they went along with the thousand nicks and cuts that undermined it.
Obama and Clinton left the Democratic Party in the weakest position it has been in since the 1920s.  Hoping to run out the clock when it is only in the first quarter is not a viable game plan.  Yes, the Constitution has won and it should be recognized that it sets the rules for the game of American  politics.  But Democrats if they are to be successful, they need to have a real team with a real game plan and strategy beyond one that assumes that Trump and the republicans will simply continue to fumble or commit fouls.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Trump's America--A Not So Shining City on the Hill

Barely two weeks into the Trump presidency and the United States is already less great and weaker
than it was before he took office.  The reason for that is Trump’s failure to grasp the essence of leadership and the unique role that the United States has a moral exemplar among nations of the world.
MBA and other graduate programs are littered with leadership classes.  A ton of ink has been spilled seeking to describe the essence of leadership, especially for the presidency.  But James MacGregor Burns’ 1978 Leadership is still the single best book that joins these topics.  In it Burns distinguishes between two types of leadership–transactional and transformational.  Transactional  is the quid pro quo of cutting deals, the ordinary game of bargaining, but real leadership is transformational.  A transformational leader literally transforms institutions or the world, forging new ways to look and organize the world.  Presidents such as George Washington, Abraham  Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan were transformative.
But to be a transformative leader sometime special is required–moral authority. Transforming leadership happens when "one or more persons engage with each other in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality."  Burns once stated succinctly that real transformative leadership is authority guided by moral principle. Authoritarians exert mere power or brute force, but real leadership has a moral dimension capable of transforming and moving people in ways that mere transactional bargaining cannot.
For the most successful of US presidents, the concept of moral leadership is enhanced by the country’s special status in the world.  Maybe it goes back to the concept of American exceptionalism rooted in Puritan John Winthrop’s 1630 speech “A Model of Christian Charity” he gave on the ship Arbella before it docked in Massachusetts colony where he described this new place as a “shining city upon the hill.”  For many coming to America we were as Abraham Lincoln as others declared, the “last great hope” on Earth to found a just and ethical country. Part of what makes the United States great is it moral leadership–the defender of human rights, democracy, and its willing to play fair for the right causes and reasons.  This country’s strength was not simply the hard power of bombs and bullets, but as Paul Kennedy said, it also included our soft power of moral leadership and authority in the world that makes it possible to criticize dictators and despots.  The power to persuade includes a moral position.
None of this is something that Trump understands.  First his concept of leadership is narrow and transactional.  Trump’s entire Art of the Deal is an ode to quid pro quo bargaining in its thinnest sense.  Good negotiators tell you that real bargaining is not zero sum, it leaves both sides feeling good because both are winners.  The Art of the Deal is about how Trump took advantage of others for selfish or personal reasons, not to enhance the position of both sides.  But even if the Art of the Deal was more, it still describes a world of transactions and not transformation.  Trump’s concept of leadership is woefully thin and confined to this narrow notion of quid pro quo.  It is about the US getting better one-on-one deals with other countries that puts American first.  It is hardly a form of leadership that rebuilds or builds structures and institutions in ways to help the country.
But Trump also misunderstands the importance of American exceptionalism and the gravity it exercises in the world.  America’s real authority–which includes its soft power–rests upon its moral status in the world.  If we respect individual rights at home, support freedom of the press, and  obey rule of law, it makes it easier to criticize authoritarians and regimes around the world that fail to do that.  Trump simply does not understand that.  Eschewing respect for the press, his Muslim travel ban, or in his recent prayer breakfast speech declaring only “citizens can practice their beliefs without fear of hostility or a fear of violence,” Trump undermines not only domestically the values that are important to American democracy but he vastly weakens the moral position of the United States and his presidency in the world.