Let’s talk about 1000 people. Everyone is their own snowflake, sure, but there are things 1 will do that the other 999 never will. There are things that the 999 will do that a certain kind of 1 never will.
Indulge me on this for a minute. You know 1000 people. For example, your facebook friends + people you know who aren’t on facebook.
There are at least another 1000 people that you’ve heard of, but don’t know personally. Let’s name a particular 1000.
First half is easy: 535 Senators and members of the House, that’s all the nationally elected representatives to the U.S. Congress.
Add to those 535 reps 50 governors, 1 from each state. That’s 585 now.
Now add the 44 previous Presidents. I know, a lot them are dead, but hey, let’s just say they live on in our hearts.
Add to them some Chief Executive Officers. Let’s say the CEOs of America’s Top 250 companies, the upper half of Forbes’ list. Now we’re up to 879.
One more: the current President.
For the final 120 people, just take the 120 biggest celebrities you know. Why not?
Now, here’s the thing: our President is utterly, utterly, unlike any of those other 999 people in his group.
Maybe that’s why he was elected! Maybe he’s The One, like Neo or King Arthur. Maybe we needed him to pull the sword from the stone.
Maybe at some point that unusual personality will effectively drain the swamp, untie the Gordian knot of special interests, and reform government for the better. I hope so.
Maybe when you’ve got 999 people and almost 60% are/were professional politicians, you need an outsider to get the system working again for common people.
But there are so many things about that 1 in 1000 personality that are hurting majorities of people of America. And I can’t help but lament our bad luck on that score. Our 1-in-1000 kind of bad luck. There are so many things that wouldn’t be true if Mike Pence or Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz were president. Or Tim Cook (the CEO of Apple) or Bob Iger (CEO of Disney) or even Mel Gibson or Charlie Sheen.
Yeah, that’s right. The rest of this column is about things that wouldn’t be happening if Mel Gibson or Charlie Sheen were president. Deal with that.
Your favorite celebrities, congresspersons and CEOs (and previous presidents) wouldn’t have fired all the nation’s attorneys general and ambassadors without, you know, one or two or 500 replacements ready to go. They just wouldn’t. They wouldn’t, in their first five months, leave 80% of the Senate-approved positions unnominated and 96% of the 2000-odd non-Senate-approved positions unnominated. You think all-star CEOs earn shareholder loyalty by coming into existing companies and turning them into ghost towns?
I could maybe imagine 3 or 4 of the 999 demanding loyalty pledges, although most, maybe all of the 999 would already have a few loyal mentors around who would be advising them, among other things, not to demand loyalty pledges of career employees.
I could maybe imagine 10 or 15 of the 999 appointing deeply, preposterously unqualified nominees to Cabinet and senior posts, or keeping some on after they had clearly broken the law (like perjury and failing to disclose meetings with Russian officials). But even these 10 or 15 would probably eventually trim the criminal fat.
Most CEOs answer to shareholders, paying people beaucoup bucks to be sure they don’t run afoul of the law (or, really, to manipulate the law to their advantage). That’s why it’s hard to imagine the CEOs of Wal-Mart or Amazon or Home Depot turning the White House into a massive grift. The Wall Street Journal, not exactly a left-wing rag, reported that in the first quarter of 2017 the Trump campaign paid $500,000,000 to Trump businesses; the Trump company has acquired Chinese patents it sought for over a decade; competitors have filed suit against blatant violations of the emoluments clause. Might a President Tom Cruise or Oprah Winfrey have set themselves up as an emperor (including the nepotism)? I guess it’s possible, but it’s more likely they would have set their finances in a proper trust and not treated the country like a casino to be bankrupted.
Probably all 999 of these people have lied from time to time. But most of them could get through a speech without rampant prevarication. And it’s not just our 1-in-1000 president’ direct fibs (e.g. inauguration attendance, “proof” of no Russian influence over the election, Hillary’s deal for “20% of our uranium”). It’s deleting federal scientific data. It’s the mendacity on his personal taxes and personal health, where transparency would probably solve half of America’s anxiety. It’s all the gaslighting, when the president tells you that your protests are evidence of your insanity. It’s the sociopathy that, after fighting tooth and nail for a health care bill repeal, says, after losing, “this was the best thing that could have happened.” And it’s accusing leaders of major crimes without any proof whatsoever (e.g. Obama of spying, Comey of perjury). Just to choose two people from different parties at random, Lena Dunham and Jon Voight have their faults, but I can’t imagine either of them (or any of America’s top CEOs) doing any of that.
Somewhat relatedly, there are also the reversals. Let’s be very clear: both Dems and Repubs often go back on campaign promises. CEOs sometimes have to reverse themselves. We love it when celebrities go back on things they say. But…imagine the following list in the first 100 days of any of their presidencies. After promising swift action, the president reversed himself on: infrastructure, offshoring, tax reform, term limits, imprisoning Hillary Clinton, ISIS, the Iran deal, NAFTA, releasing his taxes, and separating his business and government interests. No. None of the 999 would have given us that ice cream sundae of a list, much less the cherry on top, the angry tweets about Obama’s golfing followed by regular weekends of golfing.
But he hasn’t reversed on everything! It’s hard to imagine any of the 999 going on and on about a Mexico-funded border wall or a Muslim ban, although in fairness, that does seem to be an X-factor that propelled our current president into the Oval Office. Because no one else would have boxed him/herself in that way, it’s hard to judge, but I’ll bet you the price of the Great Wall of China that if Mike Pence ever becomes President, he’ll conveniently forget about both.
Did anyone vote for the President because of his browbeating of NATO and praise for dictators? Well, if they did, that represents quite a break from the 999, including the 44 previous presidents. Did anyone vote for the President so that he’d appoint his son-in-law to bring Israel and Palestine together? To hang up on some leaders, to shove others, to tweet in favor of some terrorist attacks, to lie about sending an armada to North Korea, to permit random guests to take pictures of the nuclear football? Riiiight. Repeating the scenario whereby Pence becomes President, the world’s autocrats squirm with regret and the world’s democrats sigh with relief.
Finally, the treatment of women and minorities…has been less than ideal. Yeah, there are some CEOs and celebrities who have been known to make some ignorant tweets. If we go back to President Washington, I mean, hey, they owned slaves! So let’s end this on a good note. As far as we know, Trump has never owned slaves.
Nonetheless, all things considered, it’s hard to think of how much worse our luck can be.