Bob Cesca

Trump is blindingly cruel and incompetent — and his presidency has been a complete failure

In the earliest days of the Trump crisis, just about a month after the inauguration, I received the horrifying news that my best friend and podcast partner, Chez Pazienza, had died of a drug overdose.

It was the evening of Feb. 25, 2017, and the shock still hasn't quite worn off. In fact, I ask myself nearly every day what Chez might've said about the most recent atrocity committed by the chief executive. I'll never know for sure, but there's something comforting in that exercise, imagining how he'd frame this dark ride with equal parts Gen-X angst, stinging Bourdain-ish erudition and artistically worded blue streaks that would've made George Carlin applaud.

I'm convinced, however, that it wasn't really an overdose that killed him. Sure, it was the weapon of choice, but it wasn't the ultimate cause of death. Chez possessed the ability to foresee this Trump crisis stretched out in front of him — maybe not the specifics, but a general concept in his big brain for the horror show that was awaiting us. I believe it was the crushing reality of not only being force-fed a Trump presidency every day but also covering it professionally that forced him to drift back to his old addictions to ease the pain. And I wish more than anything that I could have stopped him.

Nevertheless, Chez could clearly see the incoming abuses, the crimes, the ungainly nonsense, the recklessness, the racism, the petty vindictiveness — all of it.

In 2015, he accurately forecast that Trump, if elected, would spitefully withhold federal funding from regions that refused to support his cruel whimsy. Naturally, we've watched this play out with Puerto Rico, California and most recently Pennsylvania, where Trump, this week, threatened to withhold funding for the commonwealth because of Gov. Tom Wolf's COVID plan. In Trump's view, responsible leadership is worthy of punishment because it makes him look bad by contrast, while incompetence, mainly his own, is routinely lionized.

Trump's blinding dumbness in the areas of history, the Constitution, the presidency and democratic institutions has infected him with an ugly, bastardized view of his job description, inflamed by his own biases and whatever he's picked up from watching cable news. He's a presidential dilettante, even now, nearly four years into the gig.

His wafer-thin understanding of presidential leadership contributes to his most self-defeating misapprehension: that he's only the president of the red states. Everyone else is the enemy, even more so than our actual overseas adversaries — surely more than Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin, whom Trump praises more often than many of his fellow citizens and colleagues. The rest of us are only useful to him as punching bags and targets for his screechy, obscene, misspelled tweets and, more recently, his fascist police force. The upside of his deformed view of the presidency is that if he loses this election, it'll partly be because he refused to expand his support beyond his loyalists.

This is one of the reasons why he felt compelled to cheat in the 2020 election by attempting to blackmail the president of Ukraine into smearing Joe Biden — a plot that ended with Trump's impeachment and trial in the Senate. After all, how could he win re-election with only 40-44 percent popular support without making up the difference … somehow?

His relationship with his disciples is a match made in hell, given that his Red Hat fanboys have an equally stunted view of the presidency. I assure you, they'd never allow Trump-style behavior from their doctors, their kids' teachers or, hell, their airline pilots. If they hadn't been so badly brainwashed by the conservative entertainment complex, they never would have gifted the nuclear codes and the immense power of the presidency to such an unstable, erratic, incompetent political tourist who has utterly failed to grow into the job and rise to the occasion — who has failed to accept the intense gravity of his post. As Barack Obama said in August, "It's because he can't."

At no other time has that been more evident than in Trump's response to the pandemic. For the first two years of his presidency, many of us sat on the edge of our seats wondering when Trump would be seriously challenged either by a military threat, a terrorist attack or a global pandemic. From the moment Hillary Clinton conceded, I suspected this buffoonish greenhorn would be put to the test and fail badly. I never imagined that his reaction, untethered from experts, would be quite this calamitous.

His response to the hurricanes that collided with Puerto Rico represented a harrowing preview of how he'd handle the pandemic. I was convinced at the time that he was at least temporarily unaware that Puerto Rico was even part of the United States. I mean, how could he have been so thoughtless and unsympathetic to actual Americans? Turns out, he probably knew — he just didn't give a shit. Never before has a modern president behaved so callously toward a devastated population of his own people, hurling paper towels at their heads as if he were firing a T-shirt cannon at a college basketball pep rally. Today, the island territory continues to rebuild despite Trump's reprehensible indifference.

America is better than this. We're better than him.

There have to be consequences for his indifference to the destruction in Puerto Rico as well as the 225,000 casualties of COVID-19 (and counting). Neither should have happened here. But this is what it looks like when the president and his people fail to do the paint-by-numbers things in response to a crisis — things that so many other presidents managed to achieve. Had Trump listened to the experts at the CDC and WHO, thousands of Americans would still be alive today and we might have been free and clear of this blight by now. Instead, Trump listened to the entertainers on Fox News, not to mention the shrieking voices in his head, convincing him to abandon the effort at exactly the wrong time — in April, at the initial height of the infection curve.

Before giving up, he applied travel restrictions to China, but it was too little too late. Forty thousand people arrived in the United States from China by flying through Europe and landing in New York, magnifying the catastrophic outbreak there. After that, Trump did nothing else to slow the spread, making George W. Bush's 2005 response to Hurricane Katrina look masterful by comparison. Now, eight months into this disaster, Trump continues to ignore the rules, ignore safety protocols and ignore the experts, holding maskless, undistanced rally after rally, fueling his own ego, even after being infected himself. And there's no end in sight.

Win or lose, his bungled, herky-jerky reaction to the pandemic will be remembered as the defining failure of his presidency, and it's the No. 1 reason why he deserves nothing but ignominy and prison.

Rather than accepting the challenge and rising to meet it, as any other president would have, he's spent all these months of national stress, uncertainty and illness not comforting or proactively leading the American people, but whining, whining and whining some more about how COVID ruined his presidency. Solving the pandemic could have been his greatest achievement — but Trump always makes things worse for Trump. Undermining himself and then playing the victim when things go sideways is the only thing he's good at.

He possesses the most brittle ego of any president since Richard Nixon — one of many character flaws that undermine his self-identification as a manly alpha. Indeed, he's nothing more than an easily-ruffled snowflake who constantly bellyaches about how "unfair" the world treats him — you know, the alleged billionaire president. So unfair.

Donald Trump has redefined what it means to be an empty suit. He talks an enormous game, but in reality his entire record is composed of failures and stolen successes. He claims to understand things he's never able to explain openly or in any detail. Accordingly, he's obsessed with repealing the Affordable Care Act, but only because it was Barack Obama's signature achievement, not because it's bad policy — and it's not bad policy, he just says it is and his fanboys believe him.

If challenged, I'd wager a year's salary he couldn't name anything in the law beyond the mandate and the coverage for pre-existing conditions. I'm sure he doesn't know about the myriad consumer protections or the mandatory benefits, or how the low-income subsidies work or the Medicaid expansion or the marketplaces — none of it. Yet he's seeing to it that the entire thing is obliterated mid-pandemic when Americans need coverage the most. He definitely doesn't know that coverage for pre-existing conditions is made possible, for example, by placing caps on premiums and co-pays, while banning rescission and lifetime limits on coverage. Worst of all, he doesn't know that many of his own voters are covered today because of the ACA.

Between the pandemic and the possible repeal of the ACA, America is physically sick. And because of Donald Trump, we're spiritually sick, too. He doesn't understand that the president sets the tone for the nation. He'll never grasp that the way he communicates influences the way we communicate with each other. His constant firehose of crapola encourages others to let their hatred, racism and obnoxious, crazy-eyed antagonism fly freely — playing out in our public spaces and on our social media platforms every damn day.

Trump has debased the presidency, replacing decency and humility with unearned self-praise and horrendous sadism. Our nation's most cherished values and institutions have been randomly crushed by this 90-foot kaiju monster for too long. His constant antagonism has turned father against son, mother against daughter, family against family. Over what? The damaging misadventures of a political fraud — a garish old brat who bankrupted his businesses, defrauded Americans with his sham foundation and university and is currently bankrupting the U.S. treasury while establishing himself as a Putin-style kleptocrat.

In 1860, our nation nearly crumbled under the weight of slavery and secession. Today, our nation is on the verge of collapse under the weight of a painted-up clown whose performative fascism has led to the extrajudicial murder of American citizens on American soil; the use of Homeland Security as a secret police force tasked with assaulting Americans in advance of awkward photo-ops; the use of the Department of Justice as a personal law firm; taxpayer revenue as a personal slush fund; and, worst of all, the construction of internment camps for Central American migrant children, where some have been raped by American guards. Rivaled only by the pandemic response, the Trump Cages are the most disgusting and unforgivable aspect of this presidential crisis.

The 2020 election is about ending all that, while beginning the process of a second Reconstruction — rebuilding our government in a way that guarantees this will never happen again, while convening a Trump Crimes Commission to hold the perpetrators accountable. Part of that process is about remembering what happened here, in this era. There will be voices who insist we should move on and forget about all this ugliness. We would do well to ignore those voices. The minute we forget the damage he's inflicted upon us all, the next Trump will be waiting to strike.

Indeed, the only way to move on is to punish the crimes and plug the holes. We have no choice but to use this dark ride — one that took my friend Chez and many thousands of others — as an opportunity to repair the gaping Trump-shaped craters in the system exposed and exploited by this unqualified, disgracefully unpresidential and obviously unglued president. If Joe Biden and Kamala Harris successfully oust Trump, a week from today, the Trump crisis will be on its way to ending, while the hard work of cleaning up the mess will begin. In both the election and the aftermath, we cannot fail. Everything depends on what happens next.

Imagining the unimaginable: A second term for Donald Trump

With the high-water mark of the election just 14 days away, the tragedy of Nov. 8, 2016, haunts me more and more.

Four years ago, nearly everyone, including Donald Trump himself, was convinced Hillary Clinton was all but guaranteed a resounding victory. I remember articles predicting that Clinton would win the entire East Coast, including South Carolina. Later, following the third debate of that campaign season, I distinctly recall watching Steve Schmidt on MSNBC announcing in his dramatic monotone, "Hillary Clinton will be the 45th president of the United States." Election forecasters from Nate Silver to Sabato's Crystal Ball agreed.

None of that happened, of course, for a variety of reasons, including the attack by Russian military intelligence and what I've been calling the "American nervous breakdown." Sixty-two million of our fellow citizens lost track of right and wrong — brainwashed by a daily infusion of propaganda crapped into the world by Russian troll farms and the conservative entertainment complex. Millions of us lost track of why experience and presidential character were important, and the ideals of humility, decency and honor were rejected in favor of immature trolling, and petty vengeance.

And how'd that work out, Trump voters? Our republic is in worse shape today than it's been in a century, perhaps since the Civil War. Hundreds of thousands of us are dead due to Trump's herky-jerky response to a global pandemic. America is a global pariah. The economy is considerably worse than it was four years ago and 40 percent of our nation's grownups continue to be willingly suckered by a maniacal, sociopathic con man.

So sue me for being Captain Scarypants again, but despite the polls showing Joe Biden with a seemingly formidable lead, I'm still greatly concerned that Trump will somehow scam and sue his way to a second term. If he does, what will that mean for the United States?

With Trump, there's no way to know precisely what he'll do from moment to moment, much less next year or four years from now. As we've witnessed, his thing is to jump from childish vendetta to childish vendetta, and one transactional blunder after another. His actions, as always, will depend greatly on how whiny and victimized he feels. And he's always whining.

Even though there's no time-traveling DeLorean that enables us to forecast what another four years of the Trump crisis will look like, I can think of five specific things that will absolutely happen.

Trump will prosecute dissidents. He's already started with the Black Lives Matter protesters earlier this year, but now he has a real taste for it. No matter what, Trump will sue to have vote-by-mail ballots thrown out, and will appeal any adverse decisions all the way to the Supreme Court. In the process of doing so, protests will likely erupt, giving Trump his first post-election opportunity to order his secret police to gas, shoot and arrest protesters. He's already threatened to do exactly this, telling his loyalists, "Our country is gonna change. We're not gonna allow [more anti-Trump protests] to happen." Last week Trump bragged about what looked an awful lot like the extrajudicial murder of an American citizen by U.S. marshals in Washington state. Expect much more of that. As Michael Cohen wrote in his book, "Trump never actually jokes."

Conservatives will own the Supreme Court for a generation. Unless something emerges that forces her to withdraw, it looks like Amy Coney Barrett will be confirmed, giving conservatives on the high court a clear majority of 6-3. Meanwhile, Stephen Breyer, one of the three remaining Democratic appointees, is 82 years old, so it's reasonable to assume he'll retire or pass away within the next four years. Trump will name his replacement, leaving Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor as the last remaining liberals. If Clarence Thomas or Sam Alito decides to retire, Trump could add another justice or two, extending conservative control for 25 more years, and the ideological regression of America will be turbo-boosted to "ludicrous speed."

The pandemic will continue for years, not months. Trump has no intention of doing what's right. He never has. His genocidal "herd immunity" plan will continue to infect millions, while the CDC will be neutralized. In terms of a vaccine, if the scientists vouch for it, Trumpers won't take it, and if Trump vouches for it, everyone else will refuse to take it. As long as Trump is president, we'll be dealing with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future. I have no idea how our society can endure given all that, and my worst fear is that we'll have no choice but to live with the ongoing threat of infection and death.

The best approach? Assume the worst. He's given us no reason to assume otherwise. I fear he'll attempt to establish himself as the American Putin, maybe creating a new title and post for himself so he can remain in power, while juggernauting through the last roadblocks toward a full-on kleptocracy. Suffice it to say there are untold hazards ahead, with each hammer-blow further stripping away our constitutional system until America more closely resembles Russia — dismal, depressed and undemocratic.

I hope I'm wrong about all of this. But based on what we know about Donald Trump, as well as the sinister end-of-days cranks helping him along, I can't in good faith trust that things will transpire normally. We've got a Pandora's Box full of reasons to believe our country has been seized by villains who don't care whether the entire system is crushed under Trump's ponderous bulk. Given everything that's happened, I worry that they've covered their bases with election-stealing contingencies that include shenanigans we haven't even considered yet. After the shock of election night four years ago, I'm not willing to take anything for granted, including the polls.

There is also reason to believe an unprecedented coalition of American voters will successfully oust Trump, while perhaps humiliating him and his idiocratic movement back to the permanent margins of our politics. This has to be the result of the election. After all, the choice is either a decent, experienced man (who you might disagree with on policy) or a shrieking, saucer-eyed con artist who dry-heaves lies and incarcerates children while bragging to his cult about murdering American citizens. There are 14 days left to make sure it's not the latter outcome. If everything works out the way it should, I'll be thrilled to retract everything I wrote today. Please, America — make me do it.

Trump's resort business is collapsing — is that why he pushed to reopen the economy?

For the past several decades, Donald Trump has been widely regarded as a great big phony. Everything about him is a mirage. He steals credit for the accomplishments of others, especially his predecessor, Barack Obama. His business model is all about slapping his goofy name on properties built by others. Even his outward appearance is a fraud: his unsubstantiated self-confidence, his hair, his clown makeup, his baggy suits designed to hide his doughy frame, even his shoes, which appear to have unusually high heels — it's all intended to make him appear physically more powerful than he actually is. Fake, fake and fake.

It's all a big show. In reality, he's nothing more than a petty, brittle, small man — and a business failure.

Now, thanks to the latest bombshell story from the New York Times, revealing previously unknown details about Trump's tax returns, we finally have solid confirmation that his wealth and his status as a successful businessman are just as fake as his presidential record and his dairy-swirled hair.

One of the major components in Trump's ongoing deception pertains to the alleged "success" of his various resorts and golf courses. Spoiler warning: Trump's properties aren't doing nearly as well as he says, which leads me to a theory about his response to the pandemic. More on that presently.

According to the tax returns obtained by the Times, Trump earned $427 million as the host of "The Apprentice," along with various deals linked to his network television career. Trump used his TV revenue to go on a spending spree, buying up golf courses around the world -- golf courses that turned out to be 18-hole money-pits. As of 2015, he had accumulated 15 golf resorts, and it's difficult to find one that's actually operating at a profit.

  • In 2012, Trump purchased the bedbug-infested Trump National Doral resort for $150 million. Since then, the property has gobbled up $162 million in losses, especially after Trump burned through another $213 million in upkeep. The property also has "a $125 million mortgage balance coming due in three years."
  • His golf resorts in Ireland and Scotland have accumulated "$63.6 million in losses," according to his tax returns.
  • Trump's hotel in Washington, D.C., located near the White House, had lost more than $55 million as of 2018.
  • Between 2008 and 2009, during the Great Recession, the Trump Organization itself lost $1.4 billion. Trump exploited this loss to claim a $73 million tax refund from the IRS, which subsequently launched an ongoing audit of Trump's taxes. If he ends up getting the fuzzy end of the audit, he could owe the government $100 million. For starters.

By the way, the New York Times story didn't cover losses from his other failed enterprises, including Trump magazine, Trump vodka, Trump steaks and, more notoriously, Trump University.

Furthermore, none of these losses take into consideration tax years 2018, 2019 or — gulp! — 2020. It's safe to assume that Trump's losses are continuing to stack up, especially with a crushing recession fueled by the pandemic in full swing.

Despite his garish penthouse and private jet, Trump is broke. His properties are failing and he needs the money. Badly. Turns out, not only is Trump a craptastically bad businessman, but you and everyone you know is paying to help mitigate his investment nightmares nearly every damn weekend.

Michael Cohen told MSNBC that the tax returns are a Rosetta Stone for understanding Trump's finances. Accordingly, one of the myriad secrets the New York Times story exposed is a possible answer to why he drags his entire presidential entourage to his resorts on a regular basis — at least 500 times so far, costing taxpayers more than $1 million — and why he chose to rush the nation into reopening the economy while the pandemic was at its height.

It's worth mentioning that in addition to forcing taxpayers to finance his money-losing properties, Trump paid zero in taxes during 10 of the last 15 years. Remember the debate about "makers vs. takers?" Trump is absolutely a taker. Indeed, based on these numbers, he's taken a million times more than he's paid into the federal government in recent years. Talk about a welfare queen.

Not only are we involuntarily backstopping Trump's colossal financial losses with our tax dollars, we're also backstopping his losses with our lives and livelihoods.

We already knew his zealous reopening obsession was about keeping the stock market afloat long enough 1) to keep his portfolio in good standing, and 2) to haul his ponderous bulk into a second term. But reopening too soon could also have been about those crappy golf resorts. The hospitality sector has taken a severe beating this year, thanks to COVID and Trump's inability to rise to the challenge, and that can't be good for his already failing resorts.

More than 205,000 Americans are dead, while 7.1 million have been infected, in part because Trump is desperately worried about the solvency of his vacation properties. In other words, the president of the United States is so freaked out about falling deeper into debt that he may very well be making life-and-death decisions for the entire nation based on the failing financial status of his janky resorts.

Think about that for a second. The president is metaphorically grinding down American bodies and fertilizing his golf courses with the remains. Hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens are dead so Trump can be re-elected (or so he hopes) while generating blood money for his failing golf courses. On these terms alone, he's the deadliest sociopath ever to occupy the White House.

After the Civil War, the War Department turned Robert E. Lee's Arlington, Virginia, estate into a military cemetery, burying Union soldiers as close to the Custis-Lee mansion as possible. If there's any justice remaining in America after this nightmare, Trump should be forced to give up his resorts, and the people we've lost due to his sadism and destruction in the face of COVID should be interred on those lands for free -- if the families even want that, of course. At the very least, Trump's resorts should be turned into permanent public memorials to the men, women and children who have succumbed to this otherwise avoidable virus.

Sadly, there's nothing phony about Trump's malice toward American lives as he pursues his cruel and reckless mission to keep his properties on life support. His irredeemable actions this year alone warrant the harshest prison term allowed by law, if for no other reason than to guarantee that nothing like this horror show never happens again in America.

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