News & Politics

Paul Krugman: Donald Trump Has No Interest in Being President

The government shutdown proves Republicans are willing to prop up an aspiring despot.

Photo Credit: YouTube/Bloomberg

Much ink has been spilled over whether or not Donald Trump actually wanted to be president. But that question elides a more sinister reality: he really wanted to be a dictator, or a king. Like Louis XVI, whose downfall coincided with the French Revolution, Trump "sees no distinction between loyalty to the nation and loyalty to himself," as Paul Krugman writes in his Tuesday column.

It remains to be seen whether Americans will welcome the guillotine, but our president continues to act as if his actions have no consequences. Krugman argues that the recent government shutdown reveals that, "when it comes to Trump, a deal isn’t a deal — it’s just words he feels free to ignore a few days later." 

First, Trump said he'd sign a bill ensuring protections for DACA recipients, as long as the bill included funding for border security. That was immediately scrapped after he conferred with immigration hardliners Tom Cotton and Bob Goodlatte, as well as John Kelly and Stephen Miller. Then, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer met the president for cheeseburgers, believing he too had a deal, until the president welched yet again. Schumer later compared the experience to "negotiating with Jell-O," and the government was shut down for two days. 

While the government has since reopened on Sen. Mitch McConnell's pinky swear to bring a vote on the Dream Act to the floor, this is no cause for celebration. Instead, "the government of the world’s greatest nation is lurching from crisis to crisis because its leader can’t be trusted to honor a deal." 

Krugman admonishes those surprised that a government conducted on the whims of a capricious racist is an outright disaster: 

What did you expect? Trump’s whole business career has been a series of betrayals — failed business ventures from which he personally profited while others, whether they were Trump University students, vendors or creditors, ended up holding the bag. And he hasn’t grown a bit in office, unless you count that mysterious extra inch.

This brings Krugman to two main points about Trump's "utter unreliability." First, "it has ramifications that go far beyond the recent shutdown. Second, it’s made possible, or at least much worse, by his enablers in Congress." 

This is hell for our international standing. Krugman asks, "Who can we count on to be a reliable ally, when no country knows whether America will stand by it if it needs help?" 

So far, at least, the financial markets are not punishing Trump for his autocratic tendencies, but Krugman wonders "does this government have any reserve of financial credibility if something should go wrong? Probably not." 

Maddeningly, Republicans can stop the president whenever they want. They simply choose not to. Krugman continues:

Any two of the Republican senators currently wringing their hands over the betrayal of the Dreamers could have forced action by withholding their votes on the Trump tax cut. They didn’t. Similar inaction explains why Trump has been able to violate all previous norms against exploiting his office for personal gain, and much more.

This willingness to prop up a wannabe king doesn't just hurt Dreamers. "The result," he concludes, "is that promises from the U.S. government are now as worthless as those from a tinpot dictator. We don’t yet know how high a price we’ll pay for that loss of credibility, but it probably won’t be small."

Read the entire column here.

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Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.