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The pariah presidency

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President Trump has added one more stop to the you’re-not-wanted-here world tour: He will not attend the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, that’s typically a must-go for any POTUS.

“The President and First Lady have decided not to participate in this year’s activities to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “First Lady Melania Trump, along with her husband President Donald J. Trump, extend their sincerest congratulations and well wishes to all of this year’s award recipients for their many accomplishments.”

Add this to just about any public event, college commencement, and corporate engagement you see any normal president attend. Trump started his term without a baseball opening day first pitch (despite the fact that he played high school baseball, so his pitching arm is hopefully better than his predecessor’s limp attempt), he then eschewed the White House Correspondents Association dinner, and moved on to get himself a likely non-invite to a future Boy Scouts Jamboree.

How many presidents can get themselves disinvited from the Boy Scouts?

What does it feel like to be the pariah president? To be shunned by all social society–not just politically correct society, but any event aside of his own rallies? I am beginning to think that Trump’s reason for officially announcing his 2020 campaign is so he can continue to have rallies and other campaign events since that’s probably the only place he’ll be invited to speak.

Of course, anytime the president wants, he can command a venue and an audience. He can assemble the military, or the CIA, or a veterans group. Or he can go to a military hospital, or appear after a national tragedy. Unfortunately, when Trump does these things, he ends up bringing a butterknife and inserting it into a power socket.

Donald Trump has turned Teddy Roosevelt’s “bully pulpit” into a pestilent pulpit. He has demonstrated a reverse Midas touch on every event at which he attempts to appear presidential. Even when he gives a remarkably cogent and historic speech like he did in Warsaw, his hamfistedness tends to overshadow his accomplishment.

How long can Trump want to live this way? How long can he be so isolated, shunned and boycotted? George W. Bush experienced some of that at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars: daily protests, mockery in the press, and shunning from the left. But Bush was never disinvited from social events simply because of who he was. He was able to be gracious and even funny with those whose political agendas (and in many cases, their livelihoods) depended on publicly trashing him.

Trump cannot act this way. He will act like a peevish high schooler because at heart, he still is one. Anyone who can live in total isolation from friendly relationships for long periods without feeling the slightest pinprick of conscience could very well be a sociopath–an accusation increasingly heard about Trump.

Then again, if he’s like most of us, he’ll eventually be overcome by remorse, or simply exhausted by the emotional strain. In the former case, we could expect some kind of apology or repentance. In the latter, he quits.

But unlike the Clintons, Bush 43, or Obama, this president’s future won’t be marked with welcome signs at many places typically associated with the privilege of office. Unless Trump radically changes (and I doubt he can), he will always be the pariah president.

 

Serial entrepreneur. Faith, family, federal republic. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

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