Shooting himself in the foot

When it comes to shooting himself in the foot, Donald Trump has few peers and no equals. After a good week at the G-20, he decided to personalize the 4th of July while delivering a boiler plate speech. Moreover, his grasp of history was bizarre, with him placing airports in the Revolutionary War and at Fort McHenry in 1814. The usually entertaining Donald was scripted and, rare for him, boring.

The error the president made was not so much the military display, but simply his presence. Usually the 4th of July is a casual holiday, a display of genial patriotism, broadly defined. His fest at the Lincoln Memorial was a nationalist bash that favored his “base” and his contributors. MAGA hats and Trump signs gave an extra partisan feel to the event. Patriotism is a fife and drum, nationalism is a gaudy brass band. Trump should have left well enough alone.

Trump’s speech was very broad and pleasant but did not add to the day. Throw in the rain and the event went south. But, the D.C. events are not national in reach.

But, the most troubling aspect is that Trump still thinks he has to be the ubiquitous figure. He has been president of 2 1/2 years, has a record and does not need to crave the spotlight. The week before had been a success, a week later not so much. Along with the tweeting, Trump reminds the voters that his presidency is not entirely normal. It is too much of him and not about what he is doing. Just when it seems that Democrats were becoming unglued, Trump comes to their rescue.

Most of the problem stems from his desire to galvanize his “base.” Anti-immigrant rhetoric coupled with a delight in voicing callousness make some voters uneasy. If he has to depend on the mean-spirited, Trump will not gain supporters that try to survey the whole record.

Indeed the usual Trump for or against his presidency, has been remarkably uneventful. Indeed, he has provoked no war and the economy is booming. Yet his party lost the House and Democrats are recouping losses in state legislatures incurred during the Obama era. Imagine what could happen if the economy went into a slump or a conflict broke out. The focus is still on Trump’s personality and eccentricities, and this is partially the president’s fault.

Perhaps an expansion of his vision could make him effective on a general level. He ignored his National Security Advisor John Bolton to great applause. Trump took bold initiatives on foreign policy and drew good notice. He should also stop the rough rhetoric about the border and begin to show good sense and humanity. He also needs to compromise on infrastructure with Democrats and remind the GOP establishment that he is in command and not at their beck and call.

Despite his ego, Trump could still achieve good things. But, perhaps he should heed the call of true patriots and not the exhortations of narrow nationalists and brutal partisans. Changing the subject to a more inclusive agenda might prove the winning ticket to re-election.

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