The dumbing down of the presidency

When I was considering retirement abroad about three years ago, my friends were puzzled. I was a very involved member of the Mexican Democratic community loosely centered on South Tucson, Arizona. I worked for candidates there, voted for Democrats, and I was in love with Tucson in general. Yet here I am, less than five years later, retired in Latin America.

But I did see this political situation coming. I can even remember when it began to come together. Long ago I was offended and unimpressed to see prominent politicians turn into celebrities. Up to the postwar period, presidents and their wives were not particularly glamorous. But then in 1960, President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy came upon the scene. They could not have been more attractive.

At first it was easy to enjoy President Kennedy’s offhand remarks such as, “I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris.” But as time went by, the Kennedy family gravitated to Hollywood. Peter Lawford had married into the family. Rumors surfaced about John and Marilyn Monroe–or was it Bobby and Marilyn? It seemed like all at once there was a Western Washington, despite the fact that it was actually Richard Nixon who was from California. And then of course it devolved further to Ronald Reagan and Frank Sinatra visiting the White House.

You may see this as rather innocuous, but I did not. It seemed to me that the presidency was becoming not only a political matter, but also a popularity contest. Much was made of Richard Nixon’s five o’clock shadow as compared to the expensively-groomed look of John Kennedy. As the Sixties and Seventies churned by, we might have thought that business as usual would relocate to Washington again, but the damage had been done.

Now we are faced with the logical outcome of mixing Washington with Hollywood. If there is nothing wrong with the president being a celebrity, then what’s wrong with having a celebrity as president? Donald Trump is the logical extension of Ronald Reagan. Rumors swirled about Reagan that are remarkably similar to those that haunt the White House right now. It was said that Reagan was in the early stages of dementia when he was elected, and that he was quite the puppet with his wife Nancy pulling the strings. It was said that Reagan depended on his staff much more than we realized. And whether that was true or not, we now have a so-called president who is incapable of executing his responsibilities.

The idea that Trump would be playing to a small percentage of his “base” in his press conferences and his jaw-dropping conduct on weekends in Florida is so dngerous that I can only wonder what happened to American intelligence and the Secret Service. Trump uses an unsecured Android cell phone, not only to send his notorious tweets but also to conduct executive business. There is literally no telling who could be listening in on his calls. The security forces do nothing about this.

Last weekend Trump dealt with an emerging situation in North Korea around a dinner table, at which his guests could easily know what he did and said on this unsecured cell phone. They even used their cell phones to light up his seat at the table–emabling anyone to look at the screen of the phone.

I could go on. But while Trump is costing millions of dollars every month while he ignores security protocols, the press and the Reublican Party, to say nothing of the Democrats, shrug their shoulders and turn away. So here is the question again–just in case you remember when we had presidents who knew what they were about. If the president is a celebrity, is there any reason why a celebrity cannot be president? If you are aware of what is going on now, you will realize that the question is not rhetorical. There are indeed reasons. Think about them. Looking and acting “like a president” doesn’t cut it. You do not role-play the president.

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