The morning after the Trib published an editorial warning that Medicare might well be targeted for privatization by the Trump administration despite Donald Trump’s many months of campaign vows to protect this popular entitlement program, an anonymous caller left a message suggesting we give the president-elect a chance. Many Trump supporters plead this. Fair enough — except Trump himself continues to send out wildly conflicting, often disturbing messages.
And that begs constant vigilance by Americans who cherish this constitutional republic and fellow citizens’ well-being. We frankly wonder if Congress is up to the task.
One didn’t have to wait long for proof of Trump’s political schizophrenia. That very evening in Ohio, at the start of his much-touted victory lap to states that supported his remarkable presidential bid, he quite commendably called for national unity and even championed the notion of Americans loving one another. Much of this was voiced while reading from a teleprompter.
In short, Trump was on message. We don’t know whose message, but somebody’s message.
But at the very same Cincinnati event, Trump reverted to more familiar form whenever he went off script, turning the crowd into a mob, encouraging chants of “Lock her up” in regard to his vanquished Democratic opponent — hardly the traditional model of an honorable candidate elevated to the highest office in our land. He took unnecessary cheap shots at Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the lifelong Republican and devout Christian who refused to support Trump out of principle. Trump seemed to revel in the boos from his adoring crowd.
Trump even took time during all this to belittle independent presidential candidate and former CIA operative Evan McMullin as a nobody. (Ironically, some counted McMullin as the only real Republican on the Election Day ballot.) Finally, Trump spent several minutes attacking the “nasty, dishonest press.” Of course, attacking the press has long been an easy applause line.
So this guy deserves a chance? Is this what he calls national healing? Is this what he believes will mend deep wounds left by an ugly campaign unprecedented in vileness and unsubstantiated facts? Gloating? Bullying?
Yes, we are happy that Trump (or rather the state of Indiana) managed to keep many Carrier furnace plant jobs in the United States, even if it was through what tea-party types once upon a time labeled “corporate welfare” — $7 million in tax breaks for Carrier. (Tea-party hero Sarah Palin on Friday branded this “crony capitalism.”) Even more remarkable was Trump’s admission on Thursday that he had forgotten he had promised to keep Carrier jobs in the United States till somebody on TV reminded him of it.
Trump said he didn’t think of it as a campaign pledge so much as a “euphemism.”
Should people worry then that President-elect Trump might well have forgotten another pledge about, say, protecting Medicare? We believe Americans should be able to take candidates and office-holders at their word. Certainly, Hillary Clinton had a problem with the truth. So are Trump’s promises to be ascribed instead to “euphemisms” when they’re ignored, broken or dismissed? This means applying very inconsistent standards to different politicians. It means neatly excusing some of any and all accountability.
This newspaper was among the very first in the nation to urge citizens to rally around the president-elect. We hope the real-estate magnate and reality TV star is a huge success as president. But success in leadership means sending a clear, consistent and sincere message — and encouraging unity and prosperity while lobbing mean-spirited zingers and insults that only further rile a sorely divided nation where most Americans voted for the losing candidate is no prescription for long-term presidential success.