Destruction of the Presidency: Anderson’s Authority

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It is an impressive feat to fully extinguish all the prestige and tradition of an office, especially such a vaunted one as the presidency, in only three years. Most presidents attempt to rollback or alter the policy achievements of their predecessors, but none have completely defiled the office itself as effectively as Donald Trump. 

One of the fundamental powers of the presidency is the bully pulpit. Presidents can command the national attention, from JFK’s televised speech about the Cuban Missile Crisis to Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats. The abundance of beautifully written speeches laced with impeccable rhetoric that has arisen from the White House over the years makes Trump’s use of Twitter all the more deplorable. Gone are the snappy press briefings, somber national addresses, and forceful speeches from the Rose Garden. Now, the country is treated to 240-character typo-riddled missives from a man equally as likely to be on the 9th tee as to be behind the Resolute Desk. 

However, the president must be given some credit for his prolific internet activity. He has created at least one job: whichever poor chimpanzee he’s conscripted to arbitrarily capitalize certain words of presidential tweets (though I suppose the effects of adding such a position are mitigated by the barren wasteland that must be the fact-checking section of the West Wing).  

Between Trump Tower, Trump International Hotel, Mar-a-Lago, TNGC Bedminster, and whichever Trump properties are least convenient for American troops to use as $300-a-night barracks, a presidential mansion is starting to seem obsolete. The president has made a mockery of the federal government. The executive branch seems more occupied with cleaning up after Trump’s endless mistakes than actually running a country. 

It used to be a point of pride when parents told their children that “anyone can be president.” It was evidence of the American Dream, the treasured up-by-the-bootstraps myth of social mobility. Donald Trump has turned that statement into a lament. The fact that a foul-mouthed reality television star has become the Commander-in-Chief is almost certainly going to do lasting damage to the institution of the presidency. 

Leaders of the free world are supposed to be competent statesmen, skilled diplomats and great orators. The Framers didn’t add a basic literacy test to the eligibility rules laid out in the Constitution because it is blatantly obvious that the president ought to be somewhat intelligent. Having more than a 40-word vocabulary should be a requirement to graduate from kindergarten, much less assume control of the nation. 

Nobody can predict the future. It is possible that Donald Trump is merely a scratch on the marble of the presidency. Perhaps in a decade the job will carry some respect again. Once you put a clown in charge, though, you’re bound to get a circus. After four (or eight) years of such a circus, it’s hard to see how this country could ever go back to viewing the presidency as an office of prestige, power, and respect. I have little faith that we will leave the days of Twitter, “fake news,” and Fox News hosts with direct lines to the White House behind. 

For the sake of maintaining America’s image both at home and abroad, I sincerely hope I am wrong.