Perhaps the most memorable scene from the film Bridge Over the River Kwai depicts a British colonel played by Alec Guinness suddenly realizing the depth of his collaboration with the Japanese captors he helped build the bridge. “What have I done?” he gasps after defending the bridge from Allied saboteurs he should be helping.
Many wonder when President Trump’s defenders, in particular Republican senators following his lead by trying to pass a toxic replacement for the Affordable Care Act, will have a similar moment of clarity and realize his administration is not only different from what they envisioned, but dangerous to the republic if it continues its present course.
With his poll numbers sinking among all but the president’s die-hard fans, Trump at some point must accept that confronting truth, rather than dismissing it as “fake news,” is the best way to instill public confidence.
Trump’s long years in the business world have obviously taught him to address situations differently. That’s a world where company secrets are kept and confidentiality agreements signed to coerce employee loyalty under threat of termination. “You’re fired.” Trump isn’t used to having his motives questioned and actions criticized before a vast audience.
Holding public office is foreign to him. But it is no excuse.
When Trump took an oath to “preserve, protect and defend” this country, he was vowing to put its interests above his own. Most Americans, whether they voted for him or not, wanted to believe Trump was sincere. But his actions since that January day have given his harshest critics ammunition and his most ardent supporters reason to doubt.
Trump’s knee-jerk reaction to adversity is to circle the wagons and show no sign of weakness. Like the philandering husband caught in the act, Trump seems determined to deny the truth, no matter how clear it may be.
He continues to dismiss credible evidence of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, tweeting Wednesday that an ongoing federal investigation was the “greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!”
What’s sad is his refusal to accept facts, including that his son, Donald Trump Jr., has admitted to participating in a meeting in which he hoped to obtain information from Russian contacts that could be used to hurt the presidential campaign of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. “If it’s what you say I love it,” said Trump Jr. in a reply to an email that suggested the meeting.
At the very least, the president should admit that his son showed poor judgment. He wouldn’t be less of a father for doing that. He would be acting like a president, putting the well-being of his country before family.
Trump’s inability to act presidential has made other Republicans leery of going too far on a limb for a man whose political coattails grow shorter by the minute.
In desperation to regain some semblance of unity, Republicans appear on the verge of passing an Obamacare substitute that will leave millions of Americans without coverage while protecting the profits of insurance companies. That must not happen. Members of Congress took an oath too. And it was not to Donald Trump.