Editorial: You’ve got to give a little respect to get a little respect
Here’s a hunch based on President-elect Donald Trump’s first news conference in the past six months: Mr. Trump will be the least respected, and most disrespected, president of our times. That’s not because of his policies, though those will certainly cause many to oppose him, but because he cannot handle criticism; rather he lashes out childishly in response to anyone who challenges him.
Take acclaimed movie actress Meryl Streep’s comments at the Golden Globes earlier this week: Without naming Trump, Streep alluded to Trump’s bullying ways by citing a simple, rather common rule of manners: respect begets respect, disrespect begets disrespect. She said more, but always in a controlled, respectful manner, challenging each person in the audience to stand up for democratic values and human rights. Certainly nothing over-the-top.
Yet, Trump couldn’t let it pass. Rather he zinged a tweet calling her an “over-rated actress,” after all, she was just being awarded for her lifetime achievements.
It’s that impulse to belittle the other person, to never be gracious in any forum to any person, that will make Trump’s presidency sour even for those who support him.
Some might maintain that he’ll learn, and we can only hope so, but he hasn’t shown much progress over the past two years, and his recent press conference — the first in six months — continues to show disrespect for the facts. A Washington Post fact-checking service cited 15 more false claims made by Trump in the press conference, including several false claims that have been repeatedly debunked. Here are a few:
• Exaggerated claims that he saved jobs at Ford and Fiat, when both CEOs of those companies have cited other factors, and Fiat has specifically said their plans were made more than a year ago, and were made because of talks with the United Auto Workers, not Trump.
• Alluded that China hacked 22 million names in the U.S., but that the press did not make it a big deal, when it fact it did make the front pages of the nation’s newspapers. Chinese authorities were also reprimanded by the U.S. and they have backed down. The difference between this instance and the Russian interference in the election, which Trump continues to downplay, is that what the Chinese did was spying (which the U.S. does as well). What Russia did was try to deliberately sway a presidential election, including an 18-month campaign to discredit Democrat Hillary Clinton on its Russian-owned international television station, which produced Russian-inspired fake news that Trump used time-and-again in his campaign. That’s a big difference that Trump, so far, refuses to recognize.
• On business involvement with Russia, Trump said bluntly in the press conference: “I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away.”
But his son, and his business lawyer, dispute that. In a 2008 speech, Donald Trump Jr. made it clear that the Trumps want to do business in Russia, but were finding it difficult. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, told the Washington Post in May: “I have no doubt, as a company, I know we’ve looked at deals in Russia. And many of the former Russian Republics.”
• Trump also suggested that the only Americans who wanted to see his tax returns were reporters, but that’s not true either. According to a Jan. 4-9 Pew Research Center poll, 60 percent of those Americans polled think it is incumbent on Trump to release his taxes to public view, as every presidential candidate has done since World War II. Americans should wonder what it is he’s hiding.
• And here’s a winner: Trump cites as fact that 96 million Americans are “really wanting a job they can’t get. You know the story. The real number, that’s the real number.”
Only it isn’t. As the Washington Post explains, the 95.1 million people is the number of Americans 16 years and older not in the work force. That accounts for teens, active students, the disabled, the retired, stay-at-home parents and others who are not looking for work. What’s true is that there is about 4.75 percent of the working population who are considered unemployed, or about 7.5 million people. That’s about half what it was when President Obama took over from Republican George W. Bush eight years ago.
And then there was his statement on the recent release of an intelligence report: “I think it’s a disgrace that information that was false and fake and never happened got released to the public.” Seriously, he said that, and no doubt because it may contain more material about past exploits with women and/or business dealings he doesn’t want revealed. The news, after all, came from the nation’s intelligence community because they thought it was important for the president-elect to know that Russia may have information on him that could compromise his integrity.
News agencies that released the dossier were quick to point out that the allegations had yet to be proven or disproven, but in the interest of public transparency, were being made public.
The irony, of course, is that Trump spread more “fake news” throughout his campaign than all the other candidates combined, including not dropping the “birther” conspiracy against President Obama for two years; and that Trump championed the release of WikiLeaks emails on Clinton that were much ado about nothing, except it riled up the Republican base to Trump’s benefit.
What’s most worrisome is if the findings in the intelligence briefing are corroborated, and Trump is compromised in ways Americans have yet to learn. What we do know about Trump, so far, is that he is quick to deny, deny, deny, until the facts are so overwhelming that he is forced to admit them, after which he quickly shifts focus. Not exactly the actions in a president that engender respect.
— Angelo S. Lynn