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Chris Honoré: The fire and the fire brigade

Part One

Winston Churchill said, during a particularly fraught moment leading up to World War II, “I refuse to be impartial between the fire and the fire brigade.”

I would argue that the train of impartiality regarding the Trump administration has long since left the station. For many, that occurred during the Trump campaign, which many regarded as a conflagration that only grew as the months went by.

When Trump was elected and began to field his team of nominees, it soon became self-evident that his budding presidency was less about the promises he made from the campaign podium to those self-identified disenfranchised Americans standing before him but more about the top 1 percent.

Give an even cursory look at the newly minted Trumpcare Act, passed hastily through the House, and you find a plan that would send millions of Americans back to that period before the Affordable Care Act when desperation and bankruptcy often defined health care for so many while offering enormous tax cuts to the very wealthy (CBO projects 14 million in 2018 will lose coverage).

The craven Republicans could, in truth, fix the ACA, but have cynically acted as co-conspirators to assure its failure.

Meanwhile, the Trump/Republican budget is a scaffolding of unprecedented cuts (3.7 trillion over the next decade) to the social safety net, one that will impact children and the most vulnerable among us. For example, it proposes $150 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and supplemental security income for the elderly, the disabled and the poor. Like the newly proposed American Health Care plan, this budget represents an unconscionable abandonment of those who were promised that Trump would make their lives great again.

But thus far, it’s not Trumpcare, or the Trump/GOP budget that are proving deeply unsettling among the growing fire brigade.

What threatens the efficacy of the Trump presidency is the manner in which he has thus far conducted himself in office. The superordinate question is: can Trump survive and fulfill even one term in office? He has demonstrated weekly his profound unfitness for office. The reality is that he is governing as a CEO of a company absent a board of directors, a man accustomed to delivering his edicts and having them carried out, akin to a strongman in charge of a banana republic wherein the autocrat surrounds himself with loyalists and family members. It’s indisputable that he has an affinity for dictators such as Putin of Russia, Erdogan of Turkey and Duerte of the Philippines. He seems oblivious to the concept known as “checks and balances” and ignorant of the other two branches of government that clearly frustrate him, hence he delights in issuing signed executive orders.

Since January he has left in his wake surreal accusations of surveillance of Trump Tower and a delusional insistence of voter fraud (Hillary’s 3 million more votes). Regarding our intelligence agencies (“Nazis"), he has regarded them from the outset with suspicion and initially ignored his daily briefing. He has refused any efforts to make full disclosure of his financial holding (tax returns) while disregarding the Constitution’s emoluments clause. Any efforts to encourage divestiture of his holdings to avoid a conflict of interest have been rebuffed. He discourages hearing bad news, lashes out at critics in endless tweets, disparages the “fake news” press, and would rather trust his “gut” than available experts.

Regarding the fire brigade, if there had ever been a good-will effort on their part at impartiality, it has morphed into serious concern that the man is proving to be unstable, impulsive, narcissistic and could be overwhelmed by a crisis requiring deliberation, insight and caution.

And the haunting speculation about the involvement of the Russians in our last election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign continue to shroud this administration and could potentially be fatal to this presidency.

Which leads us to one final seminal question: If we have a president for whom the job is bigger than he is, and he therefore represents a danger to our democracy, what can we as a government do? Which leads us to the 25th Amendment and impeachment and Part Two.

— Chris Honoré of Ashland is a Daily Tidings columnist.