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Holiday Surprises 

Taking a Gander: What remains in Trump's bag of tricks?

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I don't know about you, but I'm worried. The holidays have never been like this before—a world in panic over a deadly viral foe; people scraping for food and fuel and hoping an imminent eviction can be forestalled a while longer; children falling steadily behind at school, because online classes simply don't provide the motivation and social opportunity of the real classroom; people running around trying to salvage the season, colorfully masked, looking like they're headed for a convenience store heist; business owners losing everything they've created over a lifetime; funeral homes accommodating the fallen victims that the hospitals were unable to save; and families mourning for those who have been taken—without even a final goodbye.

This holiday season has been largely characterized by gloom, doom and, for many, a pernicious anxiety for which there is no immediate cure. Despite the millions of downturned eyes and the illusive glimmer of providential salvation, the show must go on. The TV reality show is still playing, but, hopefully it's about to end. The Apprentice is alive and well, and it's gone from a weekly to a daily format. I suspect that, despite the boss' shameful acts, the show is at its height in viewer ratings. Sometimes it seems that Trump actually does what he does out of a need for chaos and shock. Each of us is wondering the same thing: What will he do next? Oh, yes, his presidential grades are in the gutter, but, with every new and outrageous act, the viewership numbers rise. Sadly, people love the sensational. While there's always been a public appetite for the terrible and tragic—something that has fueled the tabloids and the yellow "news" services—we're all so accustomed to Trump's horrible acts, that we've become a bit desensitized to each emerging atrocity.

No one—Democrat or Republican—can ignore the almost-steady stream of the president's bad behavior. Why? Because he's the one who still owns the stage. That's exactly what he wants to do—reaping both financial and ego rewards from being the man-in-control. During his last 20 days in office, he will surely drive up the ratings with a series of moves that leave us all gasping.

We can only hope that he does not do the unimaginable—like starting a war in order to extend his tenure. Would he do that? You bet your sweet ass! Considering that he has no moral compass and cares only about his own ego, that would hardly be a surprise. We can only hope that, under such circumstances, Congress would become his arch enemy and nip that disaster in the bud.

Those who dreamed Trump could become a bit more presidential will remain sorely disappointed. His trademark dishonesty has been boosted by a sense of finality and panic. His daily lies are winning him triple and even quadruple Pinocchios as his last days in office shrink. Why? Because he can. Consistent with his established hiring standard—that his employees can have neither morals nor ethics—he puts a great deal of effort into hurting those who dare stray toward decency. His personal failures don't deter him, and he enjoys punishing those he perceives as disloyal.

There are few survivors among his many poorly chosen and unqualified appointees. He's fired any inspectors general who tried to perform any oversight; he's screwed his constituents out of a quarter-billion in new "campaign" donations; he's screamed "foul" when his lifetime court appointments failed to do his personal bidding; and he's ruined the public careers of anyone who took the moral road and defied him. Perhaps the worst of his perpetual sinning is the personal devastation that has followed his deplorable handling of the pandemic. We can call him an ignorant fool or a hopeless narcissistic monster, but the reality is that he has stood by while hundreds of thousands have needlessly died.

Touting a quick demise of the coronavirus and pushing chlorine bleach, disinfectant sprays, and hydroxychloroquine—all the while encouraging supporters to view PPEs as a sissy wimp-out—he didn’t actually kill a third of a million personally, but his culpability cannot be questioned. Sadly, the preponderance of minority deaths reinforces his racial bigotry, but he is incapable of ever coughing-up an apology.

Of course, he has vouched for a significant stimulus to Americans. Just don't think he did it out of concern for you. It was simply another futile stab at trying to get people to worship him. There are lingering echoes of the "Please like me" campaign speech.

Just when it seemed that Trump might be totally out of horrifying actions, his use of presidential pardon powers has now begun; it will likely continue until the day they escort him from the White House. Numbering almost 100 pardons and clemency orders in the past few weeks, there were only a few for which the long-established standards of worthiness apply. Further cementing his viewer ratings, he has sidestepped the traditional standard of Department of Justice input and released a slug of bona fide criminals who deserved their penal fates. Nearly every one—from murderers to tax evaders, fraudsters to gangsters—was a properly convicted felon; many were people of personal and family interest to the president, and almost all had acknowledged their crimes in court.

And so, my friends, waiting to see what Trump does next is very much like waiting for the jolly bearded man on Christmas Eve: (Will he arrive OK, make it down the chimney, bestow rich gifts beneath the tree?) It's anyone's guess what perverted course Trump may take in his final moments as president—and what final blows he may land on our teetering democracy. Ho, ho, ho!

The author is a retired businessman, novelist, columnist and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog.

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