Trump Behaves Like the Head of a Banana Republic

The president considers pardons for himself and his family and calls on soldiers to support his political agenda.

Donald Trump gestures after being sworn in as president of the United States in Washington DC, January 20
Donald Trump gestures after being sworn in as president of the United States in Washington DC, January 20 (Hillel Steinberg)

Considering pardons for himself and his family, calling on soldiers to support his political agenda and using a scout jamboree to trash his opponents — Donald Trump looks more like the head of a banana republic, as Phillip Carter puts it, than the president of the United States.

This weekend, Trump urged sailors attending the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford to discard centuries of military ethics as well as the armed forces’ own rules to lobby their congressmen and senators to approve his health and spending plans.

It wasn’t Trump’s first breach of republican norms and it wouldn’t be his last.

  • On Monday, Trump broke with eighty years of presidential tradition by holding a political speech at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia. The Washington Post reports:

Standing before all 40,000 of them, he bragged about the “record” crowd size, bashed President Barack Obama, criticized the “fake media” and trashed Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. In the lengthy 35-minute speech, the president threatened to fire his health and human services secretary if he couldn’t persuade members of Congress to vote for the Republican health-care bill.

  • The same newspaper reported last week that Trump had discussed his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself. Not even Richard Nixon attempted a self-pardon.
  • In May, Trump used a Coast Guard Academy commencement speech to whine that he had been treated “more unfairly” than any politician in history.
  • That same month, he fired the director of the FBI, James Comey, for refusing to drop an investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia.
  • Trump has called the media the “enemy of the people” and disparaged the courts when they overruled his Muslim travel ban.
  • Only a day after taking office, Trump bucked tradition at the CIA when he delivered a campaign-style speech in front of a memorial wall for fallen spies.