Like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren (my candidate at this moment), and some of the others, I too want to return to the principles of the New Deal and mount a real attack on inequality. I fear, however, that after eight years of an Obama presidency that failed to make much progress on those issues, such plans are going to ring rather hollow. More importantly, I think that, with our political system in a state of nearly total collapse, policy advocacy puts the cart before the horse. Before our government can do meaningful things, it must start functioning again at all. And to illustrate my point, I have written a draft speech, below, that I would like to hear a Democratic candidate deliver. I don't know if this may reach the eyes or ears of any of the campaigns, but let me take this opportunity to renounce any copyright over these words and to donate any or all of them to anyone who wants to use them in the hope of getting the United States out of the awful mess that it is in.
"Like other Democrats, I have many hopes and plans for a better future for us and our people—hopes and plans that I will immediately begin working with Congress to achieve if I am fortunate enough to be elected. Yet for us to focus on such plans, it seems to me, risks obscuring the most important stakes of next year’s election, the reasons that it is truly vital—a matter of life and death for the nation—that the Democratic candidate, whoever it may be, defeat Donald Trump. The nation faces an unprecedented crisis because no man remotely comparable to Donald Trump has ever occupied the White House. That is not primarily because of any of the policies his administration is implementing, but rather because he is utterly unfit, and he shows us nearly every day, to perform the duties of the great office, the tasks upon which the proper functioning of our government, economy and society depend. He has no personal managerial skills. He has no idea where to get real information and how to use it. His foreign policy, as a result, has been disastrous. At home, he has utterly failed to turn most of his proclaimed goals into reality. His rhetorical style cannot possibly bring the nation together for a common purpose. He was elected largely because both major parties failed to provide the nation with more inspiration and better candidates. Whatever our political views, though—and here I speak from my heart both to my fellow Democrats and to the nation’s Republicans, who I know care just as much about our country as we do—we simply must remove him from office in the next election in order to get the United States back on track.
"No President, of course, can run the United States government by himself. Every President’s success or failure depends on the men and women that he appoints and his ability to work with them. Two and a half years into his administration, President Trump has left no doubt that he cannot trust men and women with experience and competence, that such people rapidly find it impossible to work with him at all, and that he has no idea how to make use of the vast human resources at his disposal.
Simple statistics tell the story. The President has already had three White House chiefs of staff. He has had two secretaries of state, three secretaries of defense, three attorneys general, three secretaries of homeland security, two ambassadors to the United Nations, and three national security advisers. Discarded officials include a former CEO of one of the world’s leading corporations, three senior retired generals, and a former senior US Senator. The President has often berated his own appointees in public, something that I cannot recall any other President ever doing. He has no sense, clearly, of the processes that make government work, and he has allowed his current National Security Adviser to stop holding the regular meetings that have generated and approved our foreign policies for decades. Meanwhile, he has given unprecedented foreign policy authority to his son-in-law, and given security clearances to a number of people whom the security authorities had denied them. As so many of us know from our own experience, the style of a top manager inevitably infects his whole organization, and that has happened in Washington now. An extraordinary number of senior governmental positions still remain unfilled more than two year’s after the president’s inauguration. All of us, of course, complain periodically about specific acts of our government, and Americans have different views of exactly what it should do, and how it should do it. Yet very few Americans deny that we need it to function effectively. That it cannot do as long as Donald Trump remains President.
"Foreign policy in our system is largely the responsibility of the President and his subordinates. This President has conducted most of his foreign policy singlehandedly, basing it, apparently, on his personal esteem for certain authoritarian leaders around the world, including Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and others. The steps that he has been taken on major issues have therefore been inconsistent and ineffective. Nuclear proliferation remains a pressing problem around the world, and the Obama Administration had scored a remarkable success by reaching an agreement with Iran that stopped its progress towards a possible nuclear weapon. President Trump repudiated that agreement without having anything to put in its place. Meanwhile, after threatening North Korea with destruction if it did not halt its nuclear program, he has twice traveled halfway around the world to meet with the tyrant Kim Jong Un, signing a meaningless agreement that did nothing to halt his program the first time, and failing to make any progress the second. The President has blocked bipartisan proposals from Congress to punish the Saudi government for murdering a journalist residing in the United States at its consulate in Turkey. He has insulted many friendly foreign leaders, and even singled out local foreign officials in countries that he was visiting, violating the diplomatic norms that make international relations possible. The President frequently rejects the judgments of professional intelligence officers on matters vital to national security, such as Russia’s interference in our elections. Were Donald Trump a thoughtful and well-informed man, he might at times be able to substitute his own judgment for the bureaucracy’s, as other chief executives have done—but he is not. He is probably the least curious and worst-informed man ever to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
"In his career as a developer, Donald Trump continually announced magnificent projects, projected enormous profits for all, took out huge loans, failed to make good on them when his forecasts proved illusory, and had to declare bankruptcy. A good deal of what has happened during his presidency fits the same pattern. He railed against the federal deficit, which had shrunk steadily under President Obama, during the campaign—now he has more than doubled it, even though the economic growth begun under President Obama has continued. He railed against illegal immigration, which has suddenly increased. He is already blaming the Federal Reserve Board, loudly, for anything that might go wrong in the future. He has no understanding of how the international economy works, and continues to insist that foreign countries pay for his tariffs, which in fact foreign exporters simply pass on to US consumers in the form of higher prices. His trade war has hurt American farmers badly. The United States cannot expect genuine economic progress under a man who insists, again and again, that two plus two make five.
"Having failed repeatedly as a businessman, the President discovered his true calling in our new century, hosting a reality show where he bullied contestants before a huge audience and further propagated the myth of his genius. That was a harmless diversion, but we cannot afford any more of the same spectacle coming from the White House. Presidents cannot fire their fellow citizens. They owe us all honesty, respect for our views, and a genuine, sincere attempt to do the nation’s business well. That, this President cannot provide. He continually insults large segments of the population in inflammatory terms. He has demanded investigations of many political opponents, as well as officials of the federal government. He delights in dividing us by race and national origin.
Today, as always, Democrats and Republicans disagree, both with each other and among themselves, on the future course of the nation. Yet we can surely agree that the nation has no chance of steering a sensible course and working together for sensible aims as long as Donald Trump remains President. Our system was not designed for, and cannot function with, a man like this in the White House. Let us begin to restore some of our great traditions as a nation with a free government, re-establish respect and trust among us, and see, once again, what we can do. We can start that process in the fall of November 2020 and get it underway full speed ahead the next January. It is up to us."