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The Chicken Gun Presidency

I’m not going to deny that President Donald Trump is 600-grit sandpaper to the smooth burled wood of our national government. He mars and gouges it. Another analogy is the hurling of a frozen chicken at an airplane canopy or a jet engine using a compressed-air “chicken gun.” It’s entertaining as hell to watch, but deadly serious when you’re stress testing a system that can save–or take–your life. Donald Trump is our chicken gun president.

While the president was riffing, unscripted, unrestrained, and hilariously improper, yesterday, I saw his enemies in the media and in politics, broken and hysterical. The more Trump launched bird after bird at them, the more his enemies turned their attacks to a wider target (I can’t say “bigger,” because Trump, by his nature, consumes all media space within his grasp).

But the complicity of those in attendance — the most powerful people within the Republican Party — is what was truly astounding. Yes, the Republican Party threw in its lot with Trump (and his forced takeover of it) long ago. But to sit by or even celebrate while Trump used the White House as a combination of a campaign venue, or a bathroom wall on which to write his darkest thoughts about those who oppose him, was beyond unforgivable.

The hidden worst part of Donald Trump’s unhinged impeachment victory speech, CNN (Chris Cillizza), February 6, 2020

I think that Mike Lee was probably cringing inside at some of Trump’s remarks, but he was also chuckling along with the rest of the nation who realize that Trump, in entertainment mode, is as effective as Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes, except Gervais had the extra privilege of saying it to their faces.

When the Democrats craft their schemes-within-schemes at being too clever by half, with a wink and a nod to the educated elite (like that “Federalist Society nod” between Kavanaugh and Gorsuch at SOTU), they become agitated when those schemes fail. They like being in on the joke, and Trump makes them the butt of his, well, his entire presidency.

I say, as bad as this is for the Republican Party and conservatives in general, who will surely suffer the pent-up rage of Democrats in the future, when they, in a later time when they possess the power of the executive branch, wield every weaponized precedent, “nuclear option,” executive order, imperial presidency, nationalized command economy–oh, wait, I went too far, Bernie–you get the idea. It will be awful in ways we haven’t contemplated. It will make Lois Lerner’s targeting of the Tomas More Society, and Barack Obama’s trashing of Little Sisters of the Poor look tame.

But you have to break a few jet engines to test the ability of the plane to fly after a chicken gun is fired at it. In the end, this stress test is ultimately good for America. What’s bad for conservatives right now is good for conservatism, emphasis on the –ism.

When else will we have the opportunity for David French and Sohrab Ahmari to debate “The Future of Conservatism“–breaking stuff to get a good outcome (Ahmari) versus preserving the institutions that protect those very outcomes (French), using actual non-hypothetical examples from current events? You can calculate all you want of the effect of a frozen chicken fired into a running jet engine, but it takes a chicken gun to actually know.

Trump has broken many people, and has broken stuff. The stuff he’s broken is not critical to the functioning or continuing of our republic. We don’t need the president’s attendance at the White House Correspondents Association dinner. We don’t need the president to throw out the first pitch at the first baseball game of spring.

As for the lying, all presidents lie. All presidents have ambition, because you literally cannot achieve what it takes to hold the position only 45 people have occupied in 235 years without massive ambition. Many presidents have tested the republic at times of stress. Abraham Lincoln illegally suspended Habeas Corpus. He treated Confederates, who were always American citizens, as enemy combatants at times, but at other times, when it suited his argument, they were citizens.

FDR interned thousands of Japanese-American U.S. citizens, illegally and unconstitutionally. JFK engineered the terrible fiasco of the Bay of Pigs. Lyndon Johnson used the absolutely fake (and he knew it) Gulf of Tonkin incident to greatly expand American presence in Vietnam, leading to tens of thousands of dead American soldiers. Richard Nixon tested the limits of presidential power and corruption.

As presidents go, all of them having some particular bent, a word before the “-in-chief” part, Trump is an entertainer. He’s not a Bill Clinton, wonk-in-chief (or perv-in-chief fits too). He’s not Reagan, communicator-in-chief; he’s not Obama, activist-in-chief. He’s the entertainer-in-chief, and he’s doing exactly what a Queens real estate developer, huckster, fame-hound does when he gets the most public job on the most prolific stage in the world.

Trump is stress-testing our government, our republic. America is a pluralistic polity and has always been. Our shared heritage consists of white, black, Oriental, free, slave, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, and now, Muslim. This whole talk of a “melting pot” ignores our history of ethnic and racial conflict. The New York draft riots in 1863 weren’t about black civil rights, they were about Irish immigrants losing their jobs to newly freed black slaves, for example.

The Civil War tested our republic more than any other event in our history, and we survived it. The civil strife, loss of faith in government in the 1970s tested our republic, culminating in Jimmy Carter (the “let’s settle for this guy”-in-chief) and the humiliating hostage crisis with Iran, that still reverberates today. Reagan brought back optimism and pride, and the end of the Cold War.

Trump will not be president forever. His presidency is the fruit of years of Democratic, media, and academia social engineering to move the nation toward a post-Christian society. This is the greater war the conservatives fight, and in the Trump age, we get to see what happens when the chicken gun is shot directly at the engine and cockpit glass of our flying machine. It’s really quite a privilege to be able to measure the results, to see the fractures, to inspect the damage. But we’re not destroyed, and neither is the republic.

We needed a chicken gun president. (I’m not claiming we needed this Trump, or that God somehow sovereignly ordained it, though I do believe God has blessed Trump for God’s own economy, despite the lack of personal fruit in Trump’s life. That, however, isn’t relevant to our political need.) America’s ever-expanding pluralism needed something to mix up the pot, to get out of the paradigm that black voters are always Democrats, and white Protestants are always Republicans. Trump has fractured many of those bonds.

Trump has broken and allowed to be exposed many of the inherent biases of the media, of academia, and the resulting shift of the Democratic Party. He has done it by verbal violence, like his rant yesterday. The fruit of their rage will be terrible. But I have to believe that our republic will self-right, and many of the fractures will heal in bonds stronger than the original, with some surprising new alliances.

I’m talking like Trump’s tenure in office is over. I think, by my accounting, it is. Whether he’s re-elected or not, Trump, as of this moment, is at his “mission completed” phase. Hell yes, let’s re-elect him. The next four years will be just as contentious as the previous, but I think the character of them will be different. The chicken gun has fired, and now we must inspect, design, and begin to build a better engine. Who knows, we might even get something done, like dealing with our crippling national debt.

Stress testing is a good thing. I’m glad we have a Trump chicken gun, entertainer-in-chief, who cares not for the things he breaks, to give us the precious opportunity to witness a real-world stress test.

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