Op-Ed: Trump needs to start following the rules and stop flouting presidential norms


I know it has been said before, but it bears repeating – Donald Trump needs to start acting like a president and stop flouting the norms established by the 44 commanders-in-chief that preceded him.

There are certain things we expect from a president and Trump has thrown most of those things out the window. At best, it sets a poor example for future leaders. At worst, it comprises the security of our nation and endangers the welfare of the American people.

Two news items that came out this week help illustrate my point. First, let’s start with Trump’s phone usage. We all know that President Trump loves Twitter, and we also know that he loves to gab on the phone to friends and associates, just as he did during his days as a billionaire businessman. There are plenty of online photos of Trump with cellphone in hand. However, things are different now. He’s not a businessman anymore. He is the president of the United States.

Trump has two phones (one that just makes calls, and the other, which only has Twitter and some news site apps installed on it). White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency issue the phones. They should be swapped out every month, as a matter of standard procedure, in order to prevent hacking and surveillance by outside, possibly hostile, sources. Nevertheless, the president opts out of this task a lot of the time because he says it’s “too inconvenient” and so he goes for months without changing phones.

Remember, Trump is the same man who skewered Hillary Clinton for using her personal email server, while she was Secretary of State, to conduct government business. He hammered home how dangerous and irresponsible it was. At that time, Clinton also cited convenience as her reason for not following the rules. That did not justify her actions, in Trump’s eyes, but he certainly thinks it justifies his own behavior. It’s just a classic case of, “Do as I say, not as I do,” and that’s a dangerous motto for the leader of the free world.

Now let’s move on to item number two. Based on what appears to be questionable information, President Trump commanded (initially via Twitter, and later, formally) the FBI and Department of Justice to investigate whether the Obama Administration was spying on him. He alleges that they embedded an informant in his 2016 Presidential campaign.

Trump is wearing away at the line that traditionally separates the DOJ from the White House, a line that exists to prove that no one is above the law, including the president, and that he cannot use his position to tip the scales of justice in his favor. Nevertheless, he seems to be getting away with using government resources to investigate what is likely a rumor.

Trump is trying to tarnish the reputation of the FBI and the DOJ as special counsel Robert Mueller gets ready to release information regarding the findings of his investigation into whether Trump’s team colluded with the Russians in order to sway the 2016 election in his favor. If the Obama spy story turns out to be true, that is a punch to Mueller. In addition, if Mueller fails to prove his collusion case then Trump can use that as “proof” that the U.S. government has been conspiring against him.

Trump is setting a terrible example for current political leaders as well as aspiring ones, some of whom may be coming from right here in southeast Queens. The president should be held to the highest standards. When Trump left the business world and headed for the White House, he knew he would have to make changes, but he doesn’t want to and he’s fighting it every step of the way. Even worse, he demonstrates reckless and often ludicrous decision-making when faced with challenges or criticisms.

We are equally at fault for letting him get away with it. We should be teaching our children that as one achieves goals in life and advances to new levels they will need to elevate their skills, their sophistication, and their demeanor to fit new roles. It is too bad that we cannot point to our president as an illustration of that lesson.

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