There’s a memorable line near the end of Liar Liar, when Jim Carrey’s character, a defense attorney, is animatedly dragged out of a courtroom by a bailiff. Following a verbal spat, a judge holds Carrey in contempt of court and orders his removal. The room transcends into chaos. The judge is angrily pounding his gavel while I handcuffed Carrey continues his tantrum, struggling wildly in the bailiff’s grip.
Just as he’s about to be pulled through the back doorway of the courtroom, Carrey desperately yells, “I’m Jose Canseco! I’m Jose Canseco!”
President Trump has been reminding me of that scene over the past couple weeks, every time he tweets something like this:
I WON THE ELECTION!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2020
Carrey’s referring to an innocent role-playing game he plays with his son. Trump, however, is talking about a different kind of illusion, specifically the delusion that he won re-election.
While Carrey’s portrayal of a habitual liar was fictional, and designed for the purpose of laughter, Trump’s real-life embodiment of the character is growing increasingly toxic in his final months in office. And it’s not particularly funny.
Our country is more divided now than at any time in my lifetime, and passions were going to run high regardless of who won the presidential election. But instead of the losing candidate showing some class and humility in defeat, and helping to tamp down some of those passions by simply conceding that he lost, and assisting with a dignified transfer of power, Trump has taken every opportunity to not only stoke further division across this nation, but sell millions of his supporters on conspiratorial nonsense that is undermining faith in our electoral process and institutions.
Naturally, his reliable Republican defenders in Congress and members of right-wing media have made matters even worse, amplifying every baseless claim and promoting every inconsequential voting irregularity as a national scandal. This will not only, in the eyes of many, undermine the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s presidency. It will also likely usher in unparalleled voter disillusionment toward future elections, which will disproportionately hurt candidates from Trump’s own party.
Respected professionals in our federal government, like CISA Director Christopher Krebs, who have spoken truth to power about our nation’s election integrity, are unsurprisingly being fired by Trump (for perceived disloyalty).
Of course, many Trump supporters are pointing out that the president isn’t doing anything illegal. They’re absolutely right. Trump is well within his legal rights to make all kinds of bogus assertions about the election being “rigged.” He’s well within his legal rights to file frivolous lawsuits, and continue to parrot thoroughly debunked claims of voter fraud. He’s well within his legal rights to fire people like Krebs for any reason he sees fit. He’s well within his legal rights to deny President-elect Biden important national intelligence and a smooth transition of power. And… he’s well within his legal rights to declare — over and over again — that he won the election, even though he lost.
But something simply being legal doesn’t mean it’s right. And what may be right for Donald Trump’s ego, as he struggles to accept the outcome voters freely decided on two weeks ago, is very wrong for America.
If Trump held the best interests of America’s citizenry in his heart and mind, he’d be focused on spending his last two months in office strengthening our position as a nation. But he’s not. He’s been out to lunch on everything from his intelligence briefings to the coronavirus task force (as the health crisis worsens by leaps and bounds), and is instead concentrating his efforts on publicly sulking about his political fate.
It’s a national embarrassment.
Enough is enough. It’s time for Trump to drop the theatrics and tantrums, and live up to his “America First” mantra. It’s time for him to at least pretend to be a responsible adult, and stop fueling the fire.
Of course, the chances of that actually happening are as comical as a Jim Carrey movie.